Hat designer Emma Cheape talks to Liberty ahead of the next Open Call event.
The Brim Label designer, Emma Cheape, was discovered at the Liberty Best of British Open Call in January 2014. Since then her unique caps and sun hats have become an essential part of the Liberty hat hall. Here she reveals the hats that have meant the most, her vintage inspirations and how life has changed since seeing her designs stocked in-store.
How has life at The Brim Label changed since the Best of British open call in January?
The main change has been a subtle shift in my own personal view of what The Brim Label is, and perhaps more importantly, the potential for what it might become. The fact that Liberty appreciates the value in what I am creating has been very encouraging and confirms the idea that, despite being small, you can still be mighty!
What did it mean for the label to be stocked in Liberty?
It’s well known that Liberty is a highly respected, prestigious and iconic establishment so of course it has meant so much to me to have my hats stocked in such a store. I’m super proud and grateful that The Brim Label hats are sat amongst many of the best, most esteemed products in the world.
How do you think your design philosophy fits in with Liberty?
When it comes to design I am very passionate about quality, originality and the story, which I believe are also interests that Liberty shares.
Had you been to Liberty before Best of British?
Oh yes, many times. I would often visit when in the area and just wander around admiring all the beautiful things. I’d look around the hat department and think to myself, “The Brim Label would suit being here”!
What was the first hat you ever made?
About two years ago I started playing around with creating a pattern for a hat that I imagined I wanted to take on a beach holiday, but couldn’t find in real life. It was made out of calico. Many more calico trials eventually turned into the style called Arabella which is now sold at Liberty.
What’s the oldest hat you own and how did you find it?
I’ve got an amazing hat and dress combo, both made out of the same fabric that I bought from a vintage country fair when I first moved to the UK three years ago. Having just arrived, and being pretty broke after a few months of travelling on my way over from New Zealand, it wasn’t exactly a vital purchase but I just had to get it anyway. The hat and dress sat around waiting patiently for two years before an appropriate occasion finally arose last year when I got to go to the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. While it may take another few years before it gets its second outing, it’ll be worth the wait!
How do you select fabrics? Is there anything you look for in particular?
I am dedicated to finding and using quality, original fabrics which ideally have a story behind them. For my summer hats I use predominately vintage cottons which have previously been curtains in a past life. For winter, I use luxurious English-made wools and tweeds. I’m drawn to unexpected patterns and colour combinations as well as the feel of a fabric. I always consider the uniqueness of a fabric vs. its ability to be wearable and timeless.
Do you have a favourite style of hat?
I love caps. Especially on a woman, it’s such a great look of confidence with a hint of tomboy style. And despite what some may think, I reckon they look cool at any age.
What do you think the UK in particular has to offer for someone working with vintage fabrics?
I think what the UK has to offer is a big enough audience that is interested in buying products made from vintage fabrics. If a product is made using genuine vintage fabric it is most likely that there will only be a finite amount of the fabric that exists. Therefore, only a certain amount of that product can be made, giving the item exclusivity. The type of person who chooses to buy vintage does so because they want something special – they don’t want the same item that hundreds, if not thousands, of other people will have. Authentic vintage fabrics can help to set a product apart, and in the UK where there is a sea of products that are mass produced and all look the same, I believe there is an increasing desire to own goods that are unique and therefore more meaningful.
As a new Open Call approaches, what does the next year have in store for The Brim Label?
I will be continuing to work on growing my audience and creating more awareness about the brand. I’m currently working on The Brim Label winter range. Lately I’ve been sampling winter caps and other head wear ideas in tartan, tweed, corduroy and leather – hopefully to be seen on the shelves of Liberty in a few months time!