Feltmakers’ Design Competition 2020

The annual Worshipful Company of Feltmakers’ Design competition is now in its 26th year. Started by Liveryman William Horsman, it is now one of the main competitions in the millinery calendar. The competition was set up for the industry, aimed at Millinery students, apprentices and milliners who are within 2 years of starting their own label. It is very much hoped that prize winners will go on to work within the trade and make it their career. We encourage colleges taking part to include The Design Award in their syllabus where possible, serving as a challenge and focus for the students.

Sarah Cant, Course Director at Morley College Chelsea, acknowledges that The Feltmakers Design Competition is a highlight for the students, “It is hard to overemphasise its importance to millinery students – as a motivation to create ambitious work, as a recognition of their achievements, and as a support as they progress their work on the course and beyond”. On the HNC, they have created a project specifically focused on innovation with felt in order for students to create the best possible entries to the competition.  “Students who win prizes in the competition experience such a huge boost of confidence at a key moment in the course, just when they are working on their final collection projects. The financial side of the awards is also hugely beneficial to the HNC students, who are at the end of a very intense academic year, working on their most important work yet, and most often, with reduced resources. Finally, the industry opportunities connected to the first prize are indispensable to any student setting out on a career on millinery”

As well as the financial prize, the winner is also given 2 weeks work experience in Rachel Trevor Morgan’s workroom and 2 weeks experience at Walter Wright Hats in Luton. Two very valuable opportunities. The importance of gaining experience in established businesses is vital to understanding the industry as a whole.

The Design competition judging was due to take place on April 1st at Haberdashers, but with Covid19 and lockdown we were unfortunately forced to cancel. Thanks to Liveryman John Horn, all the entries had been sent through to Barford Brothers (Dye works) in Luton until the judging, so that is where they sat while we all waited for lockdown to lift. At first it was hoped that it was only the judging in London that was being postponed but it soon became clear that the normal gathering was not going to be allowed any time soon. It was therefore decided that as soon as it seemed reasonable, the judging would be taken to the hats in Luton.

On July 16th a very reduced judging panel of Rachel Trevor Morgan, Noel Stewart and Bill Horsman met to look at the hats and go through all the entries.

The competition rules state that the hat or headpiece designs must contain a large proportion of felt; other than that, students have a fairly free hand, however the hats do need to work as an item of headwear. They don’t have to be commercial (there is a separate prize for that) but they do need to be able to be reproduced in a workroom, they do need to fit the head or be on a structure that stays on the head comfortably. However beautiful or innovative a design is, it will not win if it isn’t able to be worn.

There are three main prizes which are awarded to designs that fit the overall categories and stand out for whatever reason. There are then four additional prizes that are awarded for specific criteria;

The Commercial Prize really speaks for itself, this is awarded for a design that is easily worn, easily reproduced and easily sold.

Then here is a prize for Artwork and Presentation, artwork is a vital part of a submission which gives the student an opportunity to explain the inspiration behind their design and also to explain to the judging panel the processes that have gone into the final piece. This particular criterion is often overlooked by entrants but is a further opportunity to show off creativity and serves to back up a design.

For the Craftsmanship Prize, we focus on the quality of the finish and of the millinery involved.

For the Innovative Use of Felt prize, judges are looking for something new and original. But as ever, it is not just about an interesting take on felt, the submission must work as a hat/headpiece in its own right.

Overall we are seeking originality, craftsmanship, a degree of commerciality, wit, and something we have not seen before. We often see students looking at past years and reimagining former winning designs – actually, we want to be surprised!

This year we had a particularly good uptake in entries with over 40 hats being submitted from the UK and Europe.

The prizes were awarded as follows:

First Prize: (£1,500) awarded to Nora de la Quintana

KCC/ Morley College ‘from words to Ashes’ was a witty and well balance headpiece representing declining reading patterns and illustrating the fact that physical books are slowly disappearing.


Second Prize: (£1,000) awarded to Anna Kittson (Stefanou)

KCC/Morley College ‘Disturbing the Grid’ was inspired by grid structures in architecture and Lucio Fontana’s monochrome ‘Slash’ paintings. The result was a beautiful black and white head piece full of movement.



Third Prize: (£750) awarded to Leah Hislop

Northampton College. Working through different inspirations, close up images of coral and studies of leaf structure, Leah experimented with laser cutting techniques to create a beautiful and vibrant headpiece.

Special Category Awards:

The Craftsmanship Award of £250 Sarah Blackmore KCC/Morley College

(HNC Millinery)

Hyperfelt’ was inspired by the graphic painting ‘Hypermass’ by artist James Roper. ‘An explosive demonstration of the diverse properties of felt’ it was a collage of curves and contrast. This piece was beautifully crafted and fun.

The Commercial Appeal Award of £250 Tina Williams Hereford and Ludlow College.

