You may have come across the name Tami Bar-Lev, a milliner (that’s a career path you don’t often hear about from an early 30-something woman) who has been designing head-wear for three years. She first started taking her love for hats seriously when she went to study millinery at the Piers Atkinson studio in London after graduating from fashion design at the Shenkar Design School.
These days, out of a small studio in Givatayim, Bar-Lev is redefining the art of millinery with humor, emotion and technical skills. You can find any type of hat at her place.
A banana hat? Check! A pineapple turban? You bet! Looks like the fascinators we saw at Kate and William’s royal wedding really changed our point of view about headgear. And speaking of weddings, Bar-Lev also designs headpieces for brides.
Don’t go anywhere because I sat down with the lovely hatter to talk all about hats.
How did you get interested in millinery?
Millinery is not a common profession.
Every time people ask me what I do for a living, they look so surprised when I say ‘hats.’ I think hats were always my thing.
I always added head-wear to my fashion designs. At first, it seemed surreal to follow this dream of mine. I felt it was unrealistic, so I put it on hold. But little did I know that my passion would return.
The turning point for me was when I went to see the exhibition “Hats: An anthology ” by Stephen Jones at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2009.
I was hypnotized on the spot. It was love at first sight. At that moment I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. And then came the hats. I gave it some thought and ended up creating some techniques of my own. The pieces I created started to draw attention from local fashion stylists and photographers like Ma’ayan Goldman and Amit Israeli. Soon, my hats were photographed for various local magazines.
After I saw that my designs had the potential to become successful, I went to London to get some experience.
What are some of your favorite materials to work with?
I love working with classic millinery materials such as straw, felt and feathers. I also love anything shiny like sequins and crystals.
What is your design process?
I love using traditional millinery methods to create pieces that are new and fresh.
Even if it’s a fun banana hat or a pineapple turban, I handcraft every piece with great attention to detail. My favorite part of the process is sketching. I have a special notebook with all my ideas. I think I’m set for the next 10 years.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m really into pop and surrealism. My inspiration comes from anything I see or think about.
Sometimes even the name of a hat leads me to create a design.
What was a memorable “hat” moment?
When one of my friends was wearing a hat I designed, Stephen Jones told her that he loved it. How cool is that? Whenever I walk down the street wearing one of my headpieces, people say ‘Mazal tov’ to me. They think I’m celebrating something.
Who are your hat icons?
Piers Atkinson, Stephen Jones, Philip Treacy, Elsa Schiaparelli, Anna Dello Russo, Kate Middleton and Paloma Faith.
Who is the perfect woman for your line?
All women are perfect. My hats are perfect for stylish women who are looking for something out of the ordinary to spice things up.
What should a woman keep in mind when buying a hat?
First of all, the hat must make you look beautiful. It needs to make people feel special and true to themselves. You can change personalities every time you put on a different hat.
Do you think there’s such a thing as a “hat person”?
I think all people should find the ‘hat person’ inside of them. Everybody loves hats, but not everyone wears them. Yet.
What’s the best compliment you ever got about your hats?
Brides are among my favorite clients. It gives me great joy to create exclusive and unique headpieces for their wedding. The best feeling is when they tell me they felt like a princess and didn’t want to take the headpiece off.
How much time does it take to make one piece?
It depends on the piece itself. It can take a day or more than a week of work.
What’s next for you?
I’m about to launch my bride collection, so I’m looking forward to exploring this field some more and creating exciting pieces. Plus, I would love to create a special collection for my religious customers. And, of course, to expand my collections overseas to get to a wider clientele.
For more information about Tami Bar-Lev’s hats, go to www.tamibarlev.com.