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Christian Dior famously said that “Without hats, there is no civilization". Whilst hats do not hold the same role in our society as they once did, their functionality remains and there are brands and individuals who are keeping the millinery heritage alive. One such individual is Matt Kitto of Sierra & South (link) who has a workshop in East London where he handcrafts both ready-to-wear and Made To Order hats for his customers.

We recently hosted Matt in our London store where he demonstrated his techniques and showcased his latest creations as well as making our very own bespoke hat which incorporated some of the denim off-cuts from our store.

We also used this opportunity to get to know him a little bit better and posed some questions which we were curious about...

BLA: Can you tell us about yourself and how you became interested in millinery?

Matt: I studied music at university and toured for a while as a session drummer which allowed me to be in the world of performance, fashion, stage wear etc. Within that realm, there's a real desire for people wanting to have that one-off, special piece whether that be a hat, jacket, or shoes. Having always had an affinity for design and customisation growing up - particularly headwear in all its forms, that's when the cogs started turning for me and I felt like I could be a part of that.

BLA: When did you have the confidence to start with Sierra & South?

Matt: I've been lucky enough to gather bits of information from many makers around the world, but for the other 80% I'm self-taught. When you're learning anything new, whether it be a craft or a sport, practice and trial and error are so important. It was only when I felt I'd got to a point where I had 100% confidence in the quality of the hat I'd made and would wear it on my head all day long that I felt I was ready to take it further.

BLA: Materials are very important to your craft can you tell us why using premium felts matters?

Matt: This is always a big discussion in the hat world and I'm a firm believer in using the felts I do because of the quality of the material, how long the hat will last because of this and the ability to pass it down to the next generation to wear. I'm all for exploration into new materials but they have to match the longevity of the felt we use currently.


BLA: Could you tell where you get your inspiration, for the original designs you create?

Matt: I've been lucky that I've had the opportunity to travel a lot so far and even live on the other side of the world - so I take inspiration from the places I've been and mixing them with the hub that is London where I was born and live now.

BLA: Is millinery seeing a renaissance or do you think it’s still quite a niche area?

Matt: I think the style of hats that I make has definitely seen a resurgence and are working their way into everyday, casual wear more and more. The days of just having a brown hat with a brown ribbon or grey with grey ribbon are over - now you have the choice of a piece that is essentially wearable art.


BLA: What have been some of the standout moments for you that have been proud about?

Matt:  Everyone that's come through and had a hat made is unique in their own way and that's the coolest part. Getting to know what that person is about, what they like, and what they don't, that's what goes into making their hat and seeing them enjoy it when it's theirs. That's something to be proud of.

BLA: Any last words?

Matt: I hope he doesn't mind but I'll borrow these words from a friend - "Kindness is timeless."

You can find out more about Matt Kitto and Sierra & South here

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