Local milliners tilt their hats at St Leger trade

Daisy hat by Siobhan Nicholson . Picture by 'Ellie Grace Photography
Daisy hat by Siobhan Nicholson . Picture by 'Ellie Grace Photography
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Local milliners are tilting their caps to the Ladbrokes St Leger Festival, which will transform Doncaster Racecourse into a glamorous international scene next week.

One of the most prestigious race weeks of the British horse-racing calendar and the last of the season, the St Leger Festival, September 10-13, attracts racing fanatics from far and wide.

The head-turning glamour of Ladies’ Day is on Thursday and is one of South Yorkshire’s biggest social occasions. Fashionistas will be vying for the DFS Best Dressed Lady crown, a title which will take them to the final of Yorkshire’s Best Dressed Lady 2014.

It’s a date written in red on the social calendar and boutiques in the Doncaster area report a big sales boost in the run-up to the four-day Town Moor meeting.

Robinsons of Bawtry, who stock some of the biggest designer names in the business, report xxx,

And as this year’s fashion dictates put hats right at the top of your style agenda, talented hat-makers on home turf are busily creating titfers that will go straight to your head….

Hats off to Sophie Cooke, who has switched from police crime intelligence analyst to professional hat-maker.

Her label Imogen’s Imagination is all about striking, pared back simplicity and her creations have graced heads at Royal Ascot, the St Leger and even Buckingham Palace.

The 35-year-old milliner from Hillsborough started making hats as a hobby, then began supplying a shop in the Forum on Devonshire Green and selling at vintage and craft fairs.

She honed her skills at millinery evening classes in Leeds and is six studying years on.

Having taken voluntary redundancy from the police force last autumn, she has now moved into a city centre studio at Exchange Place, a creative hub for artists run by Yorkshire Art Space.

She sells through her Imogen’s Imagination website and online stores Etsy and Folksy and has numerous styles suitable for a day at the races.

Over the Moon:

When Amanda Moon got married five years ago, she knew exactly what she wanted to wear in her hair.

Not for her a silken veil or diamante tiara to complete her 1950s ivory silk bridal gown. She made up a country-themed composition of ivy, berries and a little Robin red-breast. It was the first thing she had ever made, but it inspired her.

Now a mum of two, she used her maternity leaves to study millinery and this summer, she ended her career as a primary school teacher to make hats full-time.

The natural world is her inspiration; she covers her hats in dainty flowers, buds and leaves at the studio she shares in Hangingwater. She makes one-offs for customers and is currently developing a continuous collection she hopes to persuade niche retailers to stock.

Amanda’s bespoke pieces can take many days to create, but St Leger-goers should still get in touch. She has a collection of pieces ready and waiting.

Siobhan trained with head couturier...

Siobhan Nicholson learned her trade from a master.

In the Eighties, she was an apprentice at the Bond Street workshop of haute couture milliner Philip Somerville, where hats were made for the Queen, Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher.

“Mr Somerville was there all the time. Watching his imagination and skill at work was brilliant,” comments Siobhan, 46, who gained a degree at the London College of Fashion.

After two years she packed up her hatbox and went to work in retail, but made clothes, jewellery and accessories from recycled fabrics in her spare time.

It was spotting hat-maker Sophie Cooke at a craft market that made her go back to the skill. The mum of three set up her label, Little Denim, selling online and at local events.

Her current Crazy Daisy collection features a hat made from a giant flowe, which recently went to Ascot Ladies’ Day on the head of the editor of an online hat magazine.

She hopes more of her daisy-strewn pieces will get snapped up for the St Leger.

* This month’s Profile magazine features four pages of stunning hats by home-grown designers. Get your copy this week.