Genevieve Foddy Wants To Bring British Hatwear To The States

"The more hats I made the more I became interested in taking this very old-school craft and giving it a modern twist, while acknowledging its vintage magic."

Chances are, if you've never heard of Genevieve Foddy, the milliner who has worked for Abertus Swanepoel and Gina Foster, then you've probably never been to a Royal wedding or the Kentucky Derby. And that's okay. But the designer behind Genevieve Rose Atelier is here to change your mind about the captivating, over-the-top fascinators, ascots, bucket hats, and more.

After graduating from millinery school in London (and outfitting Kate and Pippa Middleton), Foddy moved to New York to work for a milliner who taught her the ease and practicality of fedoras and sun hats. But for Foddy, who fancied the delicacy of hats that couldn't just be worn anywhere, a raffia visor wouldn't cut it. So, she decided to open her own atelier. Fastforward six years later, and Foddy has amassed a presence within the millinery industry to rival that of her Royal clientele — she's been featured in British VogueBrides, New York Magazine, and more.

We caught up with the Manhattan-based accessories maven on bringing British hat trends to America, how she maintains their made-in-New York tags, and what the future holds for such a niche brand in an even more niche market.

Why did you start the Genevieve Rose Atelier? And how?
When I first graduated from millinery school in London, I worked several years for a milliner who specialized in derby-style hats for London’s society ladies (we made several hats for Kate and Pippa). When I moved to New York 6 years ago, I worked for a milliner here who makes beautiful day-wear hats, fedoras, sun hats. It was an incredible experience to learn that type of hat making and that side of the business but I missed the kind of millinery I had first worked on in London. Bridal and Derby headpieces are very feminine and intricate and require a lot of very fine hand-work and delicate materials. I really like the precision and delicacy of that kind of sewing and wanted to bring that style of headwear to America, so I started my own line. Over the last five years, I had slowly made a few small collections of bridal headpieces and day wear hats, and then a little over a year ago I completely went out on my own and added a derby hat collection to my line. Derby and bridal is now what I focus on, selling though my website and to special private clients who are looking for the very personalized service I offer.

What about millinery speaks to you? As opposed to doing ready-to-wear or another accessory.
I’ve always been really into fashion history and historic costume and am a bit of a royal watcher. (They wear so many great hats!) I’m also really interested in preserving traditional skills so when we moved to London and I had the opportunity to study millinery, I jumped at the chance to study something so quintessentially English and traditional. The more hats I made the more I became interested in taking this very old-school craft and giving it a modern twist, while acknowledging its vintage magic. We don’t often get the chance to wear a hat these days so it’s quite a special occasion when we do.

Apart from their outward appearance, what makes Genevieve Rose headpieces so ornate? What gives them the GRA signature or feel?
I love styles that give a respectful nod to the silhouettes of the past but with a modern freshness. Take, for example, my Comanche style. It is inspired by the hats worn with Dior’s New Look of 1947, but the quirky pyramid shape and covering the hat in tiny tassels make it very modern and not just a costume-y copy of a vintage hat. Overall, I aim for a clean aesthetic with strong lines, colors, trims, and embellishments that give strength and confidence.

How do you go about sourcing textiles?
I’m very lucky to live in Manhattan where the garment district is still a thriving place to shop for fabrics, beads, feathers, flowers — just about anything you can think of! Just walking around my favorite fabric and trim stores brings so much inspiration. Most of what I need, and plenty of things I didn’t know I needed until I saw them, can be found in the garment district. Some specialist millinery supplies I have to order from the UK and a few very special flowers and feathers I get custom made or dyed. I also love trawling through Etsy and eBay for rare vintage trims and materials, which give a piece such a unique and special look.

What inspires you from season to season?
Inspiration is everywhere in Manhattan, be it Fashion Week, people out on the street or the amazing shopping opportunities we have in the city. More specifically, I spend a lot of time at the fashion museum at FIT for ever-changing vintage inspiration and there are a couple of really great vintage clothing shows that come to the city a few times a year. When I’m building a new collection, I start off by looking at current color trends and I try to offer a range of pieces in different sizes and at different price points so there is hopefully something for everyone in the collection. From there I make a lot of mock-ups pinning together basic shapes with various trims and embellishments, ensuring the pieces look good from every angle. I also try to wear each new piece for a few hours to make sure they are balanced and comfortable.

Who would you say the Genevieve Rose Atelier woman or customer is?
The Genevieve Rose Atelier customer is a girl brave enough to forge her own style path. She’s the girl wearing a jumpsuit instead of a wedding dress, she’s in an extra bright color — or wearing a fabulous headpiece to her cousin’s wedding or just out to dinner. My hats and headpieces are not what you find on every rack in every store; they will enhance and give a strong sense of confidence and individuality to the wearer.

"The Genevieve Rose Atelier customer is a girl brave enough to forge her own style path. She’s the girl wearing a jumpsuit instead of a wedding dress, she’s in an extra bright color — or wearing a fabulous headpiece to her cousin’s wedding or just out to dinner."

What’s one thing you always hear from your customers after wearing or buying a Genevieve Rose Atelier piece?
My customers always tell me they are thrilled and surprised at how comfortable my pieces are. And that they felt like royalty wearing them. 

Do you think women should get bolder with their headwear?
I would love to encourage American women to adopt the British love of hats and special headpieces! In the UK, women take any formal occasion, such as a wedding, christening or garden party (such as the Queen hosts every summer) to wear a fabulous headpiece. Hats are a great way to add exciting pop or embellishment to basic outfit and they make you look and feel taller and more confident. You know that special, confident, dressy feeling you get when you’re wearing a new outfit and heels? It’s even better topped off with a hat.

What about British High Society hatwear intrigues you so much?
The British are experts at the formal pomp and ceremony of formal and royal events, where there is a lot of tradition and etiquette about clothing in particular. This might seem daunting but I think these traditions give a strong sense of occasion, like making the effort to wear a nice dress to Thanksgiving dinner. And if nothing else, a fabulous headpiece serves as an immediate conversation starter as we’ve seen with some of the more unusual hat choices of the British royal family over the years.

What are your hopes for Genevieve Rose Atelier, as a brand?
I would love to further develop my derby hat line and start to convince American wedding guests that it’s really fun to wear this kind of hat to a wedding. I would also love the opportunity to collaborate with some of the small independent bridal gown designers I admire, and one day, with a larger partner to bring hats and headpieces to a much wider audience.

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