Crowning Glo­ries The art of stylish cha­peaux

With a royal wed­ding all the rage, it’s hats off to milliner Karyn Ruiz and the art of stylish cha­peaus

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Derick Chetty Pho­tog­ra­phy by Chris Chap­man

IT IS SAID A HAT should per­form one of three ba­sic func­tions: giv­ing pro­tec­tion, be­ing stylish or mark­ing a pro­fes­sion. But some­times a hat tran­scends such per­func­tory work and be­comes sym­bolic of a mo­men­tous oc­ca­sion and yes, a meme. Cue the im­age of Aretha Franklin singing in her grey woollen hat at the in­au­gu­ra­tion of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama. And who can for­get Princess Beatrice in her beige curlicue bow fas­ci­na­tor by Philip Treacy at the nup­tials of Prince Wil­liam and Kate Mid­dle­ton? This be­ing a year of ma­jor royal mat­ri­monies – Prince Harry ty­ing the knot with Meghan Markle, fol­lowed by Princess Eu­ge­nie to James Brooksbank – the tra­di­tion of posh top­pers and fancy fas­ci­na­tors will no doubt con­tinue.

For Karyn Ruiz, who cel­e­brates her 30th an­niver­sary as a milliner and has op­er­ated Lil­liput Hats, a Toronto bou­tique for two decades, this is prime time, point­ing to the in­flu­ence that royal wed­dings have on hat sales. “For that per­son who might have been un­sure in the past, it gives them con­fi­dence and shows the wide­spread ac­cep­tance, in­ter­est and fun in wear­ing hats.” She notes, “Even bri­dal show­ers and tea par­ties, I’ve no­ticed now the in­vi­ta­tions will say, ‘Please wear a hat.’” Her cre­ations have sat atop the heads of Cana­dian roy­alty, that is, Cé­line Dion on her wed­ding day, and among other no­ta­bles, a select few Canucks who were guests at Wills and Kate’s wed­ding. And she has created at least two hats for guests at­tend­ing Harry and Meghan’s wed­ding.

In the early days of her milliner ca­reer – a “start-cute” en­deav­our af­ter the tap-danc­ing class she orig­i­nally meant to at­tend was too full and she went to the millinery one next door – Ruiz re­lied on cre­at­ing strong ar­chi­tec­turally shaped hats with­out the adorn­ment of ex­pen­sive silk em­bel­lish­ments. “For years, I viewed my­self as a trades­per­son like a plumber,” she said. “I was build­ing some­thing, work­ing with a ma­te­rial.” For her 30th an­niver­sary col­lec­tion, she re­vis­ited this kind of es­thetic – hats that took their cues from shape and form. “There’s a lot of re­spect for some­thing hand­made, and there is a grow­ing in­ter­est in things lo­cally made and things made by hand in a shop that’s been around a long time.”

One of her most mean­ing­ful com­mis­sions came from the late Gord Downie, the front­man of the Trag­i­cally Hip, for the hats he would wear dur­ing the band’s sem­i­nal 2016 Man Ma­chine Poem farewell tour. “The task was very daunt­ing be­cause he was one of the most beloved Cana­di­ans – for good rea­son – so to be able to take that task on, I had to get it 100 per cent right.”

For in­spi­ra­tion, the per­former sent Ruiz a photo of Bob Dy­lan from the 1970s wear­ing a hat with a tall crown and rolled-up brim. She created a to­tal of six hats for him, styled with a high crown – to suit his 6 foot 2 frame – and richly em­bel­lished with feath­ers, metal­lic rib­bons, studs, por­cu­pine quills and tiny bird bones.

Downie knew his glit­ter­ing metal­lic suits de­signed by Izzy Camil­leri and the ex­trav­a­gant hats would in some small way take peo­ple’s minds off his ill­ness. But the hat also be­came sym­bolic of the man and his legacy. Downie had made bring­ing aware­ness to the wrongs in­flicted upon Canada’s In­dige­nous peo­ples his fi­nal mis­sion. His ral­ly­ing cry, the story of Chanie Wen­jack, an Ojibwa boy who ran away from a res­i­den­tial school and died while try­ing to walk the 600 kilo­me­tres home. An il­lus­tra­tion of Ruiz’s de­sign has been in­cor­po­rated into the logo of the on­go­ing Gord Downie & Chanie Wen­jack Fund. Which proves that some­times a hat, like mu­sic, can be­come a cul­tural touch­stone and a foot­note to his­tory.

Gord Downie on July 22, 2016 in Victoria, BC

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