Milliner Esther Louise Matthews puts her heart and soul into each of her designs.
From statement bows and metallic coils to feathers and felt, every hat is a mini masterpiece of creativity and originality.
It’s hard to believe that Esther only took up millinery four years ago, launching her own business from her home studio in the Forest of Dean in November.
She made the move after losing her job as an administrator and decided to turn her hobby into her career.
“I’d done an art and design course at college after leaving school but at the time didn’t think I could make a career out of it,” said Esther. “A few years ago I decided I wanted to do something creative again and had a look at some courses available locally. I decided to try millinery and it ticked all my boxes. It includes art, sculpture and textiles and I really loved it. After taking a City and Guilds course in it, I just did it as a hobby, making hats for family and friends for pocket money. Losing my job came as a huge shock but offered the perfect opportunity and impetus to take my hobby one step further and start my own business.”
Esther had already won awards for her designs; a City and Guilds Medal for Excellence commendation and two Commercial Appeal Awards from the prestigious Feltmakers of London.
She went on to be awarded runner-up Hat Designer of the Year in an international trade competition held in Paris, impressing the judges with her technical ability and unique designs in a fiercely competitive three-phase competition.
She was subsequently invited to exhibit a collection of her work at Premiere Classe Paris, one of Europe’s top fashion trade shows.
“Creativity has always been a passion and with my interest in textiles, fashion and sculptural form, millinery seemed a natural path to follow. A complete career change is a huge step but it was now or never so I decided to just go for it and opened Esther Louise Millinery"
“The Paris show involved an enormous amount of work but when you’re doing something you love it’s a privilege. That was really the start of things and the idea that one day hat-making could be more than just a hobby.”
Now Esther works from her home in a studio at Ruardean Woodside and has an online shop but hopes eventually to open her own boutique.
She combines traditional couture millinery with fabric manipulation techniques using high quality materials to transform classic shapes into beautifully sculptural pieces.
She plans to offer two main collections each year, sold online with prices ranging from £100 to £500, as well as a bespoke design service.
“Many of the hats bought are for race days in Cheltenham and also for weddings and special occasions,” she said.
Esther’s style is simple and elegant and her preferred styles are buttons, berets and hatinators (a cross between a hat and a fascinator), although she will also make to order.
She makes the hats from scratch from straw or felt, adding decorations as required usually using silk or fur-felt.
“I use lots of different colours, depending on the season. Last season there were lots of very bright colours, but I think this season it will be far more muted, with dusky pinks and blues, monochrome and neutral colours,” she said.
With the #CheltenhamFestival in March, Esther is sure to have her work cut out rustling up eye-catching designs to get her customers noticed at Prestbury Park. www.estherlouisemillinery.co.uk
*Article by Helen Blow
Member since: 22nd December 2011
I have recently purchased the best of the Forest of Dean and Chepstow from the previous owners Paul and Sharon James. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible over the coming months and assure...