I have something special for you today…
Joel Alexander is the man behind Quills Millinery, a fabulous showroom of hats, fascinators and accessories on the outskirts of Darlington, County Durham. If you need a showstopper for a big event, or are a bride who fancies something a little different, I urge you to pay this talented man a visit.
Brides Up North caught up with him at his studio, where he was busy working on his own line for his debut show in 2011. When I had finished oohing and aahing over the abundance of crystals and feathers within arms length, I caught my breath and asked him a few questions…
How did you become interested in millinery?
My Mum had a fascinator made for my brother’s wedding and it arrived wrongly put together 48 hours before the big day. I told my Mum I could deconstruct it and put back together with the stones, gems, and crystals she originally wanted. She was over the moon, and family and friends loved it!
What is your background, have you always been arty?
I have always been creative, studying art throughout school and college and using mood boards in my degree. I love the freedom that comes with it.
When did you open your showroom and studio?
My showroom and studio opened in April 2010 after months of building, painting, and finding those all-important finishing touches.
What has been the high point for you so far?
I never expected to have a high point so early in my millinery career, but to have a call from an editor of Vogue asking me to feature in the Magazine was truly amazing.
What designers are on sale in your showroom?
I stock a wide range of designers from my own label Joel Alexander to Vivien Sheriff, Nigel Rayment, Richards Designs, Victoria Ann, ID Hats, Polly Edwards and more.
Where do you find inspiration for your own designs?
I draw inspiration from everywhere: photos, animals, landscapes, artwork, magazines; I never stop looking for things to inspire my designs and me.
How long does a design take to produce from concept to finished article?
Once the design is complete it takes anywhere from 3 to 5 days to complete. Depending on the complexity, sometimes it can take longer. I have a design that I have been working on for 2 weeks now; this particular design is taking longer as it’s something more couture and conceptual.
What top tips would you give to someone looking to buy a headpiece for an occasion like a wedding?
Whatever your purchase, a hat or a fascinator, make sure it sits and feels comfortable on your head. Avoid wearing a hat where the brim is wider than your shoulders or narrower than your hair style, and finally never wear a hat on the back of your head; tilt it, pull it low over the brow or wear it straight.
Hat or fascinator – which to choose?
I would never dictate which to choose, however I would say never arrive with a set idea in mind, be open and try on as many different styles and shapes, you may be surprised.
What sort of woman (or bride) might choose to wear a Joel Alexander design?
Somebody who wants something different, original, and one off.
Who would you most love to create a piece for, why and what sort of piece would you like to create?
Lady Gaga. Since the launch of her music career, she has very rarely been seen without an amazing headpiece; and has been responsible for a huge surge in sales of millinery products. As for a design I’m unsure. It’s hard to try and predict her next move.
What is your favourite piece that you have created?
That would have to be the lime green fascinator (pictured). Wild sinamay was the hardest skill for me to master but when I finished and took a step back I thought “Wow! That is so different!” You can never guarantee a shape as it finds its own and I love that there can never be two identical.
Can you hire a hat from Quills Millinery?
You can hire all hats and fascinators in the Quills showroom over the sale value of £150. Anything less is a purchase.
Can you customize the pieces on sale in your showroom?
Yes I can customize the pieces in the showroom by adding more feathers, crystals, and quills etc if the customer would like me to.
How can Brides Up North readers contact you and find your shop or book an appointment?
What should customers bring along to the showroom with them and what can they expect the appointment to include?
Customers should bring their outfit accessories and shoes, it’s important for colour matching. Appointments are in hour blocks and the customer will receive a personal service with a relaxed atmosphere for finding the right headpiece for that special event.
Where can we see more examples of your work?
I’m currently working on my first collection under the label of Joel Alexander. I will be launching the label in the spring of 2011.
You can also find me at major wedding showcases in the North East such as Ramside Hall, Wynyard Hall, Rockcliffe Hall, Headlam Hall and many more. Please come and visit me at the stand to see a selection of the fabulous headwear that Quills Millinery has to offer.
All images copyright Quills Millinery/ Vivian Sheriff