Monique Lee

Using adventurous materials and beautiful colours, Monique Lee creates couture headwear for all occasions

For milliner Monique Lee, a hat is far more than something to keep your head warm. Her creations are more like pieces of art, containing an imagination and style that has seen Monique Lee Millinery’s extraordinary hats feature in numerous fashion shoots. “I see them as sculptures because they are three-dimensional and freeform,” says the Taiwan-born, London-based designer. “A hat can be anything. It can be any shape, any material, the only thing you need to worry about is that someone can walk around in it with it staying on the head and feel beautiful.”

Monique started making hats in 2012. She studied fashion design at the London College of Fashion, but had not trained as milliner so came to the art with a fresh eye. She taught herself the basics of hat-making, and sought inspiration for designs from nature and from galleries and museums around the world. “I started making hats for fun as hats were something you could do without needing a factory to support you,” she says. “Because I am not a trained milliner, I am not limited to the usual materials and techniques that conventional milliners would use. I have tried so many different materials and it is always very challenging to try a new material and finding a way for it to work, to make a hat that is wearable.”

Her hats have featured at dozens of international fashion shows, at Royal Ascot and the Chelsea Flower Show, and showcased at the Louvre, Sotheby’s and The Shard. They are regularly used in fashion editorial shoots, appearing prominently in Vogue, Vanity Fair and Tatler and modelled by numerous celebrities, including the likes of Emma Watson and Kate McKinnon. Monique usually makes limited quantities, and has hats suitable for a variety of formal occasions and events. “My hats are not mass-produced, there is one or two of each design, sometimes in a different colour,” she says. “A customer can send me a picture of their outfit and I can create a special hat to match their clothes but also to suit their face shape and personality. My hats are often worn on a very special day or occasion like a wedding or a party so it’s important to make sure it’s perfect for my clients.”