Liz Felix opened her shop, Liz Felix Millinery, in Henley-on-Thames in 2014, but has been making hats for the last 22 years. She talks to Drapers about her passion for millinery and going from creating hats for her daughter to making them for the new prime minister.
How did you get into millinery?
When my daughter was learning to walk, I purchased a fabric hat at a craft fair. She looked so sweet toddling around in it that I decided to make her another, but thought that I could improve the shape and made my own pattern. People kept stopping me in the street and asking me where I’d got it and then whether I would make them one. It went on from there.
Have you had any formal training since then?
Initially, I was self-taught before taking some millinery courses at the London College of Fashion. As I had children, an apprenticeship was not really an option – that is something I do feel I missed out on and would have loved to do. I opened my shop in May 2014 and am fortunate to be well placed for Royal Ascot and the Henley Royal Regatta, which are both famous for their hats.
How do you feel about the media attention surrounding the prime minister’s endorsement of your hats?
I feel slightly uncomfortable with all the attention. Making beautiful hats that people love to wear is what I really want to do, but I have to accept that this is part of running a successful business. I have to grasp the opportunity of showcasing my work to use ensure my shop’s future. The media attention resulting from Theresa May wearing my hats has raised the shop’s profile and, as a result, I have had a lot more people look round and more orders being taken.
When was the first time you met Theresa May?
I have no idea when she first visited my shop. I have regular clients that come in from time to time, so I often recognise a face, but might not be able to place it. However, I had two ladies who came in, saying the shop had been recommended [by Theresa May] so she could have been in several times without me noticing.
When did you realise who she was?
I unknowingly helped her choose a hat for greeting the Chinese president [while she was home secretary]. She came in looking for a blue one, and was initially very vague – she wouldn’t disclose anything about the event for which it was required. I suggested extra coverage and a felt crown because of the time of year it was [October 2015]. I offered a bright red hat as an alternative to the blue. It looked perfect and we knew it was the one as soon as she tried it on – she looked very decisive and authoritative. Despite her busy schedule, she even took the time to come back to the shop the following weekend to tell me how many positive comments she got about the style and colour. It was only then that it was mentioned to me that she was the home secretary!
What trends have you noticed this season?
There has been a preference recently for a shallower crown and wide, sweeping brims. Side-disc hats are incredibly popular as they have they look quite similar to sweeping brims without having an impact on the hair. ‘Tomato soup’ red has been the most requested colour this year, along with coral, navy and white.