Today I am talking to Kate Cook from Vandalised With Love, who creates the most amazing headpieces for the most stylish ladies from Berkshire (but believe me, her clients are flooding from all around the country)
I had a pleasure to use some of her accessories during my Fine Art photoshoots and from the moment I first met her, I knew she is an amazing and very talented person!
Jagoda Wichurska (Blueberry Studio): I bet you had to answer this question many times, but…where is the name of your business coming from?
Kate Cook: Teehee. My 11-year daughter, at the time (now 24!) Said when she was older she would name her business Vandalised with Love – she sold the name to me 4 years ago!!!
JW: How long you have been a millinery designer? How many headpieces you have made so far, can you tell?
KC: I studied millinery at Berkshire College of Art and Design in the ’80s as part of a foundation course in Art & Design. I knew I couldn’t make enough money to work for myself then, in order to allow me to travel and buy a house. I fell, by accident into Marketing, working for large corporate companies and later in the education system, while bringing up my 2 girls. My creative hobbies continued, making jewellery and tiara’s from copper and enamel. Later, while decorating a denim jacket for toddlers and wellies.
In 2014 my eldest daughter was very ill, diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. My dilemma – give up work to take care of her – but what about money? My current job, luckily gave me the opportunity to take redundancy, allowing me to relax for a while.
Along came the start of Vandalised with Love. Social media marketing enabled me to spread the word for free! Interest grows and still supports my tiny little business. The need for respite came along when my gorgeous George encouraged me to look for premises. Scary stuff! Luckily I found The Sanctuary Barn, in Binfield Berkshire. I rent a tiny space so I can offer many ready to wear headpieces plus offer a fun and relaxed bespoke service. We are open on Fridays and Saturdays. I’m still learning, materials are expensive and I try to keep my prices reasonable. I now have a very loyal customer base, many becoming great friends. I don’t know how many I have made but this year for Ascot race week I designed, created and sold 112!
JW: Wow, that’s impressive!
KC: I know and I am thrilled to bits. Many returning customers recommend me to their friends. My daughter is on the mend, life is sweet. I love working from home and the barn. So many wonderful people, many with incredible ideas and new inspiration all the time.
JW: Royal Ascot Races and Henley’s regatta are your signature events, but you also serve clients who need fascinators for different occasions?
Summer is definitely the busiest time for me. Thoroughly enjoy the ‘costume’ elements of designing for Ascot.
Weddings are popular too. I love meeting Mother’s of Brides and Grooms. Often the first time they have worn a hat. My smaller feather work fascinators made to match an outfit are an absolute delight to make. Lightweight and comfortable yet stylish and elegant. I think it’s important to be comfortable and look and feel special on these important days. Particularly popular with people who don’t necessarily want a big hat!
The drama queen in me loves creating for stage and fashion photoshoots. I have been incredibly lucky and been commissioned to design and create some wonderful headpieces, including the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady production for Berkshire Operatic Society at The Hexagon. Some international fashion shows, drag queens and bridal! I just love the variety. Or yes, and Halloween!
JW: So let’s say I have a beautiful, emerald green dress and I would like to get something matching. How would you help me?
KC: I would encourage an appointment at the barn if possible, and to bring your dress. I’m very happy to design and create over the internet but meeting in person is always going to be better. We will discuss style/occasion etc to establish the initial needs.
Next, we play! My showroom has lots of my ready-made samples to try. Getting the style and what suits you is important.
Next, we discuss colours, fabrics and attachment. Even the fussiest people get there in the end. Trying headpieces on changes your view of ‘I can’t wear hats’! People can very often be surprised by how different my pieces look in person.
My design process takes 2 – 3 weeks, sometimes quicker depending on style/colours etc. I hand dye most of my feathers and hand paint many of my silks and fabrics. Each piece is entirely unique. The best feeling – one I had never imagined, is tears when the completed piece is tried on, fitted and collected! Definitely a sign of a job well done.
JW: Aw, it must be wonderful! Have you ever made matching fascinators for bridesmaids or mum and little daughter?
KC: I’d love to! I have made a bridal tiara and mums hat but never a matching pair!
And bridesmaids floral head crowns – tricky to match 14!!!
Yes, a very glamorous lady commissioned a large red feather fascinator for a wedding she was going to, and I had the pleasure of making a smaller version for her dog who was also invited. Not a popular design line but I never say never!
JW: A dog?! I wish I could see them both. I asked you this question because I love matching outfits. I bet this lady and her dog looked stunning together:)
JW: What was the most difficult, big or unusual headpiece you have ever made?
KC: A recent commission for an oversized reversible flower crown for a drag show as part of a bid for entertainment at next year’s Met Gala Ball! It stands at over 45cms high and it’s quite heavy! I’m glad I’m not wearing it! I was also commissioned by a guest going to a very famous celebrity wedding last summer. It was quite large, very colourful and had a frog on it! So much fun!
JW: Yes, your job is definitely very rewarding. Ok Kate, so tell us where can we find you?
KC: I can be contacted via Facebook and Instagram or phone (07776 188254) or I would welcome you to come and see me at The Sanctuary Barn Moor Lane (Binfield Berkshire RG12 8TD) We are open Friday’s and Saturdays 9-4pm Appointments preferred but you can always pop in if you are passing!
JW: Thank you for sharing a bit of your passion with us.
KC: Many thanks.