Over the past few years, many vegan shoe and handbag brands have launched and achieved astronomical success due to the growing consumer demand for more ethical and cruelty-free options.
Paving the way and making a mark in the vegan headwear industry is an extremely talented, creative and passionate milliner, meet Rachel Warrillow.
Warrillow has been created with a mission in mind; to encourage people to enjoy and be confident in wearing hats, to raise awareness of vegan clothing and accessories, and to share their passion for handcrafted and ethical goods.
Founder and head designer, Rachel, has been working in millinery for around seven years and throughout her own personal, rather rocky journey, found that her creativity was like a therapy, a place to find strength and peace no matter what else was happening around her!
As a relatively niche industry, millinery has always been rooted in traditional practices, and that is a great deal of the charm too. Hats made by hand, are basically made the way they always have been. However, while real fur has been mostly stamped out of other fashion industries, in millinery it is still considered luxurious and is commonplace.
Feathers are also used a huge amount, as is silk, leather and wool. While using only vegan materials may be thought to restrict design possibilities, Rachel has found that it has focused her design abilities, “While putting feathers on a hat may be an easy (if cruel and grisly) way to create a dramatic effect, they are not necessary to beautiful, dramatic design; it’s just a way for a designer to be a bit lazy. Humans could never look as good in feathers as the birds who grow them, so why try when there are so many other options out there?” says Rachel.
The designs that Warrillow create, currently centre around a fabulous material called Sinamay. It is made from the bark of the abaca plant which is native to the Philippines. Most suppliers of Sinamay use an intermediary, but there is one supplier in the UK, Parkin Fabrics, who have built up a great relationship with the weavers in the Philippines, and deal with them directly to ensure a fair price and that the money goes back into the community. Rachel comments, “Sinamay is such an exciting, eco-friendly product with so many possibilities. When you see the weavers at work, the skill and speed they work at is truly breath-taking.”
Warrillow have ready-made designs and a bespoke, hat-making service, along with help and advice always on hand for every customer. “We realise that, especially for those who haven’t worn hats before, it can be a daunting aspect of clothing! We are more than happy to offer advice on which fixings to use, how to wear them and how to choose what is right for your outfit. Time after time, we have feedback to say how fabulous people felt wearing their hats, and how many compliments they got… and hearing that never fails to make our day!” concludes Rachel.