Vision in the field of headwear knows no boundaries at Julian Garner Millinery. Design ideas are inside the man behind the label. Christopher Garner has only shared a little of his creativity so far in his career. I anticipate his achievements so far are a window into the future.
Chris formulated his brand at the cool age of eleven. Encouraged by his teacher this ‘shop front’ and clothing design plan stayed with him. He had chosen ‘Julian Garner’ as a fashion label and held this seed of an idea with him for years.
It was only when he arrived in UK from Zimbabwe that he moved from landscape gardening to his design passion. Growing up with the movie Titanic he was struck by the elegance of the hats on the set. Hats of the era were exquisite. One designed and crafted by Jo Willis for the character, Rose held his attention. Memorable for Chris as he was absorbed into the ‘World of Hats’, a feel of the era with the depiction of a tragic event in history all added to the emotional experience.
Standing in front of Philip Treacy, his hero, Stephen Jones, Paula Reed (The Editor of Grazia Magazine) and a representation from the Mayor of London’s Arts and Culture office, he was a little apprehensive. He had submitted his work just to get honest feedback. Holding a design for the London Olympics, a McQueen inspired gold barbed wire crown, formed with faux black leather shapes and hand-embroidered embellishments, he had no idea what would happen next.
When asked him about his training, Chris explained that he was self-taught. Philip reflected, ‘Self trained, just keep going.’ This was the springboard into his millinery career and cemented his decision to step into his creative career.
His designs form artistry for the head. With new innovative creations, he has had to take care to protect his ideas. A.C.I.D. (Anti Copying In Design) has helped him with their rigorous format and recorded detail. This organisation offered help, guidance and support. Milliners have integrity for each other’s work but ‘fashion theft’ is out there.
Chris uses his personal life experiences in his work. Some hats are identified by the words in cruel ‘naming calling’ directed at him during his life. He uses words like ‘Boner Party’ a twist from history and finds the colours he chooses reflect his mood. Bright colours show he is in a happy place, while darker tones reflect a mood swing.
Sample pieces are made for his collection to show the buyers. Currently, his hats are sold at Fenwick in London. Some of his hats have been worn by members of the Royal Family, has a wide celebrity client base and still finds time to work with individuals too. The process is a step by step process. It begins with a meeting, usually in a coffee shop. Chris generates about five designs for his customers to choose from. The blocking details are documented and shared. While there is a final fitting with the details; like hand painting, bursts of feathers, quirky embellishments are all revealed. Often a subtle cluster of crystals will move the hat to sparkle. His customers are thrilled with the results.
He believes in sustainability. Using wool felts in preference to fur felts and parasisel fabrics offer a better carbon footprint. His choices are to take the ‘greener path’. This is not easy, with his hats being approximately 80% biodegradable there is still room to improve. Furthermore at the end of the season, he will deconstruct his sample hats to reuse materials and repurpose hats elements.
When asked about hat styles, Chris shared some insights. Someone that wears a hat with confidence, their whole body moves as one. Body language says it all. The secret to wearing a hat well is the comfort on the head. A light, weightless hat can be worn for the whole day. Stephen Jones explains, ‘Make sure it is as light as possible’. This is not easy to achieve this. Chris outlines that milliners need to practise their skills and build up their experience. Clean lines look simple but they elevate a hat to the next level.
‘Happiness is success’, according to Julian Garner Headwear. The connection between the hat maker and the hat wearer is the ‘essence’ in a hat.