In this month’s Spotlight on... we talk to milliner to the stars Jess Collett, about how she started out in such a specialist industry and how she juggles running a business with a family
How did your business come about?
Ever since I was a child I was dressing up and wearing a hat. I had my first hat party at 7 years old and ever since then it’s always been hats for me! I became an apprentice to the wonderful Edwina Ibbotson when I was 18, learning all I needed to know about the industry, and from then on I’ve been running my own couture and ready to wear millinery business for the past 25 years.
What has been your biggest challenge?
I think probably getting my name out there has been the biggest challenge. It’s been slow progress but with determination, word of mouth and some wonderful employees, my network and business has steadily grown over the years.
What are you most proud of?
Making a successful business out of my passion that supports me and my employees. I’m also proud that I’ve always been open to opportunities and overcome my fear of asking for help and have learnt to reach out and connect.
How do you juggle running a business with being a mum?
It is just that, a stressful juggle at times. I’m lucky enough to have an amazing mum, family and friends, who all chip in to help make it work. Again, I have had to become comfortable with asking for a helping hand.
What would you say is your best-selling hat and why?
The World Traveller hat is our best-selling hat and is a favourite among our clients. The hat is packable and can fold to be popped in your bag when out and about. It’s a unisex, durable and affordable sun hat that is effortlessly stylish. Ever since we launched it in 2017 they’ve been flying off the shelves like hotcakes!
Who has been your most exciting client?
Well it is pretty thrilling to see your hat coming down in the Royal Carriages at Ascot, and of course we loved making hats for The Duchess of York and Pippa Middleton, attending both the Royal weddings last year.
But I have to say I love dressing Francesca Cumani, the ITV racing commentator, I think she is my most exciting client because she is daring, fun and clearly just loves wearing hats. She has a fabulous stylist who gets the combination of vintage and glamorous right every time!
Are there any trends we should be looking out for this year?
Firstly, hairbands are definitely having a moment this year and although we won’t be seeing those at Ascot (because they do not cover the crown of the head), I’m sure they will be prominent throughout the summer season.
Secondly, I also expect to see a particularly large amount of florals this summer. Our JCM garden seems to be quite on trend with other brands and hat makers following a similar English country garden theme. We also saw plenty of swim caps on the runway and I think the milliners will be translating this into full heads of flowers, although they might not have the chin straps!
Lastly, veiling is always popular. Our clients love to wear veiled hats as they feel like 40’s film stars.
With Ascot and ‘hat season’ just around the corner, can you give our members some advice on how to choose the right one?
- Don’t be afraid to try on all the styles as sometimes, it’s the least expectant one that makes you feel the best.
- Cock your hat – angles are attitudes.
- Try adding a touch of red lipstick does wonders on the glamour stakes.
Do you have a business motto?
My business motto is ‘Your Passport to adventure’, because a great hat can elevate your confidence and really take you places.
And lastly, do you have a motto for life?
My granny Cucko used to tell me ‘Darling never say no to anything.’ I have found this has sometimes got me into trouble, although nothing I couldn’t get myself out of!
Exclusively for SN membesr, Jess Collett Milliner is offering a fantastic 10% off her bestselling World Traveller hat. Get your offer code here.