THE Q&A: Harvy Santos, milliner

Harvy Santos pink pom pom hat £930 exclusive to Fenwick Bond Street

No doubt visitors to the Fenwick hat department will have been tickled pink by the latest offering from London-based milliner, Harvy Santos. In particular, his aptly named ‘Fizzy Pop’ collection features raffia boaters, netted pillboxes and wide-brimmed Audrey Hepburn styles. But it is his playful use of colourful baubles, ruched silks and fluffy pompoms, which makes them so memorable.

“I probably drank too many fizzy drinks as a child and probably still do, since I can never say ‘no’ to champagne,” says Harvy. “There’s a certain crazy joy that comes from a sugar rush. I think most of us can remember that feeling, the thrill of which I wanted to capture in the form of a hat.” Indeed, his latest collection has both a graphic and comic sensibility mixed with a sense of childlike fun – hence the pompoms suspended on wires.

Photo courtesy of Harvy Santos

Born in the Philippines, Harvy started out as a ballet dancer in Hong Kong before going on to study millinery in London. Prior to launching his own label, he created hats for The Royal Opera House and worked with top British hatter, Stephen Jones. Today, Harvy fuses traditional millinery techniques with new materials in couture and hat collections from an atelier in North London.

Harvy Santos in his North London studio

With the British summer season nearly upon us, we ask the merry milliner who for the second year running is part of the Fenwick/Royal Ascot Millinery Collective, to share his tips on how best to impress at the most prestigious events on the social calendar. Here’s what he said:

BSN: How would you advise someone buying a special occasion hat for the first time?

H.S: Firstly, try on as many hats as you can. If you are matching a hat with a dress or another accessory (bag or shoes) bring them with you. In terms of face shape, if you have an oval and/or heart-shaped face, you could wear almost anything. If you have a round face, avoid wearing wide-brimmed hats on a horizontal, tilt it if you can – it’s usually flattering. Lastly, depending on what event you are wearing your hat to, I would suggest you think comfort. If you’re going to Royal Ascot, you will be there all day. You wouldn’t want to fumble and worry about your hat — you are there to have fun so comfort is key.

BSN: How important is hair and make-up when wearing a statement headpiece?

H.S: Hair and make-up also complete the entire look. I suggest getting a good hairdresser involved, especially if you have opted for a headpiece that has fiddly headbands or wires. The hairdresser can make those disappear, which would make your hat float on your head magically.

BSN: Britain is renowned for its hat-wearing culture. How does this influence your work?

H.S: A lot! I think the fact that the UK has a hat wearing culture inspires me more to create a new way of wearing tradition. In the UK, a lot of women dare to be different and some are naturally quirky and a bit eccentric and I love that. This then makes me push the boundaries a little without losing being stylish and elegant.

BSN: If you had to pick any fashion brands on Bond Street that would compliment your hats – what would they be?

H.S: A MaxMara jumpsuit would dress-up my ‘Nicole’ coolie hat. If you choose to wear a dress from Prada, then my ‘Sabrina’ beret would look fun and elegant and suit any special/formal occasion. Anything from the ‘Fizzy Pop’ collection would look fun paired with a trouser suit from La Perla, or even with their lingerie/nightdresses if you are going for the underwear-as-outerwear look of course!