People

Millinery trailblazer

Hong Kong's sole hat designer talks about her passion for making a piece of clothing not commonly worn by locals

To Ms Jay Cheng,"hats are poems", as a hat is the piece of clothing that highlights the personality of its wearer. For that reason, those words have adorned the business cards of Hong Kong's only millinery trailblazer,whose clients include many local celebrities, including actoress Carina LauKar-ling and singer Eason Chan Yik-shun.

"A good hat can make a big difference. It can make a beautiful lady more gorgeous," said Ms Cheng, showing her love and confidence in hats.

Despite having made a name as a milliner, Ms Cheng still cannot quite explain why she has fallen in love with hats.

She had started as a freelance fashion stylist after studying fine arts and printmaking in Canada. Some years ago, having decided to go back to school, she came across a course on millinery while browsing through the courses of the London College of Fashion. She was instantly hooked and decided to give it a try.

Ms Cheng still remembers how she was impressed by a room full of millinery blocks when she first arrived at the college. "I felt that place was paradise to me," she said.

After learning the basic techniques of making hats in the seven-day course, Ms Cheng further developed her skills by receiving training from a renowned British royal milliner, Rose Cory.

In 2005, after completing the training, she gave up her job as a stylist and became a full-time milliner."I would feel sorry for myself if I did not try to be a full-time milliner, as I have developed a strong love for making hats and nobody's doing it in Hong Kong," she said.

To Ms Cheng, hats have a great power of subliming a person's temperament and the progress is like a story.

Regarding hats as poems, she follows a consisting design idea that is warm, soft and feminine in "writing the poems", even though there is no fixed element in her design.

Every design starts with a rough idea. She may not clearly know what material she will use and how different parts will be put together. But through sewing and tireless tries, she gets inspirations and ideas.

"Creativity comes from doing," she said.

Ms Cheng can always balance what a client wants with her own design style. "I am offering a service," she said. "So I have to take what my clients want seriously. Negotiations always work."

Knowing the person well is the key to making a good hat for him or her. Ms Cheng will try to know a client's personality, the purpose of the hat he or she wants and the clothes that will go with the hat.

Comfort is another consideration. Besides making a hat look good, Ms Cheng also makes sure that it will not fall down when her client is wearing it.

As things stand, her clientele remains limited as most locals are not used to weating hats.

But the trailblazer remains optimistic. "All the people need are well- designed hats and then attitudes will change," she said. "What a hat does is that it makes you feel better."

By Kyle Sun

Edited by Alice Wan

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