Jacqueline Michie

Photography by Jeffry Raposas. Fashion Editor: Flore Morton. 

All hats designed by Jacqueline Michie.

Lots of little girls grow up playing dress up with fancy hats, but not many dream of growing up and earning a living by making them. Jacqueline Michie was no exception, attending three different colleges before following her heart and enrolling in the School of Fashion at Academy of Art University. This talented milliner, who was awarded an internship with famed British hat making legend Philip Treacey in May 2012, struggled with finding her calling early on. 
But through trial and error, she has found her calling and is conquering the fashion world, one stylish headpiece at a time. 

We talked with her from her current locale, the seemingly unglamorous but affordable Nevada City, where she is able to concentrate on her hats, and potential clients, in rustic surroundings. 
Her website, Qua Crowns, offers “handcrafted one-of-a-kind hats for women and men,’’ from streetwear to formal, with “bowlers, boaters, turbans, tams, skimmers, toppers, fedoras and fascinators.’’

TESS COLLINS: How did you choose the path of millinery?
JACQUELINE MICHIE: I was going to school for womenswear design but all of my ideas were a bit too “unwearable.” After I changed my major to Costume Design, it opened up my class schedule to more variety.  I have always loved hats and after my first day of millinery class I knew it was the area I wanted to specialize in.   

TC: How did your instructor, Bruni Nigh, inspire you?
JM: I was most inspired by her enthusiasm. I was also inspired by her years of knowledge. She taught me the fundamental basics and a traditional skill set of hat making. I felt like I could think up the impossible and she would show me how to make it possible. It was a very exciting time for me and I am so grateful for her continued support!

TC: What did if feel like when you were selected by Philip Treacey for the internship? 
JM: It was surreal. The semester before he and Sarah Burton came as the guest of honor, I wrote a resume for a Designing Careers class wanting to be the milliner for the house of McQueen. It literally was a dream come true since Philip Treacy is pretty much the main milliner for McQueen.  When I was chosen, I was beyond elated.  It felt like a movie.. I pulled an Elaine Benis (Seinfeld), when she kind of shoves whoever shocks her, then does that funny dance, and then hugs the person. Then quickly made my way to the administrative offices to hear it from the horse’s mouth. Oh, and then I posted it to Facebook!  I felt like I was walking on sunshine. 

TC: What did your internship entail?
JM: Everything. I worked along side him and his eight to nine assistants daily. I did a lot of the finishing of his collection pieces. I organized materials. I delivered hats from the workroom to his showroom in London. I did many deliveries; which was fun because I got to carry these beautiful silver hatboxes all over London. I assisted at photo shoots. I helped catalog the archive of hats for an upcoming exhibit on Isabella Blow. Those are some of my favorite memories because I got to see and touch pieces that I had drooled over in magazines. We worked on a collection for Swarovski’s archive based on the runway show he had just completed in tribute to Michael Jackson. For that, I hand applied thousands and thousands of individual crystals. It was amazing getting to experience it at all levels and I loved every second of it.

TC: What is an average day for you like now?
JM: After breakfast, which consists of a smoothie and tea, I make my way to my studio in downtown Nevada City. It is great because it’s only five minutes from my house. I hadn’t had my own studio space separate from my home until this January and it’s the best move I’ve ever done for myself creatively. It keeps me focused and motivated. I’ll spend all day in the studio. Midafternoon I’ll take a walk through town for some fresh air and to grab a tea or coffee. 
My studio is downtown, so I get visitors and people coming in for special orders. When I’m feeling blocked or bored of what I’m doing in the moment I’ll take a hike or meditate. I am working on building my business, QUA CROWNS.  I am in the process of getting my hats into more stores and used in photo shoots. I’m also focusing on wearable pieces for the everyday. Right now, it is Spanish western felt hats, taking inspiration from my Oklahoma roots, the American Southwest and indigenous world cultures.

TC: What was the greatest lesson that you took from your time at the Academy or with Philip Treacey? 
JM: Respect and a “yes” attitude. The University is so on top of their game. I took a real sense of professionalism with me. From the experience of having such accredited and experienced teachers who had worked with everyone from Valentino to Hermes, I felt capable of operating in a high fashion world both with my hands-on skills and my day-to-day attitude. 

TC: What piece of advice would you give aspiring design students?
JM: Follow what you love. Millinery was an unknown area for me. It was not a clear and defined path like womenswear was. I say follow your passion…without passion for what you do, life is meaningless.  

TC: Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?
JM: In five years I will most likely be in Los Angeles, at least part time. I see myself with a large celebrity clientele and my hats being carried in major stores and fabulous boutiques throughout the world. In the future I’d like to be giving back, maybe teaching inner city youth millinery. It’s hard to see 10 years into the future. I know I will be successful because I have so much passion for what I am doing. In terms of what that success looks like, it’s hard to say. True success is what makes you really joyful and that comes from within. The world may sing our praises but if we are not radiating inner joy, then nothing else matters.

A girl who knows what she wants and has the all the talent in the world to make it happen, Jacqueline Michie, we tip our hats to you.

Model: Katie Fitzsimmons at JE Models. Assistant Photographer: NIck Gutierrez. Hair and Make-Up: Victor Cembellin.