Danielle Mazin: Israel's only British design milliner

As the only British design milliner in Israel, Danielle Mazin creates an eclectic collection of hats for every occasion.

 Mazin poses in front of her showcase (photo credit: DANIELLE MAZIN)
Mazin poses in front of her showcase
(photo credit: DANIELLE MAZIN)

Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)Jerusalem Report logo small (credit: JPOST STAFF)

“Clothes make the man, but ‘tis millinery that makes the woman” – Tyne O’Connell, Mayfair-based author and socialite

“Clothes make the man, but ‘tis millinery that makes the woman”

Tyne O’Connell

When we hear the phrase “I’m wearing a different hat today,” it usually means that the wearer is representing a different company or charity or role from that of the previous time we met.

But for Danielle Mazin, the expression is literal. As the only British design milliner in Israel, she creates an eclectic collection of hats for every occasion.

It was a moment of serendipity when this writer, like so many Anglos living in Israel, followed every moment of the televising of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Among the video clips was an interview with Mazin on i24News. She, of course, was asked about the dress code and protocol for royal events and showed beautiful examples of hats of all styles – wide-brimmed such as those worn by the fashionable Catherine, Princess of Wales and the Queen Consort Camilla, as well as the fascinators that are very popular among young women. 

“On occasions of mourning, all those hats have a small veil, partly for modesty and partly to provide privacy in grieving.”

Danielle Mazin

“On occasions of mourning, all those hats have a small veil,” Mazin said, “partly for modesty and partly to provide privacy in grieving.” Even beautifully behaved little Princess Charlotte was wearing a small black hat perched on her head, a trend that is predicted to be copied by many little British girls this winter.

 Danielle Mazin at her work bench (credit: DANIELLE MAZIN) Danielle Mazin at her work bench (credit: DANIELLE MAZIN)

Until the interviewer asked Mazin how she manages to design and sell her hats in Israel where she lives, this writer had not realized the Israeli connection but thenceforth set out to interview her in her showroom on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street.

The Israeli connection to a British woman's millinery business

Mazin was born and raised in a religious family in the London suburb of Hendon. She studied at the London School of Fashion, specializing in millinery design; worked as a buyer for Hugo Boss in London; and after her aliyah 10 years ago, worked for Fashion 54 in Israel.

At one time, every British woman wore hats for every occasion. Mazin explains that the art of millinery began in earnest in the 19th century when women kept their hair covered for modesty. Queen Victoria wore her mourning bonnets her entire life after the death of her husband, Albert.

Although the hat as a fashion statement took off in the 19th century, the history of head coverings goes back thousands of years in both Western and Eastern cultures. A person’s status or religion could be recognized by the hats they wore and their protocols – for men, as well as women.

The word “milliner” was coined in the 15th century when felt and straw hats were made in the Duchy of Milan, Italy, which at the time was the textile and fashion center of the world. In Vermeer’s Dutch paintings, the women are often depicted wearing headbands and simple modest hats. In the late 18th and through the 19th centuries, the Calash bonnet and turban were popular to suit the elaborate hair fashions that accompanied the voluminous crinolines.

It was the Edwardian era after the death of Queen Victoria that heralded the toque favored by Queen Mary. And as we see in the TV series Downton Abbey, with the passing of years the “Swinging Thirties” introduced the cloche and more practical hats for women.

The first famous milliner was French fashion designer Rose Bertin, who created extravagant hat fashions for Marie Antoinette. A later trend-setter and entrepreneur was German-born Anna Ben-Yusuf, who established her showroom on New York’s Fifth Avenue. She was a fashion journalist and taught at Brooklyn Pratt Institute. At the turn of the 20th century, Caroline Reboux inspired millinery fashion, followed by her apprentice Judy Dache, who set the trend into the 1950s.

Going forward to the middle 20th century, no man or woman would be seen without a hat. The British businessman wore his trilby, while carrying his umbrella and a copy of The Times. 

Church-going men were bare-headed, but women showed off their new hats on religious occasions, such as the Easter Parade.

In Israel’s early years, it was only the German Jewish ladies who would not be seen without their smart hats, even if just meeting for coffee and cake with their friends. Of course, those of us who spent time on kibbutz remember fondly our kova tembel, a proud symbol of pioneering.

Until the middle of the 20th century, hats were an essential accessory. My mother would not even go grocery shopping without wearing a hat.

Mazin’s designs, however, are not for buying the weekly herring. She designs for special events, even the extravaganzas at Ascot.

She met her French husband-to-be in London. However, on returning to Israel to plan her wedding, she could not find the range of high-quality British-style hats to suit her and her family. “My priorities then changed, and I concentrated solely on designed millinery. Much of my market is the fashionable modern religious woman who, when planning a simcha, needs a selection of hats for the synagogue, the Shabbat Chatan, and the Sheva Brachot. Ambassadors’ wives and church dignitaries also search for appropriate hats for their special events

Hats have also become more popular in the secular fashion market, and Mazin designs more frivolous hats in a wide range of colors. Her art of decoration makes each hat unique, and she uses only the best materials. She uses molds of different sizes and, with a heat technique, attaches the fabrics and finally the trimmings. Mazin claims that high-quality materials cannot be found locally and have to be bought in London, Spain and Italy.

“Some women think that hats don’t suit them, but careful design can provide a hat to suit the face and body of every woman,” she says.

As it was for the entire fashion industry, COVID had a devastating impact on Mazin’s retail trade. She originally had a showroom and workshop on Frishman Street. Tourists from abroad were attracted by her designs and would continue to order hats from her online when they returned home. She would also be invited to house parties outside of Tel Aviv, where groups of friends would try on and order her hats.

All that changed with the lockdown restrictions. But even when they were lifted, family celebrations were limited to more modest numbers and locations, and tourism has still not completely recovered. Therefore, Mazin had to adjust her marketing strategies accordingly. The Frishman shop was closed, and she moved her showroom to 218 Dizengoff, which she shares with fashion designer Rafael. This has its advantages for customers, who can involve both designers to provide a custom-made outfit of dress and hat. 

Mazin moved her workshop into her home, where she also stores all her materials and molds. This turned out to be a convenient move, as she often works into the night. And during COVID, her first child was born.

Her online sales have escalated, and she sends her designs to 29 countries. Her hats, custom or ready-made, are also sold in two stores in Jerusalem, as well as in London, New Jersey, and Toronto.

“A fashionable hat is the icing on the cake, the finishing touch,” says Mazin. “Hats add glamor, expression, style, presence and image.”  ■

Danielle Mazin, 218 Dizengoff Street, Tel AvivTo call for an appointment: 058-627-6700 Website: daniellemazin.com