Milliner: Brookes Boswell
With beach days and sunshine gloriously upon us, it’s the best kind of weather to treat yourself to a custom fit hat. Brookes Boswell is just your gal. She specializes in made-to-measure pieces or if you prefer vintage she can give an old hat a second adventure.
An afternoon spent at Brookes’ Brooklyn studio is an inspiring look into the world of millinery. The garden level is the loveliest entrance filled with hat blocks, plants and vintage tools. If getting a custom hat in a gorgeous Brooklyn garden isn’t enough, her loveable dog, Bao, will greet you with a snuggle (if you’re lucky). Since the weather was nice we had our meeting outside in her delightful courtyard (we highly recommend this experience when investing in a specialty hat). Distance is not a factor when it comes to inquiries and appointments, Brookes will happily answer your questions with just as much passion as if she’d shared an afternoon with you. Once you receive your hat, it’s impossible to ignore the fine details that make it one of a kind. You can truly feel the love her hands put into making these gems of the millinery world.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Brookes in her intimate studio and home. Read on for her thoughts on hat style, how she discovered millinery and her favorite thing to do in her time off.
When did you master the skill of millinery?
I started working with a milliner in Manhattan in 2009. It was supposed to be just for fun, she offered to teach me to make a hat and I took her up on that offer because I was unemployed. It was the recession and there just weren’t any jobs out there, which meant that I just spent more time hanging out in her studio and helping to design and make hats. Eventually it just seemed obvious, to me anyway, that I should pursue starting my own millinery label. I worked with Kelly Christy hats for about a year, then spent 2 years on my own collecting my tools, making hats for friends, designing my first collections, and then working with photographers and graphic designers to get my first lookbook and website ready for the launch, in 2012. It was a totally fun and inspiring time, but a lot of work!
So lovely to finally enjoy warm weather. How do hot, sweaty summers and freezing, frost filled winters affect your hat making?
Well, the felt hats need to be steamed and the straw hats just soaked in water, and I’m always making hats for an upcoming season. So while working with wet straw isn’t so bad in winter, steaming felts in the hot summer can be unpleasant. I just keep the back door and windows open and occasionally resort to the air conditioner!
Share with us your everyday routine, a bit from a day in the life of Brookes Boswell.
I have a workspace in my apartment, which is a love/hate relationship. I love being able to wake up and get right to work with my mug of coffee, there’s no commute and I regularly take part in 3 pm youtube yoga. I hang out with my dog Bao, a Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenees mix. I basically spend all of my day going back and forth between my computer and my workbench. That said, I am starting to get the itch for a studio space that is separate from my living space, and maybe something that is shared so I don’t just talk to Bao all day… haha.
There is a strong design aesthetic to your work, what are some museums or artist who inspire you?
I love the Met. It’s huge, so you can see something new every time you, and it has an amazing collection of art and objects of material culture, which I find inspiring for my work.
Making can uproot some strong childhood memories, do you have any influences from your youth and upbringing?
I grew up in the midwest, in literally the middle of the country. A place without accents and whose pioneer and farming culture already felt long faded. I have an amazingly creative and entrepreneurial family that have always been supportive of me. My mother is a talented amateur artist, my step-father is a professional furniture builder and wood worker, my brother is an amazing graphic designer. We all stay very busy.
Your go to for a sweet treat.
Depends on what time it is! I love to hide away in Chinatown for an hour for a foot massage if I’m in Manhattan. After work there’s nothing more perfect than a cocktail at a fancy bar with my besties and on the weekends my boyfriend and I walk our sweet pup for an ice cream.
Music can be very soothing for the creative process, what are you listening to now?
I just discovered the “hauntingly beautiful” songza station and right now I’m rocking the Steely Dan pandora station. Mellow is what I work best to in the morning and I’m a downright NPR junkie in the afternoon.
Does the local community play a part in your business?
As a designer I love the visual stimulation of instagram. It’s really helped me develop a community of like minded folks. I use tumblr and pinterest as well, but instagram is my favorite. @brookesboswell
When traveling what is your hat of choice?
Always an Optimo! Straw or felt, it rolls up and always fits in my luggage :)
Any exciting new projects to share?
I’ve been working with my friend Tracy Thomason on a limited edition set of hand painted straws. I only have 4 available, and they’re beautiful. You can check them out on my website!