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Quit your job, become a… milliner

Posted at 8:00 am, May 26, 2015 in Fun London

Sophie Beale

Sophie Beale, 32, Sophie Beale Millinery

Photography ©Rob Greig

So, hats. Why hats?

‘I was interested in decorating the body. I did Theatrical Costume Design for a degree but it took me another five years to realise you could just focus on making hats. I was living on the Isle of Wight and decided to look for courses elsewhere. I used to travel to Fareham to do a course once a week and ended up studying for a HNC in Millinery at Kensington and Chelsea College.’

How was that?

‘I’m actually teaching that course now! It gets you out there, making hats: theatrical hats, wedding hats, hats for the races, and then soft hats like baseball caps. I love the sculptural aspect of it: being able to create something in 3D that’s not just an object but something that’s unusual and wearable too.’

What happened after you graduated?

‘In the daytime I worked on my own stuff and looked for employment, and in the evening I waitressed. Then after about ten months I won a competition for the 2012 Olympics run by the British Fashion Council and Grazia magazine. It was pretty intense.’

What did you make? A victor’s beanie for Mo Farrah?

‘The brief was to make a hat to go on a statue in Trafalgar Square. It was for General Charles James Napier, a Victorian sea captain. So my hat was like a big sculpture with boats on it. I could actually get inside it. It was the size of a small tent!’

That must have given your career a boost.

‘Yeah, I went on to work for other people in couture departments, big names like Stephen Jones and Noel Stewart. I made really exciting things for supermodels. That was all really good experience and I developed my own thing alongside it. I sell stuff on my own website, I teach and I debuted an autumn/winter collection at Paris Fashion Week recently.’

How do you get ahead in the hat game?

‘Have the imagination to come up with new designs because every day is different. It’s good to study lots of courses and work for different people to get an idea of the industry. Just throw yourself into it.’

Hours: 50-55hrs p/w

Starting salary: Minimum wage

Qualifications: Millinery HNC is preferable

Interview by Michael Curle

Or why not become a brewer?

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