FAULT Focus: Interview with milliner Mr Wood



After recently working with the likes of luxury brand Louis Vuitton for their fashion film ‘L’Invitation au Voyage’ (featuring David Bowie and Arizona Muse), British born milliner Loren Wood took the time to discuss his creative process in an exclusive interview with FAULT. A self-taught milliner and former finalist for Grazia’s annual millinery contest known as the ‘Hat Factor’, Loren has garnered attention within the industry for his fantastical works using taxidermy. Now branching out from this area of expertise, Loren gave us an insight into the world of hat-making and where his future as a milliner is heading.

FAULT: Introduce yourself, your design background and what you currently do as a vocation.

Loren: My name is Loren Wood and I am currently a Bespoke Tailoring  Student though I have worked in costume and millinery for the past 5 years.  I was always put off by studying fashion or millinery as a lot of courses out there focus too much on the design element and process while I’ve always been interested in the construction. I’d rather spend hours with a needle and thread than cutting pictures out of Vogue and sticking them together to create a pretty mood board.

I did initially apply to universities – I was offered a place at Wimbledon school of art though turned it down as the course didn’t have enough practicality. I accepted a place in Southampton solent. I can’t recall the course title but after a few months I realised that university wasn’t the shortcut that my teachers had preached and that the debt to face at the end wouldn’t have ever been justified. I reached the conclusion that it would in fact be a lot easier and cheaper to learn through work experience and internships.


Take us through the steps in designing and producing new hats. Where do you often pull ideas for new pieces?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. I don’t think it’s possible to look for inspiration. Inspiration is very spontaneous and shouldn’t be forced or fabricated. I avoid fashion shows, museums and galleries as much as possible as I believe it can be too influential which is never a good thing because you end up ripping off other people’s work without realising and before you know it, you’re Topshop. I do, however, find that I get inspired by individual artistic styles and movements. For example, my second collection was inspired by the Victorian painter James Hardy Jr. who was famed for his dead game compositions which in turn inspired me to create a range of head pieces using game that looked as if they were recently shot. I enjoyed the irony spending hours making dead game animals look… dead. I never sketch; too much time is wasted sketching. When an idea pops into my head, I create it. Of course it may change dramatically but that just demonstrates all the ideas that could have gone to waste.


On average, how long does it take you to complete a hat?

On average, start to finish, a week, maybe two. It depends completely on the specimen I use or the size etc.


What materials do you use the most often for your products?

Well ‘traditionally’ taxidermy was a key element in all of my work so I would source specimens from all over, now however, as taxidermy has become so popular, absolutely every seventeen year old DJ/stylist/photographer has now enrolled on a ‘stuff your own cat’ course, so my interests in using animals has dwindled. Of course this makes me sound like a hipster from hell but when I originally starting making head pieces people were interested in them because they liked the idea and recognised the references to historical fashions and saw them more as art pieces; now however people think they’re cool because taxidermy is cool and I am now presented with too many e-mails from first years wanting to use my headpieces (for free, of course) because they are planning on doing a gothic style photo shoot in a graveyard. I’m moving away from taxidermy and have become more focused on dramatic shapes and silhouettes. I use a lot of sinamay and silks.



How were you introduced to the art of hat making?

All by chance actually. For my final major project in my art foundation I decided to make three Victorian mourning dresses inspired by gothic horror stories by Edgar Allan Poe. I made three hats adorned with crows and ravens which I had abundance of as my grandfather was shooting about fifty a day. It was the first time I ever made a hat and I didn’t think much of it until my friend introduced me to Johnny Blueeyes in 2009 who loved the idea and asked me to make pieces for about three of his shows and various other shoots. Looking back, my first attempts were awful. Hats glue gunned to death adorned with animal body parts soaked in turps. Over the years and many Youtube videos later, I became more familiar and skilled in both millinery and taxidermy. I’ve always believed you can teach yourself anything.


Does England influence your work in any shape or form?

I grew up in the West Country surrounded by gamekeepers and horse riders, I personally love England and am proud to be British. I am passionate about the history and culture of this country and I really doubt I could live anywhere else.


Are you currently working on any exciting projects you would like us to know about?

I’m currently designing and creating costumes for a theatre production which I’m really enjoying as the characters are amazing.




What were your favorite hats to make to-date?

My favourite hat is probably Keith, Keith is the name of the bearded dragon that sits upon the silk hat base, O; and Nesty, nesty is a piece consisting of lacquered twisted willow containing a nest with real finches and real chicks inside the nest. It is my most bonkers but probably most beautiful piece.


Are you yourself a big wearer of hats, or do you prefer to make them for others?

I really don’t wear hats as I find it hard to find good hats that fit, and as I am not a hatter, I can’t make my own.


Lastly, how do you hope to see your millinery expand and take shape in the next year or two?

As I said before, I am moving away from taxidermy, I’m focusing more on structure, shape and form. Will I ever use taxidermy again? Of course. I just feel I need to explore new ideas and try something new. I have received enough recognition for taxidermy and now I want to see what else I can do.


Words: Shammara Lawrence
Images courtesy of: Morgan Hill-Murphy