Existing since the 1700s in England, the art of millinery has been refined, reworked and revamped into the most modern of forms over the last three centuries in Britain.

While some milliners choose to maintain old-world techniques, others adopt the latest technology from alternative fields to produce their one-of-a-kind signature styles.

While their manufacturing processes may differ, there’s a few things these London-based milliners do have in common: they all produce bold, standout designs worthy of racecourse recognition; their hats are of superior quality; and they’re the names you need to know now if you want to get ahead in the fashion stakes.

Awon Golding

Background: Working as a fashion writer and magazine editor in Hong Kong, Awon eventually decamped to London to pursue her dream of millinery. After an apprenticeship with Edwina Ibbotson, she went on design hats and soft accessories for high street giants Topshop and River Island before establishing her own label.

Studied at: Kensington and Chelsea College, receiving a Distinction in Millinery.

Signature style: Having spent an eclectic youth in India, Hong Kong and England, she draws on her multicultural heritage to inspire dynamic headpieces, which feature bold shapes and dramatic silhouettes.

Our favourite piece: Doppio from her SS14 collection. What’s not to love about two giant scoops of fluffy ostrich feather deliciousness balanced in a golden sinamay cone?

Doppio, £ 470

Doppio, £470

Website: awongolding.com


Emma Yeo

Background: After studying Multi Media Textiles at Loughborough University, Emma moved back to her home town of Brighton, where she started her career creating interior textile installations. She also specialises in paper sculpturing for both commercial and art sectors, which has directly influenced her daring approach to headwear.

Studied at: Central St Martins, where she completed an MA Design in Jewellery. It was here Emma discovered her passion for fashion adornment and applied her design skills to headwear.

Signature style: A sophisticated hybrid-design philosophy, combining cutting edge technology with sympathetic craftsmanship. The use of fine, laser-cut wood is Emma’s signature.

Our favourite piece: Shield from AW15. The combination of soft felt, grainy wood and the most intricately-cut brass panel in a classic, wide-brim silhouette makes for a very intriguing and memorable hat.

Shield, POA

Shield, POA

Website: www.emmayeo.com


Laura Apsit Livens

Background: During her studies, Laura spent time working for Philip Treacy, where she honed her millinery skills by working on many commissions for the royal wedding. Post-graduation, she freelanced for another royal favourite, Jane Taylor, before biting the bullet and opening her own atelier in the swanky district of Mayfair.

Studied at: Central St Martins, where she completed a foundation degree specialising in 3-D design, followed by a BA(Hons) in Cordwainers Accessories from the London College of Fashion.

Signature style: There’s a lot of Treacy magic in her work, with sinamay featuring heavily in her collections which fuse modern design with old couture techniques. Each piece is hand-blocked and individually hand-stitched without the use of any machinery to obtain the highest quality finish.

Our favourite piece: The Matador, presented in rock-solid sinamay with either a complementing self sinamay trim or a scenic fabric band.

Montagna Matador, £290

Montagna Matador, £290

Website: lauraapsitlivens.co.uk


Lizzie McQuade

Background: Scottish-born Lizzie began her career in fashion at Edinburgh College of Art where she studied womenswear. She went on to work for Emma Cook as studio manager, learning all aspects of running a fashion business. During her time there, she most enjoyed the hand embellishment on showpieces, and left to pursue a variety of creative projects within the industry making use of this skill. Working with leading stylists, including Cathy Edwards and Kate Phelan, Lizzie created styling accessories for editorial shoots, and this path lead her to millinery.

Studied at: Kensington and Chelsea College, where she studied under leading milliner Noel Stewart, whom she worked for upon completing her studies.

Signature style: Lizzie fuses straw, felt or sinamay with textural embroidery, handcrafted trimmings and unexpected materials, such as PVC and latex, to create modern pieces that are sculptural and quirky, but also feminine and desirable. Her trademarks are intriguing embellishments, and inspired dipdyed brims and peaks.

Our favourite piece: Her SS15 straw beret with iridescent acetate wheatsheaf trims, which pick up the light and add the right amount of sparkle to any outfit.

Straw beret with acetate trims, £266

Straw beret with acetate trims, £266

Website: www.lizziemcquade.co.uk


Sophie Beale

Background: Sophie is one of the most well-trained milliners in London, counting positions at Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones, Noel Stewart, Gina Foster and Jane Taylor on her elaborate millinery CV. Along with designing for her own label, Sophie is also the Head of Millinery at the revered Kensington and Chelsea College.

Studied at: Kensington and Chelsea College, graduating with a Distinction in Millinery. She also studied with Rose Cory, who was once the milliner by royal appointment to the late Queen Mother.

Signature style: The creation of space and lightness are at the heart of Sophie’s design aesthetic, which produces conceptual and innovative, yet fashion-led, flattering and sophisticated headwear.

Our favourite piece: SS15’s Folded glass Fedora. The sharp-as-cut-glass brim combined with the origami-like nature of the folded crown make for an incredibly chic and elegant Derby Day statement.

Folded Glass Fedora, £560

Folded Glass Fedora, £560

Website: sophiebealemillinery.com

By Lisa Tan