Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Lou Lou Chats with Robyn Coles, Milliner

Describe Robyn Coles (the brand) in three words.

Easy, comfortable, cool.


Princess Eugenie wearing one of Robyn's creations


Please tell us more about yourself.

I am a former luxury international fashion buyer turned milliner. I am based in Cardiff and passionate about producing all of my pieces here in Wales. Most of our work is bespoke, made to measure/order/match etc but we are increasing the brand awareness of our seasonal collections across the globe by showing internationally.


Does your brand have a signature style?

I think that my pieces are cool, contemporary and easy to wear. I personally like to be comfortable all of the time, this is represented in how I dress and in how I design. I think that if you feel uncomfortable then you usually look it.


Starry Night cloche from the AW13 collection


Would you say that your hats are more classic, or trend-led?

A mixture - classics never go out of fashion but it's nice to be able to mix them with new fabrics, techniques and styling.


There are lots of beautiful hats in the collection, but have you got a particular favourite?

From SS13 I like the leaf, it's so comfortable and easy to wear, and a little bit bonkers. Also the lily is becoming a staple of our collections and something that we start to replicate and develop season after season, there is a lot of mileage in that style and no one else does anything like it.


Princess Eugenie wearing the lily hat at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party


What has been the highlight for you since starting up your company?

Well two years ago I had never made a hat so the journey has been a very quick one. My first show at London Fashion Week (on the nude models) was a great point for me and really put the brand on the map. Most recently gaining the Royal family as clients was a wonderful moment too.


Looking back, is there anything that you would have done differently?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I think that there are a few minor things I would change but they were lessons that needed to be learned. In the grand scheme of things I would take the same path as I am proud of where we stand today as a company and however rocky the path was to get here it was necessary and memorable.


What next for the company?

Showing at fashion week again, increasing our global stockists and seasonal ranges. I still love to do the bespoke work though and I didn’t think I would cherish that part of the business as much as I do. It's so wonderful working with individual clients for events and I am honoured to be involved in their special days from weddings to picking up OBEs. We have met some lovely clients in our store and you really get to know them, it's very rewarding making something for someone that they associate with happy memories. Working with brides is great as we get to see dresses and pics and experience the tears of their special day.


What motivates you?

It’s a fairly frivolous industry which I have worked hard in but I love. I am motivated by creating something beautiful and unique and although it's not world changing, to make something that a client loves and which make her smile and makes her happy is inspiring.

The responsibility of having a company and all that entails like staff, suppliers, clients etc – it’s a pretty big weight on your shoulders and you are the boss so the buck stops with you.


Who are your inspirations, and why?

They vary, design wise I see a lot of other milliners who I respect and admire, there aren’t that many of us around so we tend to know each other which is quite nice. I am inspired by other leading women in fashion such as Natalie Massenet, Tamara Mellon, Angela Ahrendts and Michelle Mone for sticking to their guns and building huge brands.


What advice would you give to people who are looking to start their own fashion business?

To have a good business head. I see so many inspiring designers with the greatest aesthetic and creative talent but they have no idea how to calculate mark ups, margins etc. They don’t know how to market a product or run a small business. In these cases no amount of creative ability can help. It's boring and dull but to create a big, lasting brand you need maths skills, tenacity, drive and the right attitude. Failing that get a good business partner, that often proves successful!!


Where can we find your hats?

In 28 Castle Arcade, Cardiff where all pieces are totally hand made by our small team. We stock everything there from bespoke, samples and seasonal collections. Our website stocks seasonal collections as does Boticca.com , www.thecools.com , www.njal.com and we have more store locations buying our new season collections.


If you could see anyone wearing a Robyn Coles creation, who would it be?

Anyone who feels happy and confident in it!


Top Tip?

With hats and/or fashion in general ignore the rules. If you feel happy and comfortable and confident then that is the most important thing – and that shows.

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