Announcing the Winners of the 2023 Design Competition

Announcing the Winners of the 2023 Design Competition

The annual design competition run by The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers is open to millinery students, apprentices and those who are within the first two years of starting their own labels. It is very much an industry prize with the aim of supporting individuals who aspire to join the hat trade.

Entrants are invited to submit designs that are exciting, innovative and unique. The hats must be predominantly made of felt and capable of being manufactured in a workroom or a factory. They must also be comfortable and wearable!

There are three main prizes and four additional categories. The overall winners are chosen on the basis of their design, originality and craftsmanship. The further categories are awarded for Commerciality, Craftsmanship, Innovative Use of Felt and Artwork.

This year’s judging took place at Haberdashers’ Hall on 4 April and was judged by a wide and talented panel. We were thrilled to be joined by Victoria Claridge, the millinery buyer for Fenwick, who was able to bring her buyer’s eye to the proceedings. We were also joined by Elly Stemerdink, editor of The Hat Magazine and couture milliners, Edwina Ibbotson and Victoria Grant, and, of course, PM William Horsman, a retired hat manufacturer with many years’ experience as well as being the mastermind who started the competition over 30 years ago. Milliner Rachel Trevor Morgan, current organiser, was also judging and leading proceedings.

We had over 28 entries from colleges including RCA, Morley College London, Nottingham Trent University, Glasgow Clyde College and Northern School of Art, as well as new start-ups and international entries from Finland, Germany and France.

Entrants are first invited to submit images of their hats along with supporting papers. This is followed by a pre-selection and those selected are invited to send in their physical hats which are then judged in person.

The choice of winning hats is always very tough, and the judges took quite a while to reach their final decision. Many factors have to be taken into account; does the winning hat fit all the criteria but also stand out above the others? Is the design original? Would someone wear it?

We then went on to select the other four categories which, in the event, proved an easier task.

Elly Stemerdink commented ‘The variety of the entries was reflected in the top three winning designs where besides craftsmanship, the innovative, theatrical and commercial skills were appreciated by the judges. It will be interesting to follow the work of these designers who are all just at the beginning of their career!’

Decisions made, all the hats were photographed by Peter Clarke and modelled by Danielle.

To witness the final deliberations, we were joined by The Lady Mayoress of the City of London, Mrs Felicity Lyons, and Corrine Lee, Sheriffs’ Consort, along with the Master of the Company, Neil Edwards and his wife Nicki.

The winners were awarded as follows:

First Prize – Dawn Wilson (Morley College) – £1500

This hat was inspired and very original, unlike anything the judges had seen before. Dawn’s hood wrapped around the head with cut out felt details. The blue and copper tones were inspired by the rooftop paintings of Cezanne and Hopper and the interior of the piece was gilded with copper leaf.

Second Prize – Issi Roberts (Nottingham Trent University) – £1000

Issi’s dramatic hat was inspired by religious imagery and the use of burning candles to mark a person’s passing. The base was made from traditional millinery felt but Issi had also used needle felting to achieve the candles and wax drips.

Third Prize – Pip Mayo (Morley College) – £750

Pips ‘Jupiter’ hat was inspired by NASA’s images of Jupiter and its beautiful rings and colour palette. She achieved the colour effects by dip dying on stretched felt. This piece was very well balanced, simple and dramatic.

Craftsmanship – Aurore Martinez (Aurore M – new starter) – £250

Aurore’s hat was inspired by Zarafa, the name given to the first French giraffe. Her technique for creating a giraffe patterned hide was beautifully executed and crafted with each spot being individually cut and stitched into the paler felt base, taking many hours of work. Coloured feathers were then individually worked and attached to wire to create foliage. The hat was edged and lined with a beautiful cotton print.

Artwork – Paula Kasurinen (Stadin Ammattioppilaitos, Finland) – £250

Paula’s hat was an ode to forest and fungi. Her hat was beautifully made and quirky. Her artwork stood out with beautiful hand drawn illustrations and material samples.

Commerciality – Fleur Curtis (Oscar and Willow millinery – new starter) – £250

A winter white felt disc with ivory goose feathers and flowers, Fleur’s hat was extremely commercial. It was a very considered piece that was beautifully made. We all agreed that we would be able to sell it very easily.

Innovative Use of Felt – Niki Bywater  (Working Men’s College, Camden) – £250
All the judges loved Niki’s fun paint pot hat. Niki had experimented using chalk paint on felt. She had blocked shape onto a paint pot and a brush using sinamay for the bristles. The result was surreal and witty.

Author Rachel Trevor Morgan

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