Set up in 2010, Bee Smith Millinery has been designing and making hats and headpieces for every occasion for nearly a decade. From flamboyant designs for Ascot, through to weddings, christenings, Royal Investitures and the theatre. With her studio based in Kingston, Surrey, Smith welcomes clients for individual styling and creates wholesale collections for local boutiques.
Both with an eye for elaborate dressing, Sandra and Bee struck gold when they were first introduced: “I met Sandra through Marja-Leena of Darling Magazine. She knew Sandra was an avid hat wearer so thought it would be a perfect connection.”
Smith’s first headpiece for Lady Wimbledon was designed specifically for the start of the tennis season: “I made a Wimbledon tennis inspired hat, complete with strawberries, for the Summer event at Cannizaro Park.”
She explains: “I draw inspiration from everywhere. The beautiful shapes of vintage hats of the 1940s & ’50s are my favourite, with an eccentric twist.”
Bee worked for a variety of designers prior to establishing her own business and worked for brands including Felder Felder, Sophie Malig and Hardy Amies before studying Millinery design at Kensington & Chelsea College.
She continues: “But you always need creative input from the customer. They have to wear it and feel comfortable. If they aren’t happy in the hat, you can see it in their posture. You want the client to stand tall and feel amazing!”
With such creative freedom and a focus on ethical and sustainable materials, Smith discusses her favourite materials to use: “I am always on the lookout for new fabrics. Next season I will be using bamboo silk and seagrass straw.”
Smith takes each hat as a new project and works around the design to really make the piece well-crafted. Discussing the time it takes to create a hat she discloses: “It really depends on the hat. A couple of hours for a small piece, to a few days for bigger hats.”
“Everything is handmade and hand-blocked at the studio,” Smith tells me, “so often you are waiting for things to dry. I am often working on several pieces at once.”
With the Eyes of Lady Wimbledon team excitedly counting down to our annual Christmas party, the team were keen to find out what was in store for Lady Wimbledon’s Christmas hat: “I am currently designing Sandra’s Christmas hat, with her input of course. We have a few design ideas, but you’ll have to wait and see!”
To inquire about having Bee design and make your very own party season hat get in touch with her via her official website.
Written by Alice Bradley
Image Credit: Bee Smith Millinery