Milliner Manifesto: My Favorite Mistake

Sheryl Crow I’m sure was thinking of a different kind of mistake when she crooned in that classic love song, “You’re my favorite mistake,” in her unmistakeable baby-whisper voice. My kind of love affair involves something quite different indeed. And although having boyfriends is bomb, I sometimes prefer my relationship with clothes. However, in 2015 I made *my* favorite mistake and invited my milliner followers from all over the world to send me their creations and I, in return, would write an article about the milliner and their creative process; but the idea was ill-advised by my agent. Like, what could possibly go wrong? I thought it was a worthy concept. So I launched it anyway, and I titled it, “The Hats Heard Round the World” Project. The hats flooded in, beautiful, couture hats and multiple hats from some countries. It was like a dream come true…at first. But like many a relationship, things got too heavy too fast and the project imploded into a beautiful disaster, which kinda sounds like something you might read, inked onto the chest of a Cholla girl.

I would love to first and foremost thank all the fabulous milliners who sent their work for my collection. I absolutely must call out two stand-out milliners in honor of Easter Sunday. Those two milliners could not be any more different. They are Italy’s Pasquale Bonfilio and Canada’s Maria Curcic.

Pasquale is from northern Italy: Milan, to be precise, and his hats have been worn by some pretty famous faces, including Rossy DePalma, Coco Rocha, and, most recently, Paris Hilton.

I love this autumnal hat, above, photographed by Ignazio “Nacho” Sguera. Pasquale calls this magnificent work of art his Benozzo Gozzoli hat, named after the Italian Renaissance painter whose elaborate murals decorate the Magi Chapel of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence, Italy.

But I absolutely *adore* the hat Pasquale sent me, pictured above. I literally swoon when I think of it. It’s the darkest navy, with inky netting, the perfect funeral hat to be worn by a young widow or Monica Bellucci, grieving gloriously in a Dolce Gabbana film noir collaboration. This hat, now in my collection, is surely one of his masterpieces. Like many of Pasquale’s hats, it’s ripe with dark drama and bursting with femme fatale. Perfect, like Mozart, in every nuance. Pasquale crafts the finest hats, out of the finest materials, and it’s his bold silhouettes and use of epic scale that captivate and seduce me.

“A beautiful hat is where great ideas are born,” according to Pasquale. And his hats are certainly brimming with greatness, ideal for a society wedding, the opera, or a very special night on the town. And you really must witness Pasquale in the process of making one of his infamous, show-stopping, breathtakingly grandiose sinamay straw hats, like mine above.

Pasquale conducts his tools like a maestro over his materials. “Amo l’arte in tutte le sue espressioni,” he stated in his native Italian tongue. “Mi sveglio con lei e mi riaddormento pensando a lei.” Which, when translated, means: “I love art in all its expressions. I wake up with her and go back to sleep thinking about her.” His millinery is just as haunting. These are the hats that dreams are made of. In addition, his creative range is notable. Pasquale designs spectacular tophats, arresting cloches and remarkable saucers, to name a few.

But if Pasquale Bonfilio sculpts from straw then Maria Curcic chisels from fabric. Where he folds into origami, she cuts into snowflakes. In fact, those are among my favorite of her creations, the ones that I like to call ‘felt snowflakes.’ I am especially fond of these. I’m actually wearing one of them, above, a rich, garnet-colored felt topper that I styled with a merlot cashmere cape, in this photo by Saryn Christina with makeup by Roshar and hair by Jeanna Kier and Jenya Karpov.

The way that Maria describes making the felt snowflakes is not unlike carving a pumpkin. She explained that it’s a difficult process and sometimes results in a tear or imperfection that ends up wasting the hat-in-progress altogether. That’s why they’re so rare and unique. And furthermore, no two snowflakes are the same! They’re just too chic for words. Truth be told, all of Maria’s hats are very clever and steeped in a French joie de vivre, perhaps something she picked up from her environment, having been born in Paris to a young Serbian seamstress immigrant who taught her daughter the fundamentals of sewing. And as it’s been said, “Though you may leave Paris, Paris never really leaves you.”

Like Pasquale, Maria has serious range. And her hats are infinitely wearable and always have a perfect fit for total comfort and ease of movement, as well as an innate sense for the most stylish colors and trim. I have nine of her hats and I cherish each and every one of them, so you could say I’m definitely a fan. In addition, and as a quick aside, Maria is an exceptionally sweet, dynamic individual and one of my dearest Scorpio Sisters.

Both milliners lovingly craft their hats by hand from start to finish, and painstakingly ensure the most impeccable of details; such as a bit of netting, placed just so for added intrigue, or perhaps a vintage mink pom pon, as seen above on this charming frontal-facing grey felt Maria Curcic gem, for a whimsical nod to coquetry, or a tasteful display of cock feathers, adorning here or there, seen below on this little emerald-green draped Maria Curcic beret. So French. Ooh-la-la!

I’m telling you, these two milliners could not be any more different, but through exceptional craftsmanship and unyielding creativity, they both fashion the most stunning hats for Easter Sunday and every day that you want to elevate into a hat day. I’m honored to possess their millinery in my collection. But maybe next time, I’ll listen to my agent. Then again……..maybe not.


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