|Parasisal hat from Mirjam Nuver's "Fire" series|
|The "Locks" hat, simple and effective, reflects the simplicity of the production process. Mirjam designed a dress specially to go with it. The first hat in this series was inspired by locks of human hair.|
DUTCH HAT DESIGNER FOCUSES ON TIMELESSNESS AND COMFORT
|Mirjam Nuver's atelier breathes creativity. A mosaic of different styles. © Thijs Quispel|
"A milliner has to mould her hats like a sculptor shapes the clay"
|The remarkable hat from Mirjam Nuver's "Fire" series has no crown but a multi-part brim, than can be folded to resemble a flame flickering on the wearer's head. © Patrick Gofre.|
It is said that when a woman wears a man's hat, that is a sign that she wants to be kissed. Fifty-two-year old Mirjam Nuver, who has been making hats for nearly 30 years, may sometimes want to be kissed - but that is not why she wears men's hats. As a self-taught avant-garde milliner, she does so to express her creativity. Mirjam doesn't want to make an exhibition of herself, but neither does she want to follow the traditional pathways laid down by the millinery establishment.
She comes originally from Groningen, where she learned the milliner's craft round the age of 20 from her mother who also had a hat-making workshop. When her training was complete, she moved to Amsterdam and set up her own atelier. A year ago, she opened her own very successful store in the heart of the city, just behind Dam Square, where a fascinating range of her creations is on view. Originality, comfort and matching the wearer's personality are the ingredients that go to make the ideal millinery mix, in her opinion. Her main ambition is to accentuate her customers' beauty. They say that clothes make the man; well hats make the woman!
"My mother is a millinery fashion designer. She started her training at the age of 16, and has also worked in millinery workshops. I started as her general assistant, working behind the counter, arranging the displays, designing hats and buying them from other designers. I initially thought that I had no wish to spend my life as a milliner: it seemed like a very old-fashioned business to me."
|Magnificent, colourful hat made by Mirjam Nuver together with the Italian designer Claudio Varone. This creation, inspired by the headdresses made out of leaves by the inhabitants of the tropical rainforests, is made of sinamay and wool hand-felted by Claudio.|
Mirjam therefore took a 5-year course in graphic design at the Minerva Academy of Arts in Groningen, followed by a short Fashion, Design and Strategy course in Arnhem. She then worked her way back into the millinery business on the basis of what she had learnt in these courses together with her own experience and initiative. Thanks to her training, many of the hats she creates contain a graphic or sculptural element. "I started off making a range of hats out of jute, which won a prize in a competition at a big fasshion trade fair in Groningen. It occurred to me at the time that other milliners were using first-class materials, but were processing them in unduly old-fashioned ways. I decided to use traditional materials too, but to finish them differently. I wanted to change the way the millinery craft works by introducing new processing methods, often making quite simple changes. That had quite an innovative effect."
Mirjam learned the art of millinery in practice, and her creations reflect her background in graphic design. She is always on the look-out for new, exclusive ideas and is continually introducing new ways of working with colours, forms and materials in the hats she makes.
|Chapeau Claque, with a series of vertical brims.|
Mirjam's Chapeau Claque, a velvet hat that the wearer can easily fold into a variety of different shapes, was nominated for the Rotterdam Design Prize as long ago as 1993. A beret she designed won the "La Forme"" prize in Italy in the summer of 2003, and she was presented with the prize for the best Dutch hat of the year at the Municipal Museum in The Hague in the same year. In 2013, she won 3rd prize in the international Hat Designer of the Year competition organised by an international magazine. Her entry for this competition consisted of three hats she had designed specially for the occasion.
Mirjam has displayed her hats at many millinery trade fairs in the Netherlands and abroad over the years. She makes all her hats by hand herself, in small series, with the aid of her assistants. "I sell my hats to the man and woman in the street and to more prominent personalities such as politicians," said Mirjam. "Celebrities buy them too: I even sold one to Yoko Ono once. People have won hats designed by me during the state opening of the Dutch Parliament (always a big fashion event in the Netherlands) and the wedding of Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima (now the King and Queen of the Netherlands). I had an agent for 10 years, who helped me to build up a substantial export business; my hats were going to customers as far away as the United States and Japan. We have parted company now, and as a result I no longer sell so many hats abroad. I still havbe a few customers in England, Germany and Denmark, but not to the extent I did in the past.'
|Striking entry for the "Hat Designer of the Year Competition".|
|One of Mirjam Nuver's ladies' hats, inspired by a man's trilby hat.|
"I make mainly ladies' hats," continued Mirjam, "About 5 % of my collection consists of men's hats. I am trying out new approaches in this field. A lot is going on in the world of men's hats, but the choice of different styles is still quite limited. We are trying to introduce new models - even rather unusual ones. But the main consideration is that it has to be wearable. That bothers me a bit. Men generally have a very conservative taste in hats. They often choose more tradfitional models. Women are more adventurous, and have a much wider range to choose from. Men are limited to 2 or 3 different models. I tend to regard that as a challenge: I would like to encourage men to broaden their minds, and dare to expand the range of what they consider acceptable. On the other hand, I often sell hats that look like men's hats to women; in fact, I often wear one myself. I never leave home without a hat on."
|The peak of originality: the watering can hat © Ton Werkhoven|
"I want my hats to glamourise people"
Mirjam Nuver attends many trade fairs in the Netherlands and abroad. "The hats I make must be wearable in the widest sense of the word. You should have the feeling that you vlook good in the hat you are wearing, and it must fit properly, it must stay on your head. Even my most outrageous hats must be comfortabnle to wear. I even made a series of hats that looked like butterflies. I try to make hats that are wearable, but look different. Hats with a design that's just a litlle bit unusual. I produced my first butterfly hats in 2011. It didn't take long for people to start to appreciate the idea. Other hat designers were less adventurous. I have made a series of velvet felt hats in the shape of a seashell. They are pulled into shape entirely by hand, while the material is still wet. I made a series of hats in terracotta colour some 20 years ago, one of them in the form of a watering can. I keep on trying to do something new, otherwise my work would become too boring. I always try to make hats that not only look good but also make the wearer feel good, that give them that special glow. I try to imagine what people want. My ambition is to make people look more beautiful when they wear my hats. I get much of my inspiration from movements, not static images - repetitive movements in nature, such as the rippling of water or the flickering of flames."
"There is a hat for everyone if you take a good look."
"I love portraits too. I enjoy watching people's faces, and if they're wearing a hat that gives me a special thrill. I fail to understand why more people don't wear a hat. Some people think that wearing a hat is not their style, that they don't look good in a hat. But if you take a good look, if you search carefully, you will always find a hat that suits you. But it will be a different hat for each person, just as everyone has a special style of clothing that suits them best. And you need to wear the hat in the right way, so that the wearer and the hat both look their best."