Thursday, January 22, 2009

DESIGNER SPOTLIGHT:Le Chapeau Rouge Millinery

Photo by Leah Hennel copyright 2008
Every so often I find a great custom designer (or they find me) in some corner of the world you might not expect. Today we're going to the Kootenay area of B.C. where we'll be chatting with milliner, Maria Curcic of Le Chapeau Rouge Millinery who incidentally began her design career in one of my favorite salons with a remarkable designer, Evalina Schmitke . I love spotlighting a smaller, couture designer like Maria who concentrates on one-of-a-kind art pieces like the ones above and below.

1. How many years have you been in business?

I began making hats in 1994, I found that there was a small market for stylish hats, something handmade and unique.
2. Describe your background in design?

I majored in Drawing at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Alberta Canada and then continued my education in Interior Design and completed that in 1990.I worked in an architectural environment for several years before deciding that fashion was always my passion. It allowed me to be creative and push boundaries as a designer.

3. Did you take any specialized training ?
I apprenticed in Paris France for less than a year in the early 90's and learned much of my sewing skills from my mother.
4. How and when did you get involved bridal design?
Back in early 2003 I got involved in bridal design through working with a bridal designer, Evalina Schmidtke ( I designed some pieces for her showroom. If a hat was not in her salon, she sent the client to me; she would suggest the dress and design and I would finish the look with sketches of hats that would compliment such designs. I also design online. I have worked with clients in Europe and the US mostly.
5. What is it you love most about doing wedding wear?
To see the bride thrilled with what I have created for them, to allow them to express themselves through me by making them feel like a queen.
6. Describe the method in which you work with your custom clients?
Since many of my clients are not home based ( I live in the Kootenay's in British Columbia Canada), I email and talk on the phone , I get them to send a photo of themselves, their dress, their ideas and so forth. I come up with about 2 or 3 sketches and email them to the client. I stock various materials and suggest that they send me a sample of the dress or fabric they want and so forth. The process is fairly simple and if the hat is not a hat but a hairpiece of sorts,it makes it easier to work with.
7. What sort of historical or creative influences inspire you most?
I have always lived my life as an artist, since moving to Canada , my work was always inspired by my surroundings. Growing up in Paris France affected the way I saw fashion. Most of my ideas come from the styles that I would want to wear, some influenced from different periods in time, such at early 18 and 19th century . I love vintage clothing...I have my own collection of vintage dresses from the 40's and 50's, some of which include some top designers that made dresses for Marylin Monroe...those dresses inspire me to make something wonderful. I also love modern architecture, so some of my ideas are definitely inspired by that. Bottom line, anything beautiful inspires me.
8. What attributes of couture design and construction have made your headpieces more desirable for your customers?
All my work is hand done...I use buckram for some shapes, some pieces are almost sculpted using amazing materials that can be manipulated into various shapes using folds , ribbon work, feathers and so on. I use higher end materials and believe in quality not quantity. I have worked with many brides who want a sense of style and something that they can cherish for years to come. All my ribbons are either from Japan or Europe,countries like Italy and France mostly.Sometimes when working with a bride I will suggest a fabric to suit, I can send out swatches and images to the client and can suggest styles to suit their face shape . It is all interactive between the client and myself. I take pride in my work and want the client to be fully satisfied.

9. Is there any advise you'd give to brides who are looking toward working with a custom designer?
My advice would be to spend a lot of time deciding what they want...color, shape, a "feel". When I had my wedding ring designed, I told my designer that I am an artist, full on, that I wanted something unique, something that could be my signature ...I told her what shapes I liked and disliked, I told her about my lifestyle...that I did not like chunky ,that I wanted to be able to wear it a different way. It is all about communication, make sure you have everything laid out, almost lookbook style. Give your designer everything they need to help you. That is my best advice.
10. How can brides get in touch with you?

Since most of my work is custom, they can reach me via email at Or they can view my site at
THEN GALLERY, or a direct link would be "


Kristi said...

How funny that this was just the topic I was looking into this weekend! I tried on a gorgeous modern, asymmetrical-hemmed gown by Melissa Sweet and impulsively stuck a bird-y-looking comb into the back of my hair and instantly KNEW it was perfect! (Well, something like it anyway.) Someday I long to afford a couture hat...

bridechic said...

Maria's might be just the price point you're looking for. Love the full-legnth shot too

MELISSA said...

Awh thanks. I'm not poetic on purpose :]

Couture Carrie said...

Fab interview - I love couture millinery!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for inspiring comment.Good review!

Cynthia said...

Maria's hats are great. Once you see them and try them on, you can't help but long to own one... so you do. It is worth the purchase as you have a great hat that is unique and lovely. Her work is really amazing and she's easy to work with.