Donna and Joanne speak about experience at London Fashion Week and also they speak about the future of their brand Donna Hartley Millinery. The second part of the interview.
You said that you love working with different textures and materials…and inspiration is thinking outside the box. So, what does millinery mean to you?
J: Because I love to work with unusual materials and textures; I have found different ways to make and trim a hat. I have used wire, eva foam and Kingspan to produce different shapes and trims. For example I made a headpiece for a Body Art Show which was a Slot machine to symbolise Greed and also a Cupcake for a body paint calendar. It is always interesting to see what forms and shapes can be developed but also learning how to use different tools to get the desired effect. We are able to diversify our business because we like to explore new challenges. Therefore it provides us as Milliners more scope to learn and show what creative ability we have.
We work alongside a beauty academy in Murcia and have provided stunning pieces for their shows and exhibitions, but also we have done private commissions for people who want Masquerade Ball masks.
You mentioned black and white movies so what are your favourite ones?
D: For me any movie with the style icon Lauren Bacall floats my boat; my favourite movie with her is „To Have and To have not“. The film was full of chic and elegance and this is so apparent in the clothes both Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart wore. Her dress sense was exquisite. I have a real love for the 1940s and 50s. I also love good old english movies such as Brief encounters with Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard again depicting style and glamour.
Moving to Spain; what tempted you to this location?
Donna: Prior to moving to Spain I lived in England. I was creating hats and headpieces for private clients but had a full time job in the Social Services. The need to start a millinery business was becoming more intense as time went by. Joanne already lived in the region of Murcia Spain and I regularly visited her for holidays. Around 2012 we started to tentatively discuss the possibilities of setting up in business together. Eventually in 2015 my partner John and I set off in a van with all our worldly goods and drove to Spain. This was the beginning of our new lives…
Joanne: My family and I have lived in the mountains of Murcia Spain for 12 years. The surrounding area of where I live is inspirational and tranquil. Life is very rural and rustic. We don’t have immediate access to amenities and this can prove to be hard for some people; however I embraced the whole Spanish way of life and love how I live.
What is the biggest fuck up for your business?
D&J: No one likes to admit to a failure but these things happen. We work so hard to deliver our brand in its finest and safely to the client. The only time so far…touch wood…was when we had a client in another country who ordered a headpiece for her son’s wedding. The hat was ordered through a supplier of ours in America but the client required the hat to be delivered to her in France. We were given a certain amount of time to get the hat made and sent. We honoured this agreement and sent the hat out in plenty of time but due to air traffic control strikes that we were not aware of and custom restrictions the hat sat with them for a longer period of time and the lady never received her hat for the wedding. We spent hours chasing the box and spoke at length with the client and to different airports to try and resolve the problem but sadly it didn’t work out. We were fortunate that the client was very understanding but this is not something we wish to happen again.
Do you have in mind any ideas for your next collection?
We are just about to throw ourselves into a new Bridal and wedding collection. This is a first for Donna Hartley Millinery and we are especially excited about this. We have been producing two collections a year Spring Summer and Autumn Winter. However, we wanted to try something new for this season and we felt that Bridal was the way forward and another “branch on our tree” Not only this allow us to release our creative juices but it also opens up new avenues for us to sell to a wider audience.
What did it mean to you having a presence at LFW?
D&J: LFW 2017 was a new venture for Donna Hartley Millinery. As a young business; taking the step to pay for an exhibition especially at LFW is daunting. The hard work and preparation to the run up was intense but highly enjoyable. It just wasn’t about creating the hats for the show. It was also what we needed to do to get our product to England on time. We had to ship 30 hats for the show and as we know the boxes are not small and are not an easy size to manage. You have to make sure they are there in time but not too long before as we are not happy for the hats to sit in a box for long. Transporting the hats whilst we were in London was not an easy feat. There were many taxi’s tubes and trains to endure. People are not always appreciative of your cargo.
LFW itself was exciting and great fun. It was lovely to meet other designers and hear their stories. For us the exposure at the event through interviews and social media capture was huge and we wouldn’t be having this interview for your magazine without it. We were very pleased to be part of this event run by House of Ikons which is now successfully operating through 6 major countries such as America, Dubai etc.
To have a platform such as LFW, where you can show your product, is a great opportunity to promote your brand. We certainly had a lot of interest and collected useful contacts for our future business. Millinery is an ever growing area of fashion and there are many new milliners coming through. The key to success is to keep your brand original, modern and fresh and you have to be at the top of your game.