Constance WillemsMilliner

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How did you become interested in millinery?

After working as a designer of knitwear for the clothing industry in Europe for many, many years.  I met an Israeli hat designer in Amsterdam. Together we designed a collection of knitted hats and caps that were introduced to the Dutch market first. I was so fascinated with the challenge of knitting 3-dimensional forms that I moved on to design and make my own knitted hats collection from that point on.

Where and why did you learn millinery?

I did not learn millinery. After finishing my fashion and textile design education at the Royal Academy of Arts in Den Haag, Netherlands, I worked as a knit. First in the Netherlands, later in Germany, as the market there was a better one at the time. I designed for the knitting industry in Italy, Great Britain, Germany and the Netherlands before I found the challenge, as well as my own skills, to work fully fashioned for the headwear market.

How long have you been a milliner for? Where else did you work?

I have been designing and making my own hats collection for the past 5 years. As a freelance designer I also work for the Opera in Munich and Theatre Festivals in Germany, knitting headwear and accessories, as well as making full knit collections.

Where do you get inspiration for your designs?

I find my inspiration in the use of the materials and the form of the head. I love to experiment with say a “classical millinery material” as straw and see how it can be knitted up. The experiments with knitting straw resulted in the pagoda hats, berets and the knitted lace straw hats.

What has been your most enjoyable commission?

I much enjoyed speaking about my hats collection, “Designing Knit Hats: A Shaping Adventure In 3-D Knitting!” Both at the World Congress Knitting of the University of Manchester, United Kingdom, in October 2002, as well as at the Nordic Knitting Congress of The School of Textiles in Borås, Sweden in May 2003.

How would you describe your style of hats?

My style of hats is elegantly simple, fascinating in detail!

Who do you make hats for?

My hats are made for all, grown-ups and kids who like to wear a knit hat!

What materials and techniques do you favor?

I prefer to use naturals only, as the comfort of wearing cashmere, silk and merino or straw is so smoothing to the skin.

I am thinking about introducing bamboo for my knit hats as this material is softer to the skin than straw and has the same “standing” capacity that is so important in knitted hats.

Most basic knitting techniques I use such as fully fashioned (form knitting in one piece) doublefaced or jacquard knitting. To form the jacquard and make the hats winter and rain protecting. I felt them afterwards giving the fabric a full new interesting surface!

Any other interests?

I love cooking and own around a hundred cook books from all over the world. I enjoy going for long walks along the shores or swim in the big lake where I live now, looking at the snowy Alps in the background.