Tina was inspired by the 75th anniversary of VE day. Her headpiece was a modern interpretation of a turban style worn by women who had been drafted. Tina’s headpiece was perfectly on trend. A wide felt headband with a cluster of handmade felt poppies inspired by the remembrance poppy. Beautifully made and easy to wear.

The Innovative Use of Felt Award of £250 Stefania Belfiore Italy

Taking inspiration from The Colosseum, Stefania’s hat was perfectly executed.

 The Artwork and Presentation Award of £250 Florence Baverstock, Northampton College.

Florence Baverstock’s beautiful drawings, artwork and inspiration boards were outstanding. Once again, Northampton College lead the way with Artwork.

We were very sorry not to be able to share our event with the Lady Mayoress and Sheriffs consorts as is usual, especially as this years’ Lord Mayor, William Russell is a liveryman in the Feltmakers Company.  We were also very sorry not to have the opportunity of showing all the winning designs at the Annual Mansion House Banquet.

I very much hope that colleges and new start up businesses can navigate their way through these very challenging times.


Rachel Trevor Morgan


– at home

Past Master Eda Rose-Lawson, took part in the glamour of this year’s “stay at home Ascot” by contributing images of her striking hats in the ‘Styled with Thanks’ competition run by Royal Ascot and The Daily Mail.

The aim of the competition was to boost the fund-raising for The National Emergencies Trust Relief Fund, NHS Charities Together, The Care Workers’ Charity and the Berkshire Community Foundation Coronavirus Fund.

Each one of Eda’s eye-catching creations featured in the Mail Online, and the Eda Rose cream hat, with its dramatic bow, was the winning entry in the ‘Originality’ category.

The competition was judged by milliner Stephen Jones OBE, Chair of the new British Hat Guild; Lisa Armstrong, Style and Fashion Editor of the Daily Telegraph and Caroline Rush, CEO of the British Fashion Council.

Rainbows brighten Ascot in lock-down

Livery milliners join Royal Ascot Campaign to raise funds for front-line charities

For the first time since becoming a ‘royal week’ in 1911, the five-day 2020 Royal Ascot will not be open to visitors.  However, Royal Ascot, together with the British Hat Guild, have launched a campaign to inspire seasoned racegoers and raise money for four front-line charities: The National Emergencies’ Trust Relief Fund, NHS Charities Together, The Care Workers’ Charity and the Berkshire Community Foundation.  

Stephen Jones OBE, has invited leading British milliners to create a bespoke hat or headpiece which must feature the nation’s instantly recognisable rainbow image, reflecting the gratitude owed to the NHS and front-line workers. Joining Stephen in this initiative are Judy Bentinck, Edwina Ibbotson, Lock & Co. and Rachel Trevor-Morgan from The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers.  Their creations will then be auctioned online throughout the week of Royal Ascot at Home and all the money raised will be added to the charities’ fund.




Hats by Edwina Ibbotson [left] and Judy Bentink [right]

The auction starts at 09.00 on Tuesday, 16th June 2020. please use https://www.ascot.co.uk/millinery-auction to see the hats on offer, and use https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AscotRacecourse to donate.

Photographs courtesy of The British Hat Guild & the individual Milliners

Judy Bentinck is making bags and masks for the NHS

“They have wire over the nose to reduce any spray”-

Fellow Feltmaker, Judy Bentinck is making bags and masks for the NHS (not from felt).

She reports: –

It all started when my husband wanted a mask to wear to go to Waitrose at the beginning of lockdown. I’d been recommended a mask made from Miele hoover bags which have a high fibre density, and therefore, make a good filter. Fortunately, we have a Miele, so I made one up for Tim, myself and members of the family. I then discovered peoples_masks on Instagram and started making fabric ones for them. They have various collection centres around our part of north London and need a huge number of masks. Even those just made of fabric cut down the force of the spray of infected droplets and coughs.


I then came across a call-out for pillowcases on my local Nextdoor site to be collected and converted into laundry bags for NHS scrubs. After a quick search through my airing cupboard, I found several spare cases and got to work. I now alternate between masks and making up bags from unwanted duvet covers as I’ve run out of pillowcases and other spare fabric.

A designer friend has organised a group of south London designers to make gowns to go over scrubs. Other friends are making scrubs and others are making visors (Visor Army). The problem is having enough materials. I have donated for fabric for scrubs (Scrub Hub) but having material at home is such a great way to help. I think it might be time to have that sort out in the wardrobe to find fabric for the next batch of masks!

So, we can all do our part. Help the City help the NHS

Shared memories of the many Feltmakers from the 2019 Lord Mayor’s Show

Out of the chaos came order!  Assembling in Aldersgate St., it never seemed likely that such a collection of colours, movement, noise and dress (whether costume or fancy dress) could be fused into a single parade.

