“I hear people say all the time, ‘I’m not a hat person,’” says London milliner Mary Jane Baxter. “When you actually try the hat, you say, ‘Oh my god, I look really good.’”
Baxter makes a business of making people look good with Mary Jane Millinery, a company she started in 2006 after working as a fulltime journalist for BBC in Brussels. “I decided that after 15 years on the cold face of news that I could do with a bit of a change,” she says.
After taking a hat-making course at Kensington and Chelsea College and a part-time gig with milliner Stephen Jones, Baxter sold her label’s first two collections to Harvey Nichols millinery, which has since closed. She still sells hats from her private collection and now has a travelling branch of her business, Mary Jane’s Mobile Millinery.
For £55, clients get all the supplies they need to make a hat and a three-hour training workshop with Baxter. “I’ve done a number of very glamorous hen parties,” she says. So far, clients seem to like her technique of making decorative flowers from wire and tights the best.
Baxter’s upcoming collection will be full of romance (lots of vintage lace and pearl buttons) with a hint of burlesque thrown in. She draws influence from 1930s and 1940s style a la Dita von Teese in an effort to bring old-school confidence back to women’s headwear.
“That whole sort of sexiness and flirtation that used to be associated with hat wearing seems to have disappeared,” she says.
- Jill Hilbrenner