When I met my friend Gigi Burris, I'd hate to admit it, but aside from the occasional baseball cap or two, I never wore "hats". It wasn't until she conveyed her story of why she choose to go into millinery that I convinced myself that I take a leap of faith and try out a hat with my next outfit. "Its the perfect final touch", she would tell me, "don't think of it as an accessory, but the completion of the outfit". A 2009 BFA graduate of Parsons School of Design here in New York, and upon getting back from her semester abroad in Paris, her desire of hat millinery wasn't fully realized until she took a class from her mentor, couture milliner Leah Chalfen. Its with that small class of only 5 students, did she realize the dying art millinery also had strong ties to romanticism, and artistry. She always loved making things with her hands, so she decided to make hats for every ready-to-wear design of her senior thesis, garnering her a nomination for Designer of the Year. When she started showing them to industry people like Linda Fargo, people started getting excited about the hats and started pulling them for shoots and red carpet. W Magazine came a calling', and her first editorial credit was with Rhianna who loved the hats so much, she asked to keep them.
From those humble beginnings, Gigi has created a couture brand (gigiburris.com) that garnered adoration from clients like Madonna or Lady Gaga. Gigi has been nominated for a CFDA Swarovski Award, and was a finalist for the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund after she had already grabbed the attention from Forbes 30 under 30 in 2013. I'm proud to call Gigi a personal friend, and its always been a pleasure working with her as an artist, whether on her collection look books or for red carpet for one of my clients. Not to mention I look damned good in one of her hats. I threw Three Questions her way, take a look below.
OSJ: Being a transplant to New York City from the Deep South, when designing your collection; what is your process to create? Do you draw upon your experiences both from the South and NYC? Where do you draw inspiration from?
GB: Each collection begins with a spirit and feeling that I try to crystalize through images on a mood board. From there, we develop a color palette, source trims such as feathers or silk flowers and hone in on shapes! I certainly look to my roots and that bit of gothic antebellum appears consistently in the brand.
OSJ: Who is your ideal client and why?
GB: Let me start that we love ALL of the Gigi Burris clients. One of the best parts of my occupation is getting to spend personal time with the customers, it is super rewarding. My ideal client is a confident one, who isn't afraid to receive attention but at the same time avoids demanding that attention.
OSJ: You've had great accolades and success since launching your eponymous brand and recent launch of your men's collection and handbags. What is one future aspiration of Gigi Burris Millinery that makes you excited?
GB: Wow- Thank you for those very kind words! I would really love to expand the Gigi Burris and Burris brand into a fully realized retail store. In a climate where retail is slowing, I envision the opposite with a niche product shining brightly in a personal experience.