Paul Stafford was training as an accountant when he took his first hat-making course; before long, he had quit his job to study millinery at Kensington and Chelsea College.
Following a stint with legendary milliner Rachel Trevor-Morgan, and an MA at the Royal College of Art, he launched his own brand, The Season, with his business partner and wife Selina Horshi. Using a toolbox of felt, leather and Swarovski crystals and pearls, The Season’s headwear combines elegance with a high-fashion feel. Designing these innovative pieces is a technical feat: “When you’re working with hats, you can do really structural things,” says Paul. “Even in the simple ones, there’s a little bit of engineering and maths to make it all work cleanly."
Paul’s design process starts with experiments in cardboard. “I don’t sketch – it’s all physical,” he explains. “It’s a sort of interactive play, and it’s my favourite bit.”
At the next stage, The Season’s felt hats are expertly shaped at a factory in the old hat-making town of Luton: “At the factory, they’re able to press the felt better than you can do by hand, and give a more pristine finish.”
Paul often uses laser-cutting technology to produce clean lines in the finished product. "It is an incredible technology that allows us to create pieces with a level of precision that could not previously be achieved."
Many of the pieces also involve hand stitching, which is done by Paul at The Season’s studio. The neat stitches are often visible in the finished product: “I like pieces to look really honest about their construction.”
“We don’t think of ourselves as trend-led, but we do want our hats to fit in with a contemporary, fashionable wardrobe.”Paul Stafford