Feltmakes and Band from Switzerland parade at Lord Mayor’s Show assembly at M Restaurant on 9 November 2019, London, UK. Credit to Picture Capital

Following excellent briefings from Adrian and the Parade Marshall, the cry of “we’re off!” went up. The three vintage cars in front belched into life, bands broke into rhythm and the steam whistle on the traction engine behind went off at full throttle.

At first, we were timid with the crowds lining the pavements but before long we were exchanging “high fives”, shouts of “good morning” and doffing hats randomly, or by way of acknowledgement, to fellow hat wearers in the crowd.

My favourite moment (moments!) was managing to catch that unlikely person in the public, who must have been standing and watching for hours, managing to catch their eye with a wave and a smile, and getting a wave or smile back.  Also the high fives going on behind me!

Arriving at our assembly venue, it was clear exactly how much thought and personal effort by many had gone into our float.  The “commander” already dressed and directing the ranks, our float leader very much in control, and a huge plan unfolding.

But best of all was entering the dressing room where the “Hatting Team” distributed cloaks and beautiful hats for the ladies from boxes, labelled with size of head, hair colour, height, designer and so on.  So, so professional and clearly a massive amount of detail.

We boys were guided to get our act together ourselves, but the ladies looked particularly fantastic thanks to the Hatting Team. It was quite clear at that point that our Livery is no ordinary one.  We didn’t just order placards off the internet and wander through the City streets; our Livery was there, writ large, with a fabulous float and Model T Fords to take the less mobile, in force with the WAAG!

Amid a joyous cacophony of sound, both musical and applause, the Lord Mayor’s procession wound its way around the City. We Feltmakers were delighted and proud to have one of our own Liverymen, Alderman William Russell, as Lord Mayor this year. The enjoyment and fun of being involved was unmissable – a very memorable day!

My overarching memory of the day was that the Feltmakers’ float was, once again, a “class act”, way ahead of any of the other livery company floats, with beautiful vehicles and banners serving as a stage for we, elegantly-attired, walkers to strut our stuff in front of the Lord Mayor and thousands of spectators looking on appreciatively.

I have a series of mini memories, including walking alongside Ian Wright, to my left, with his fearsome gauntlets, and Nick Lee, to my right, who quipped, when I observed that all the hand-waving was no good for my golf drive, that maybe that wasn’t such a bad thing! Adrian Gubby was magnificent as our commander, bringing serene order where there could so easily have been chaos, and Gilly, our Master, so warmly articulate in everything she said in getting us underway and thanking the Waag in M Restaurant for their magnificent hospitality. Finally, who could forget our agile photographer who seemed to be in about four places all at once?

It was absolutely incredible that such a huge show can run so smoothly without any obvious hitches – the planning that goes into organising such an event is phenomenal.

As well as being great fun, it is and was a huge privilege to be able take part in something so special as the Lord Mayor’s Show. As one of back row of marchers, who happened to be placed on the outside, it was a real pleasure to be able to greet some of those who had come to watch the procession with ‘Good morning’, sometimes to ‘touch hands’ with youngsters holding out theirs in greeting, and of course waving one’s hat to one and all in salutation. Located where we were, we could see all of our own float, our fellow marchers preceded by the three Model T Fords, and ahead of us, our friends from the Waag and their band.

I was later surprised and delighted by the coincidence of friends at home turning on the television news at just the right time, and seeing us all marching together, even recognising me waving my Tricorn!

But the most special moment, which really highlighted to me the privilege of being part of the day, was immediately after the march was over and we were walking back to refresh ourselves, and change. For a blind Asian girl and her ‘minder’, an older Englishman, asked me to stop so that she could actually touch my dark blue woollen cape, and its badge, and so experience at first hand just a tiny part of what her colleague had been telling her as the day progressed. I then leant forwards and invited her to touch my Tricorn hat, and she exclaimed with joy when she felt the feather in it, as well as remarking on the shape and texture. I asked her name and where she was from and learned that she came from South Korea, although her English was excellent. In response to my next question she confirmed that she belonged to the Presbyterian Church of Korea. We parted friends, acknowledging our common faith, and I felt humbled that we, who have so much and had enjoyed ourselves so hugely, can be taking part in something that is so special that someone from another land who cannot see, also wants to share in it so much.

What a great coming together of the Feltmakers and Waag kindred spirits.  It was a superb weekend and a great thank you to all the organising committee.

Experiences such as Saturday, make up my collage of ‘happy thoughts’.  I was most definitely privileged to be a beneficiary of the efforts made by the organising committee and the hospitality of the Waag, who’s energy was magnificent. A wonderful day indeed.

My most treasured memory [says Lady Gilly Yarrow Master Feltmaker]was probably being interviewed by the BBC and being able to put the Feltmakers and their support for hatting on the telly! Also marching along the streets of London to the jolly Waag band, which somehow put a spring in our steps and meant my feet didn’t hurt as much as I thought they would