Busy milliner Molly Bunce successfully juggles bespoke hat-making, teaching her art and hat- making parties. Sheena Hastings met her.
Molly Bunce’s hats have been described as “sculptural art”, and they can be inspired by anything from a magpie’s wing or lichen on a stone wall to an arresting piece of Art Deco jewellery found at a vintage shop.
“Sometimes I find an item that immediately triggers an idea and I am literally having palpitations of excitement about what I can do with it. I’m then desperate to get home to the studio.”
Customers who buy from her label Good Golly Miss Molly range from women with busy social calendars who embrace garden parties, race days here in Yorkshire and Ascot and super-glossy weddings to women who have an event coming up and want one amazing “heirloom hat” around which they can build an outfit – or several outfits.
Many of Molly’s ideas are innovative – both in how she markets herself and in the actual hat production process. She has secret methods of heat treating fabrics so that, for instance, they shrink and curl, giving the surface a unique texture that’s organic and tactile.
They’re hats with a certain flourish and confidence, which she believes help to give the wearer a “kick in her step”. She says: “I certainly feel different myself when I wear one for a special occasion. I walk differently and feel lifted by a hat.”
Prices start at £150 and go up to around £1,000, depending on the design, the materials used and the time spent in hand-working every detail.
What unites her different kinds of customer, says Molly, is “the desire for something different” – a hat made of the finest fabrics, perhaps with details in freshwater pearls or crystal and exquisite feathers.
“I tend not to buy my materials in the same places that other milliners go to,” she says, enigmatically. And while the hats are made in her studio, her partnership with the customer in arriving at the perfect design concept happens at their home.
“I like to get a feel for their personality, lifestyle and wardrobe, so they’ll show me favourite outfits and tell me why they like them so much. People are also more relaxed in their own surroundings.”
Molly was born in London to a textile designer mother and fine artist father, but the family moved to Hebden Bridge when she was 13. After studying fashion and textiles in Liverpool, Molly’s graduation year collection was bought up in its entirety by DKNY.
She worked as a tailor, making bespoke suits for London’s top barristers and celebrity clients. Along the way she bonded with celebrity milliner Philip Treacy, who loved her sculptural design ideas and methods of manipulating fabric.
After moving to back to Yorkshire, marrying husband Dan and the hectic early years of three children, Molly got her creative focus back by doing a two-year millinery course at Huddersfield College. “Half-an-hour into it I was hooked,” she says.
With her fashion background, colour and shape sensibility and new-found passion for hats, she was off and running quickly – and the launch of her label was helped massively when a piece called Caterpillar Heaven won first prize (and international acclaim) in a competition run by the Hat Museum.
As with all art, good ideas may strike at any time. “I can be in bed and start to think ‘I wonder if I this would work...’ The next thing you know I’m up until the middle of the night. I just get lost in it.”
Molly teaches the millinery course at Leeds College of Art, and – being a woman who likes to spread the word that millinery is not strange, exotic and only for the few – she also runs popular hat- making parties that include Champagne and a cream tea. They’re usually held at a smart venue like Holdsworth Hall, in Halifax, or in someone’s home.
Her recipe for becoming the best- dressed woman at the races this year is definitely to steer clear of “wearing a house on your head”.
She says: “You can be more adventurous with a hat for the races than for a wedding, say, but you don’t want the hat to be wearing you. I don’t do tacky hats, and if a woman came to me with a tacky idea, I’d work with her to make sure the hat works with the outfit rather than overpowering it.
“You don’t want the look to be too busy but it can still be eye-catching and innovative, and bigger than a wedding hat. Clean lines are key and you don’t need tons of feathers and beads to make a great impression.”
Her ambition is to help put Yorkshire millinery on the map so that fashion editors and designers look north for the milliners they feature in shows and shoots.
Celebrity endorsement can’t hurt either, and Molly Bunce hats may be coming to a venue near you, as worn by Jamiroquai’s frontman Jay Kay.
■ For details of Molly’s hat designs and hat-making parties go to www.goodgollymissmolly.net, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07568 385218.
LADIES DAY RACE DATES IN YORKSHIRE
Wetherby – Tuesday, June 6
Ripon – Thursday, June 22
Redcar – Saturday, June 24
Pontefract – Wednesday, August 9
Beverley – Wednesday, August 16
Catterick – Friday, August 18
York – Thursday, August 24
Thirsk – Saturday, September 9
Doncaster – Thursday, September 14
The grand final is at Doncaster on October 28.
More info www.goracing.co.uk