TV personality Khunteera Pachimsawat has always loved fashion as well as the arts and crafts. Watching the classic movie Breakfast At Tiffany's over and over, she fell in love with the famous pearl necklace worn by Audrey Hepburn, and made one for herself.
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"My friends were amazed by how the one that I made looked just like the one in the movie," recalled Khunteera, also known by her nickname - Mind.
But there was one thing that she could not do - the big floppy sun hat that Ms Hepburn always wore, especially in that movie. Khunteera, who is known for her determination, decided to take a course in millenry to finally make the hat she loved.
"I was taking a short break from my work, and I wanted some art exposure to enrich my soul. Seeing Hepburn's hats, as well as hat fashion from other films such as The Great Gatsby, I was driven to find out how these gorgeous hats were made," said Khunteera.
After some research, she packed her bags and flew to the UK to enroll in a six-month course at the London College of Fashion. She admitted that she did not know what to expect from her studies, but felt it was the right choice any way. After all, she said, that's pretty much how she leads her life - by following her intuition and letting her curiosity be the guide.
She was the only Asian in her class, and to her surprise, her classmates were amazed by her skills.
"My stitching was more meticulous and I was more detailed. I have to thank my school, Mater Dei, for teaching me these skills in home crafts class. Who would have thought they would come in handy?"
Khunteera said that hat making is not difficult. There are two hat blocks (crown and brim), and they just need to be put together. However, making a good hat is not easy either. Techniques can only be gained through experience, and at this stage, although she has produced some really amazing headwear, she said she is "just getting there".
"There is so much more to learn, and I just want to be able to do better and better. I'm just a beginner," she said.
She recalled that her first hat took about four hours to finish. Now she is a little faster, but it still takes a lot of time and effort. Unlike mass-produced hats, millinery is done individually by hand, and requires great attention to detail. Some materials are harder to work with than others.
Most common materials for millinery are straw, felt and sinamay, but Khunteera has experimented with some unusual ones, such as furniture leather.
"There is a limit when it comes to materials, because not all materials can work on a millinery wood block. However, I try to be creative and play with different materials to make the hats more fun. My style is actually fancy and flamboyant."
Once she returned to Bangkok, she attended many events and was never without her hat. Her style attracted a lot of attention, and people often asked her where she got the hats from, including people from the clothing brand Jaspal.
"To be honest, I wasn't really planning to turn my interest into a business, but since a great opportunity shined upon me, I took it," said Khunteera, who has helped design hats for Jaspal, as well as a few other brands.
Her unique style has also landed her an opportunity to showcase her products in Singapore, which is currently the only retail space for her hats now, apart from her collaboration with brands.
"The brand is called Mind Millinery, and it is sold at a department store in Singapore. In the near future I would love to have my own shop in Bangkok as well, probably sometime this year. I also want to branch out to other countries, but that's going to take a while," said Khunteera, who is now promoting her hats only through Facebook (facebook.com/Mind.Khunteera) and Instagram (@khunteera).
The feedback has been overwhelming and she has secured a number of regular customers. One particular customer buys from her almost every day.
Today, Khunteera is a proud owner of over 100 hats, mostly made with her very own hands, and a few from high-fashion brands. She said that a hat can complement any outfit, and the addition of one fabulous hat can make such a difference to the overall look.
Hats are increasingly popular, and her clients are not just individuals with a passion for style, but also corporate clients such as hotels and hospitals who want to include hats in their uniforms. Her clientele includes women from different age groups, from young teens to mature adults.
She shared a few tips on choosing the right hat and making it last.
"First, always try on the hat before you buy it, because you need to make sure it suits you. There are so many shapes and styles - cloche hats, floppy hats, pillbox hats, Panama hats and more, so try it on and see how it looks. Second, please do not wash the hat! It will ruin the shape, and the decorations might come off." Khunteera is currently contemplating going back to TV, but her hat business will be her priority.
"Who knows? You might see me on TV again soon, wearing one of my hats," said the ex-news anchor with a smile.
About the author
- Writer: Napamon Roongwitoo
Position: Life Writer