Robert Pauly






....How did I get into hats..?

Well...I’ve always had an interest in fashion: as a costume designer, a sculptor, a jeweller. I like the world of fashion. I love the exuberant creations that grace the runways at times: Galliano, McQueen, Westwood. I love to see the hats that accompany the dresses, hovering between fashion and sculpture.

My wife and I have collected beads and adornments for a long time. It was inevitable that we should eventually be drawn to hats as a form of personal ornamentation, so we began to collect hats. While maintaining our collection, repairing this one, cleaning that one, I became interested in the structure of hats: how they were put together, the materials used, the forms, and started having my own ideas about hats and what they should look like. I started deconstructing some to see how they were put together. I bought books on the subject whenever I found them, in antique stores, specialist dealers. I studied these and, one day my wife told me that she had found a millinery course for me, adding that it was about time that I satisfied my craving for information on the subject.

And that’s how I met Karyn Gingras, owner of Lilliput Hats. I learned the basics from her. Karyn is a warm, generous person and has been very helpful with techniques, information and advice. Later, I started making hats seriously! I enjoy making hats.

Unfortunately, millinery in Canada is not a big thing and supplies are hard to come by. Although I try to buy as much as I can from Canadian sources, most items come from the US and Europe, particularly England. Now, wherever we go, I look for sources of supplies and particularly for the bits and pieces of vintage decoration that have become practically a trademark with me. This hunt takes me to antique dealers and even charity shops, ever stalking an elusive prey, the vintage hat decoration!

As a designer, I have to tailor the hat not only to the occasion but to the person’s size, shape, colouring and to a variety of imponderables such as glasses, accessories and hairstyle. That’s essentially what I am being paid for. Prices run from $95.00 to 350.00 unless we really decide to go over the top, and usually require from two to three weeks, depending on availability of supplies.

My cocktail hats are unique. I only make one of each, as I would with other sculptures. As one of my clients said recently " You could sell fifty of these to fifty women all going to the same party, and all of them would still be happy upon seeing each other !"

I sell mainly to private clients who, while they attend typical events such as weddings, openings and parties, do not want typical hats. If you are going to wear anything other than something for warmth or protection, you will be noticed so, why do it in a plain, boring, generic hat? Why not one that reflects your personality? If you want something that is just for you, come and see me. We’ll discuss the occasion, what you’ll be wearing, your accessories, your hairdo and together, we’ll design something...just for you!