Yes, I know it’s not Easter time just yet, for we all seem quite accepting of bonnets at that time of the year, but I couldn’t help noticing the inclusion of phenomenal headgear at major fashion expositions which I curated, recently. Surprisingly, they all came from a signature milliner, Kassandra Pemberton. In just one year, she has started living her dream as a hat designer.
Her brand ‘Gloriretrofit’ is as unusual a name as she is quirky. She expresses herself quite uniquely and her uncanny sensibility led to her involvement in the art of millinery. Quite literally, she quips, “I glorify in outfitting one’s face and head with an embellishment which gives new light to one’s inner expressive self.” Not to mention, the name also serves to pay tribute to her Mom, Gloria, who allowed her to be free and experimental in her artistic ‘attituding’.
So, hat-wearing certainly bespeaks a desire to venture to an avant-garde dimension of self which renders a stylistic licence to any given trendsetter. Yes, one would assume that hats are part of our exhibitionistic Carnivalesque expression here in Trinidad and Tobago, but it is not really all that ingrained. However, hat-wearing seems to be regaining a new space with today’s fashion-forward influencers. Take, for instance, the look of the Police Commissioner’s wife, Nicole Dyer-Griffith at the Independence Day celebrations. She donned a strategically balancing fascinator to compliment her Claudia Pegus Couture and what style was cut at the national pride-filled atmosphere at the Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah. So evidently, the headdress makes an unqualified affirmation of making-a-statement fashioning.
Over the years, I have met a milliner or two, regionally, and they all seemed to possess that adscititious edge in making style, using the head and face as the centre of attention. Just like Kassandra, Kittian hat designer Dale Isaac, drew inspiration from almost everything around her. I believe that they all seem to want to carry the fashion a little beyond the boundary of the clothing. Indeed, it is an extension of apparel design, Kassandra avows, “Fashion and imaging is freedom. Fashion and the way people adorn themselves go around and around in circles. Being a designer allows me to remind myself and others to take chances to do it a bit differently from the way we have become accustomed. Change it around, retrofit it!”
Internationally, Irish award-winning haute couture milliner, Phillip Treacy, definitely echoes these sentiments. It’s about style, firstly, and then, you opt for hats, he intoned, at the onset, to his tutor at the Royal College of Arts. Treacy, dubbed by Vogue as ‘perhaps the greatest living milliner’ became the first hat designer to show at the Paris haute couture défilés de mode and established great associations with powerhouse fashion houses Chanel and Givenchy. If a pattern is to be taken, Kassandra aligned herself with her mentor, Claudia Pegus, Showing at O2N Style 2 at O2 Park and then at Caribbean Fashion Week in Kingston, Jamaica. At Carifesta’s Oui Papa Yo!, she paired up with Jamaicans, Keneea Linton Boutique and Ayanna Dixon at ASD as well as Guadeloupean SaNouYé_being yourself, to crown their looks with panache.
Kassandra fancies seeing Cardi B as a muse, for she loves her unbridled sense of style. For sure, a muse of such proportions would go a long way in her seeing her dream of worldwide appeal come true. Hats off to her for living her dream, for just as Treacy did with Tatler’s style editor, Isabella “Issie” Blow, access to reckonable brands and global acclaim can be had by such conscious musings.
Photography credits – Sean Drakes, Wade Rhoden
Styling credits – Crystal Ivy London, Fidge Fletcher