A Hat to Upgrade Any Outfit
By Robert Michael Poole
Choosing a hat is more about how you feel than how it looks, says luxury milliner Mich Dulce.
In fact, to ease the bareheaded into the world of designer headgear, she has created a line of “introductory” hats for first-timers who don’t want to start off too showy.
Ms. Dulce, who counts British pop star Adam Ant and Japan Vogue editor Anna Dello Russo among her customers and was named “International Young Creative Entrepreneur” at London’s 2010 fashion week, works in a studio outside Manila but lives and handles marketing from London.
Mich Dulce in Paris
Her designs often incorporate aspects of their wearers’ personality, and previous themes include saints and sinners, with references to religious imagery, and fairytale motifs such as kings and princesses.
“Hats are really about upgrading your outfit,” she says. “Even a cozy headband makes a statement.”
The finished products range from simple pieces worn on the crown to abstract, asymmetrical sculptures that perch on one side of the head. Even when a hat is worn at a tilt, however, comfort is key, Ms. Dulce says. “There is nothing worse than watching someone constantly playing with or adjusting their hat.”
In Pasig, a suburb of Manila, she works with natural fabrics from indigenous Philippine tribes.
Her latest material of choice is tinalak, which is hand-woven by the residents of Lake Sebu, in the South Cotobato province. Used in her winter 2012 collection, “In Dreams You Are,” tinalak is made from a fiber called abaca that derives from plants in the banana family.
Ms. Dulce employs seven women from the Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation, a social-entrepreneurship nonprofit. This has the added benefit of improving the product, she says, since the women are familiar with the local materials used. They sell at retailers such as Fenwick in England and online at Yoox for more than $300 each.
When you’re ready to try one on, here are some things to keep in mind.
Look for a hat that has a lining — an indicator of quality, since cheaper manufacturers omit it. The color should complement and provide accent to an outfit but doesn’t need to match its color, she says — someone wearing all black, for example, might select a hat in yellow.
Men should look for a hat that fits the head snugly — you should be able to slip one finger under the rim without it slipping off, Ms. Dulce says. “If you are going to measure your head size, one or two centimeters above the eyebrow is the way to do it.”
Contrary to what some people believe, hats can work for all face shapes. People with rounder faces should avoid hats placed directly on the top of the head; instead, they should look for pieces that can sit at 45 degrees. A more narrow face, meanwhile, can pull off a wider variety of designs but will need a smaller size so as not to look ungainly.
In addition, hats require more care than other accessories and are more susceptible to wear and tear, Ms. Dulce says. “Make sure when you buy a molded hat that it is not soft, so it doesn’t lose its shape too soon,” she says.
Boxes are essential and too often neglected, she adds, since they keep hats from getting crushed. She stores all her own hats in cases, though she also suggests keeping them in cabinets to keep them in good condition.
Photos: Everywhere We Shoot
Model: Jasmine Maierhofer
Stylist: Melvin Mojica