Launching Mad Hat Co.

I didn’t begin my journey into millinery with the thought of starting a business, it was born out of a desire to master a new creative skill. Item number 25 on my “List of Things to Do Before I’m 40”. It wasn’t a case of trying to find myself, but in the end I did.

From school work experience as a teenager I worked in the commercial radio industry and thought it would be all I ever wanted to do, but after an amazing career as a newsreader for a number of radio stations along the south coast of England, I decided that it was time to hang up my headphones to embark on a new adventure.

“All this time I was finding myself and I never knew I was lost.” – Avicii

I became a mother. After more than ten years, three children and a stint teaching English as a foreign language to business leaders (and their children) from across Europe, my 40th birthday was looming, and thoughts turned to how I could make the most of this landmark celebration.
So, when in doubt, I make a list. What do I want to do? What haven’t I done that I’d like to do?

The list was more of a way to squeeze more life out of life. To collect experiences and memories. The things didn’t need to be expensive (although giving each of my children a full 24 hours of my full undivided attention for us do whatever they wanted, did nearly bankrupt me!). They just had to be satisfying in one way or another to complete and I wanted to learn something new as I thought it was character building. To which, a friend questioned my motives for such a venture, commenting that “You’re nearly 40, surely your character is already built?” I strongly disagree.

Life is a learning journey from the day we’re born until the day we die. It is a bit of a cliché, but “life is a journey, not a destination”. And it was time to seriously consider what I wanted to be when I grew up.

“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, the most interesting people I know, didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.” – Baz Luhrmann

With such a powerful creative streak running through me, I was spoilt for choice to decide what skill I’d like to master. Whilst making a fascinator for a friend’s visit to Royal Ascot I thought about doing an embroidery course. Whilst trimming up a top hat for a rock fan to go to a Guns & Roses concert, I considered being an Events Organiser and then whilst stitching flowers onto a straw boater for a vintage tea party, the penny dropped.

Millinery, hats, fascinators, cloches, trilby’s, bowlers, it had to be head-wear!

Oh, the creative possibilities are endless and varied and this is absolutely my calling!

I’ve been a life-long lover of wearing hats and so off I went to the Arts University Bournemouth to learn a new trade. Under the acclaimed milliner Chloe Scrivener, I learnt my fascinating craft. At first it was a case of the more I learned, the more I realised I didn’t know, but that is part of my attraction to millinery.

I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning new techniques or working with new materials because fashion, style and design are such fluid entities that milliners like me can just ride the create wave indefinitely.

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken.”

As Oscar Wilde pointed out;

Despite being a regular subscriber to “Vogue”, I approached millinery from an artistic direction as opposed to following a path from the fashion industry. Millinery and me go together like a hat on a head because it satisfies my creative itch as I’m able to draw in my varied and eclectic artistic skills from pyrography to paper-cutting and silver clay making.

And so, the Mad Hat Company was born and I’m striding out in this new direction, changing the world one hat at a time.

Our aim and ethos are to help make you feel a little bit more amazing by finding and wearing the right hat for you. We want you to feel confident and happy in the skin you’re in and we know that with the right hat you will.

Susie O'Neill is the Founder of Dorset based Mad Hat Co. Bespoke Milliners & Hatters based in Bournemouth. Follow Susie on social media @madhatcompany


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