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FIRST PERSON: Feeling the milliner’s vibe

Kai Bussant is a fashion designer and milliner in New Orleans. She refurbishes hats at the Goorin Bros store. She has multiple jobs including styling and tailoring, and is about to launch her own fashion brand. She sold her first piece of clothing when she was at elementary school.  

“I became a designer as I understand and am very comfortable with materials, and let them lead me. There are not many milliners so it’s quite a unique situation and not many people understand what it involves; so much so, that sometimes I feel as though they are asking me to be a magician when refurbishing their hats.  

Historically, millinery has been male-dominated, but I don’t believe customers are concerned about a woman working on their hat. – Kai Bussant

A lot of the work I do is hidden, so I do my best to explain to customers what is involved and what is possible.  

Historically, millinery has been male-dominated, but I don’t believe customers are concerned about a woman working on their hat. As a woman, when I’m dealing with customers, I like to be inclusive and comforting and explain the process and timeline. 

The contact with the customer is extremely important; the customer wants to understand how I work, they want to ‘feel the vibe’. 

There is a poetic process of designing or bringing a hat back to life as well as an exacting attention to detail. So, the fit and symmetry needs to be right. 

Historically, millinery has been male-dominated, but I don’t believe customers are concerned about a woman working on their hat. As a woman, when I’m dealing with customers, I like to be inclusive and comforting and explain the process and timeline. 

ILO Photo/John Isaac
Kai Bussant says that in three years’ time she expects to be the creative director of her own brand.

The contact with the customer is extremely important; the customer wants to understand how I work, they want to ‘feel the vibe’. 

There is a poetic process of designing or bringing a hat back to life as well as an exacting attention to detail. So, the fit and symmetry needs to be right. 

Technology is not playing any role in my work, as millinery hasn’t really changed since its fruition, although there are new materials and new ways to shape materials. It is important to maintain the traditional methods of creation, the craft of millinery and pass them on.  

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