Mystery tools of the hat trade

Catherine Scott talks to Justine Bradley-Hill

When Justine Bradley-Hill’s grandmother died she left her a set of unusual tools.

It wasn’t until Justine had her children and decided to retrain as a milliner that she finally realised when the tools were.

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“My grandmother was a milliner, but she never, ever talked about it. I was a buyer and travelled abroad, but when I had my children if I wanted to see them I needed to change jobs.

“I decided to retrain and did a course in millinery at Huddersfield Technical College and then Leeds College of Art. Then I realised the tools my grandmother had left me were milliner’s flower-making tools.”

Justine uses the tools to this day, especially when she teaches flower making at her studio in her home in Addingham in the Yorkshire Dales.

“It seems such a shame that we never talked about her being a milliner. Back in those days you had to pay to do an apprenticeship. She did it for two or three years and then her family couldn’t afford for her to do it any more.”

Justine uses traditional techniques and innovative design to create her handcrafted hats which have more than a hint of nostalgia about them.

With a background in textiles, her expertise is in the materials she works with and how she translates into stylish wearable silhouettes.

“I like simple designs and have been lucky that people seem to like them,” says Justine who is mum to Amelia, 10 and William, eight.

Her debut collection was shown at London and Paris Fashion Week. Justine Bradley-Hill has quickly become a very sought after milliner and works with an extensive list of clients and stylists. Her hats, headpieces and fascinators are worn worldwide to prestigious race meets, weddings and black tie events.

Her big break came when she was asked to supply the prestigious website

“I’m not sure how they found out about me but I was very honoured to be asked and very nervous. My hats are alongside the likes of Philip Treacy. It has been brilliant for raising my profile.”

She now has fans across the globe, including the Royal family and she believe that the current resurgence in hats is here to stay.

“The whole Kate Middleton effect has seen a new generation introduced to hat wearing, and not just for weddings and race meets,” says Justine.

“Edgy people are now being seen wearing hats and that is fantastic.”

Justine has around 15 hats in any one collection and is currently working on her Spring/Summer collection for 2015.

“It normally takes me between six and eight weeks to design and make samples.”

As well as her collections she will make bespoke hats for customers.

Justine will be among a host of Yorkshire dress designers and milliners featuring at the Yorkshire Post Life & Style Fashion show Marquee at Wetherby Races Ladies Evening on May 29. Justine will be joined by dress designer James Steward, fellow milliners Jenny Roberts, Beth Hirst, Claire Spooner and Rhian Kempadoo Millar.

James Brindley Interiors is sponsoring the Best Dressed Lady Competition which is open to all to enter and will take place after the fourth race. The winners will receive vouchers to spend James Brindley’s Harrogate or Wetherby stores.