Monique Lee Millinery | Light Your Hat With a Clap!
What kind of image comes in mind when you think of… hats? For some, imagination might travel them back to the nineteen century when ladies’ hat fashion started flourishing. Just think about those romantic ladies with flowers and ribbons on their hats, what a lovely image. Others might be more practical and picture cozy knitted hats. These hats, of course, serve their functionality and protect us from the harsh weather. Unfortunately, elegant tea parties do not take place that often nowadays but that doesn’t mean the hat design world has lost its glamour; quite the opposite. Birmingham Made Me Expo represents Monique Lee, an independent contemporary hat designer based in Birmingham. Her designs are so exceptional that can make even Lady Gaga jealous!
Monique Lee, who has created her own hat brand “Monique Lee Millinery”, started her journey at London College of Fashion specialising in Fashion Design and Technology. Later, she worked for several fashion brands and government research organisations in Taiwan and China. Finally, in 2010 she started her PhD in Art and Design at Birmingham City University. Since then Monique lives in Birmingham and teaches on the MA Fashion Design and Promotion courses and BA Textile Retail Management. However, every coin has two sides. ‘I get inspired by my students, but I just couldn’t handle the stress of my PhD course. As I have a small studio at home, I started working on my own hats design’ Monique admits. After a while, the ‘ hobby’ grew into her own business.
The Guardian, VOGUE Italia, London Hat and Copenhagen Fashion Week are just a few names in a long list of well-respected publications and events having hosted Monique’s hats . ‘Over the past year I have been featured in over 50 articles along with great hat designers such as Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones’ says the acknowledged designer. Birmingham Made Me is honoured to host and represent her work at this year’s expo, where Monique will show her latest exclusive hat collection called ‘Dark times’. The collection was made in collaboration with Paul Gough, who is an expert in Wearable Technology having previously worked with Phillips. This interesting team work allowed to broaden up the concept of a hat and create an exclusive hats collection with GPS, sensors, accelerometers and LED lights.
Monique Lee says that she wanted to create something different, unusual, dark. ‘This collection was inspired by architecture, shapes of the buildings, shades and shadows. I used wooden blocks to handcraft my hats and then I played with the source of light. I did that again and again… Finally, I was able to create a hat, which would look like it’s been done from multiple layers, like shadows with light grey and totally dark areas’. Monique spent 11 hours on one hat, which will be showcased at this year’s expo. This hat has LED lights, which react to the sound (music, voice, clapping) and can be charged by simply using a USB cable.
Monique Lee believes that her creativity here can be better acknowledged in Birmingham, even though the best stylists and photographers are based in London. There is always an alternative and as Monique highlights – ‘I can post my hats to them! Being here, in Birmingham, has given me the advantage of being covered a great deal more in the press as I am unusual as a hat designer based here. Media here is always interested in emerging entrepreneurs’.
So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead; give a clap for a hat at Birmingham Made Me Expo 2014!
Article Journalist: Mante Sabaliauskaite
Video Production: Mantas Jankus (Filming & Postproduction), Elena Doncheva (Production Management), Algirdas Sakickas (Technical Management)