Saturday, January 7, 2012

the Metropolitan Opera Shop

In October, we went live with the collection we did for The Metropolitan Opera shop , inspired by the season's production of The Enchanted Island. While the costumes of "Enchanted Island" are fantasy, period, lush, exotic, they beg to be worn! Costumes have always appealed to my inner design self, so this would be a difficult task, to design something that could be worn by a "civilian", and yet carry echoes of this magnificent baroque production. Feathers were the solution: use the feather theme that is displayed in Sycorax' hat, in her hair, on her cloak. Add a great common ground with a lush creamy velour felt, and you have our hats. We did a basic cloche, because it's a great shape for many, many faces. With a hand -blocked brim and crown, here in our studio, this cloche assumes many personae. The block itself is from the 1920's, so that it gives a full, oval shape. Oval, as opposed to the round shape found in most hats on the market today. Oval because the head is oval, and rarely round. This is one of my favorite blocks, and it has been in my collection for decades. We have one client who it works for in every hat we design for her, so we fondly call it by her name. But that little tidbit is in-house, I'm afraid. I chose shades of camel and taupe, because Sycoraz goes from a swamp/jungle existence, all grey and monochromatic, to emerge as a Phoenix in glorious browns and golds. Taupe is my preferred "non-couleur", and works from a sophisticated point of view, to a work-a-day frame that pairs with black, khaki, navy, brown, greens and winter whites. The trim on the cloche is a captured exotic animal, like the creatures on The Enchanted Island: a bit of a bird, a petal of silk in leopard, a vintage button in buffalo horn. Not too much, just a hint of the glory that lies within.
For the "Pamela" Biba, we hand-blocked a face-framing shape that would work for Sunday best, or Tuesday on the town, going to luncheon, on a shopping spree. The Biba is so named because of a particularly inventive shop in London from the 1970's, where free-wheeling fashion made it's home. We've loved the spirit of Biba for inspiration, and we do this hat as a classic in all seasons. Wrapped around the sloping crown, is a wonderful vintage velvet ribbon that we have in our archival collection of trims. It's a really rich , deep brown, and works as a foil for the hand-curled pheasant feather. The pheasant feather is prominent in the wardrobe/headwear of Sycorax in this production, so it was a natural choice. Held onto the hat with delicate stitches, the feather seems to want to take flight!
And finally, to round out this capsule collection, a fascinator. After the Royal Wedding in the Spring, America has taken note of this little shape, so often seen at weddings throughout Europe. Our hand-blocked teardrop shape is one of our most popular , and the trim is a coalition of vintage bits and bobs from our archives. With the pheasant feather as the focal point, and a wayward gold threaded butterfly captured in the mix, the velour based hat is a whimsical composition. Picking up on the Steampunk aspects of the set and costume design in this Pastiche, we added a bit of gilt chain, and some antique buttons, and of course, some Victorian trim. Because the trim is all unique, each hat we sell is an original composition, quite one of a kind.
There are always surprises in the collections we do for The Met Opera Shop. It's a constant source of inspiration, and delight.

Come to the MetOperashop site, and see for yourselves. Ellen Christine hats are available, and sometimes, we sneak in different productions, as we create!

All pictures of our hats above are by Tom Bloom, photographer extraordinaire.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

November Again/ Italian Flair

In my ongoing retrospective of this past year's goings on, the press played a huge part in our reality. Italian Flair asked us to do a hat that would be reminiscent of Cardin, or Courreges, very 1960's in flavor. What do you do when you don't own the block? It's called millinery, my dears. You swan it. That means, with a bit of steam, one of our vintage crown blocks, and lots of hand manipulation, it happens. This is actually two hats in one, as some of you may realize. Because the height necessitates an interior elevation, we build a solid foundation from the same felt, to accomodate the head, and have the "opening" sit in perfect position. I'm always amazed at the shots: photography, lighting, and styling all combine to create a beautiful picture. The model is posed in that very cheeky Atomic 1960's way: all swagger, all attitude.
It can be daunting to attempt a recreation, or to do a hat that carries with it a scintilla of past glories, but since I'm all about vintage, somehow it always works. By osmosis, I would expect. We don't have any originals to use as research, so we invent our own modern take on the look. The result: Space Age. Sputnik. And a really great shot.