Meet Jess Collett, Fellow Creative on All Saints Road
Connecting and nurturing relationships with people are the cornerstones of my business – whether that is building trust and creating special pieces for my clients, or working with other creatives.
I love it when I have the opportunity to collaborate with other makers. I have a number of accessories designers I work with and I showcase some of their pieces in my shop.
My most recent collaboration has been with milliner, Jess Collett whose studio is just down the street from me, also on All Saints Road. We have both borrowed pieces from each other’s current collections for our recent photo shoots. Jess’ creations are bold and beautifully made and complement my pieces really well. We are also working on bespoke pieces for a client of mine, which is proving to be great fun.
Parry and I thought it would be nice to get to know Jess a little better. So we headed down to our local café, The Tin Shed, to chat and find out more about Jess and her journey... here’s what we know:
JESS, CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AS A MILLINER?
Ever since I was a little girl I loved dressing up. For me, putting on a hat finishes off the outfit, it always has done. It gave me the confidence to be the character I was dressing up to be. I felt like I became that knight or witch, or whatever. And hats still give me a sort of confidence. When you wear a hat, you have to own it.
I have actually only ever wanted to be a milliner. I lived in the country and my mum was an upholsterer and a dressmaker so I was surrounded by creativity and making. I learnt to sew when I was little and I was ill a lot, so I would sit in my bed and sew tapestries my mum gave me, which was great actually as millinery is very much about hand sewing.
When I was 18 I was meant to go to Bristol and read Politics and Sociology, but I had a bit of an epiphany and thought ‘what am I doing?!’ I don’t want to spend my time writing essays. I just want to make hats… Well, I wanted to be a stuntwoman or a milliner, and thought making hats was going to be easier.
When I decided not to go to university, my father randomly got tickets to a fashion exhibition in Birmingham. There were two milliners there. Edwina Ibbotson, whom I was very intimidated by and another. I decided to chat to the other milliner, but she lived in Wales, and to be honest I wanted to be in London. So I mustered up the courage to talk to Edwina who said she did live in London, and I asked her if I could do an apprenticeship with her. It was wonderful, she is old school and the master of stitching. Her ethos was very much steeped in the time when millinery was playful and I love that.
SO HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN MAKING HATS?
I’ve been making hats for 25 years. And I always create what I would wear. All the way through my apprenticeship I was lucky enough to be around people who were going to races and events like that, and they always asked me to make them a hat - so I did. Before All Saints Road, I worked from my Dad’s flat in London, and then had a studio on Portobello Road above Cash City; that was between 2002-2006. Then I had children, so I became a mobile hat maker. I’ve now been in my studio at All Saints Road since 2011.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THIS AREA AND WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING PART OF THIS COMMUNITY?
I have have always loved Portobello. When I was 16, I came up to London to do work experience in a friend’s wine shop in Kensington Park Road. I remember getting lunch on the Friday and there was the market - it was energetic and vibrant and like a massive extension of a dressing up box to me. I felt at home straightaway. I loved the people, the lives they had led. There is so much history in this part of town. All Saints Road has a real village feel and the community is great. There are so many like minded people on the street - we are the makers and everyone is pretty nice to each other.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO COLLABORATE WITH AMANDA?
I do everything last minute. And I knew Amanda had moved in and I think if someone is right there, it seems fateful. When I went to Amanda’s shop, I knew the colours would work really well with my hats. I also feel our client base is quite similar.
Parry thought it would be fun to answer some random “getting to know each other” questions, quick fire, no hesitation. Here’s what Jess and I said:
1. What’s the best way to start the day?
Jess: Earl Grey tea
2. What’s your favourite drink?
Jess: Gin and Tonic
Amanda: A glass of white wine
3. Who would you like to design for that you haven’t already?
Jess: Sarah Jessica Parker
Amanda: Tilda Swinton or maybe Erin O’Connor
4. What job do you think you’d be really good at that you’ve never done?
Jess: I’ve only ever thought I could be a milliner
Amanda: Hmmm... I’d say painting. Not sure I’d be good at it but I think I’d love to do it.
5. What job do you think that you’d be terrible at?
Jess: Prime Minister
Amanda: Me too!
6. What’s your favourite book?
Jess: To Kill a Mockingbird
Amanda: E. E. Cummings poetry
7. What fictional place would you most like to go to?
Jess: Middle earth
8. Who’s your go to band or artist when you can’t decide on something to listen to?
Jess: David Bowie
Amanda: Hmm, I have a playlist called stuff on my phone… that’s my go to
9. What’s your karaoke song?
Jess: Patricia the Stripper – Chris de Burgh
Amanda:I will survive - Gloria Gaynor
10. What did you think you would grow out of but haven’t?
Jess: The Moomins
Amanda: Biting my nails
11. What are some small things that make your day better?
Jess: The sunshine, coffee and friends
Amanda: People and my beautiful dog, Lily.
12. What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?
Jess: I’m looking forward to seeing my World Traveller become an iconic piece. Above all, I want to make my business work properly so I have the independence and freedom to do anything I want.
Amanda: Many more creations
Before we left, we asked Jess about modern day hat etiquette, she said:
I’m not one for etiquette particularly. So I keep my hat on at all times so as not to lose it! People used to eat in their hats in the 40s, so why not now?