One To Watch: Hat Designer Gigi Burris Thinks Every Day Is An Occasion To Wear A Hat

Liz Doupnik
One To Watch: Hat Designer Gigi Burris Thinks Every Day Is An Occasion To Wear A Hat
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You know how it seems that new designers suddenly sprout out of nowhere? In actuality, most creatives work around the clock for years before they make it into the spotlight. Our Ones to Watch series highlights some of the freshest talent you should know about right now. 

This week, we sat down with milliner, Gigi Burris, who with her dark aesthetic and brilliant headbands has become an editor and stylist favorite seemingly overnight. We stopped by her studio to talk inspiration, how to embark on wearing a hat and what it’s like being a young entrepreneur. Attending Parsons School for Design as an undergad, Gigi fell in love with hat design while studying abroad in Paris. “I loved the hat shops that were vintage feeling and feathers.” Following her highly successful senior thesis project, she — and her hats — were in high demand. “The business started quite naturally after my senior thesis, people were really into the hats, so I was really blessed to make hats for some really wonderful people,” Burris reflects.

Boasting a client roster that any designer, new or established would envy, she continues to make an impression on some of the most influential style icons today. “I’ve made hats for Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie and Rihanna have also worn them,”Burris reveals while reclining at her work station, which is nothing short of neatly organized creative chaos. A mood board is a bit sparse due to the transition of seasons, but she shares one photo from an editorial that’s mysterious and ephemeral simultaneously.

Gigi acknowledges, however, that remaining purely avant-garde isn’t the end all, be all and continues to push herself to answer to a more commercial demand for her product as well. “I think there’s a negative connotation for the word commercial, especially for designers who really get off on making weird stuff, which is myself – I love dark, editorial, exotic. So I’m really stretching myself to make commercial pieces. But you know, something like one of my feathered headbands is commercial. Commercialism is finding who your customer is and then commercializing on them.”

With that in mind, she divulges on just who’d she love to see one of her creations on, “Kate Middleton is the epitome of glamor and such a style icon. Definitely Daphne [Guinness] – it’s kind of made for her.”

We can say for one that we’re sure we’ll be seeing these trailblazers among many others very soon. Read on to learn more about her creative process and tricks of the trade.





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"Working with friends on the Screaming Mimi's collaboration was really an
amazing experience," says Gigi. "It is such a downtown vintage institution, it was
cool to do a capsule collection with a very New York yet vintage

"Visors are a popular style this season and I loved working with this
amazing gunmetal straw from Switzerland to make this one," Gigi claims. "It's feminine
but dark and sporty."

Visor, $375, at Gigi Burris

For those that are new to hats, Gigi has some simple advice. "People think that hats are such an occasion item for weddings or parties, but it doesn't have to be if you start incorporating them into your wardrobe. I would suggest starting small with a little clip or headband. Headbands are great because they keep the hair out of your your face and if you don't have a lot of makeup on, you can throw one on!"

"I think any young entrepreneur sees a market where they can have a platform to build a brand," Gigi points out. "It became very apparent to me after my senior thesis and stylists started calling me that people wanted the hats. There was a hold in the market from someone who was doing them who was young and fresh."

In one of Gigi's most-publicized moments, the designer created a leather crown that was shot on Lykke Li for Interview
magazine. "The leather crowns then became the go-to birthday present for
friends," she says. "Everyone wanted one to wear on their special day!"

When it comes to inspirations, Gigi draws from myriad sources. "I think everything is a little bit girly but at the same time a little bit goth. I think everything is hyper feminine but at the same time a little sad. There's always a sense of melancholy."

One of Gigi's more delightfully unconventional items is a barbed-wire headband. "The barbed wire headband that debuted in spring now comes in a variety
of color ways," she says. "Black, gray, crimson and neon melon. These are made with
my favorite couture feather work technique of knotting feathers to
look like barbs. I am wearing one all the time."

Barbed Wire Headband, $250, at Gigi Burris

"I'm drawn to the 1920s in terms of the references of spirit," says Gigi. "I love the spirit of dressing from that time. I love the late 19th century when everything was very Victorian and opulent. I also am inspired by nature and my materials."

"When you're doing a collection, it's such a fantasy and almost all the pieces that come easily to me are these pieces that are alligator bellies and weird stuff," says the designer. "But then, the after-thoughts are the headbands and the little picks. So I normally start with the fantasy and then have it trickle down."

"I was channeling my cool tomboy spirited girlfriends with this [hat]," says Gigi. "I will be living in one this winter. The beanie has so much functionality, it's simple and can be worn a number of ways."

Cashmere Blend Beanie With Split Headband, $280, at Gigi Burris (beginning August 2012)

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