Hat designer Jane Corbett prepares for an anniversary year

PUBLISHED: 12:15 16 March 2017 | UPDATED: 12:15 16 March 2017


Stephanie Hoskins catches up with celebrated hat designer Jane Corbett as she prepares for an exciting anniversary year

You might not expect rural West Berkshire to be the home of fine couture hats fit for the most stylish, formal and glamorous events of the social calendar, but milliner Jane Corbett has proved that hatting high profile clients around the world can be done in the tranquil surroundings of her beloved countryside home.

She reveals: “Just a few miles from the ‘metropolis’ of Hungerford I can juggle long hours of designing and making with walking my cocker spaniel and keeping an eye on the changing seasons and the wild birds from the studio windows. I love days in the ‘sweetie shop’ that is London but for sanity and inspiration I need country peace to work!”

Jane is best known for her many hats for HRH The Duchess of Cambridge and her mother Carole Middleton, including the elegant pale blue hat that Mrs Middleton wore with her beautiful Catherine Walker outfit for the Royal Wedding.

To celebrate 20 years of millinery expertise Jane has an exciting new team drawn together from the Berkshire and Wiltshire area. “Having a local team was important to me, there seems little point in being passionate about supporting local business if your own business team is scattered far and wide!

“There is no shortage of expertise in the area and a happy business team is as much about work life balance, so no long commutes for anyone and meetings can be held around a friendly table with coffee and biscuits rather than faceless conference calls!”

Jane has recently launched new online collections making her beautiful hats even more accessible, but do not expect to find mass produced hats, there is, as you would expect, a handmade couture touch to all her creations, well crafted, beautifully designed pieces, whether a cocktail hat with a twist and a lift or a dramatic picture hat, Jane’s pieces do not scream ‘look at my hat!’ for all the wrong reasons. She has always believed that her hats, despite her love of the creative process, should not outshine or overwhelm the wearer.

She says: “For me it is the art of combining traditional craft and good design which ultimately allows the women who wear my hats to feel confident, elegant and perfectly dressed.”

The website currently has a gorgeous ready to wear felt collection that will see you through to beyond Cheltenham festival, and a collection of one-off couture pieces if you prefer to have ‘the one and only hat’ like it. The new spring/summer collection went online mid-February.

“This season I have concentrated on some classic couture millinery touches, such as delicate handmade flowers and pleated ribbon details. There is high drama, soft style and some splashes of playful colour, something for every woman and every occasion,” she reveals.

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Limited edition choices

Having originally studied Fine Art at Newcastle, Jane took to millinery training under the expert eye of the Queen Mother’s milliner Rose Cory and has never looked back. Her own wealth of experience gained over two decades has established her as a leading milliner renowned for her expert skills, clean design and exquisite attention to detail. This combination of traditional techniques and a very personal creative style makes hats her stand out from the crowd.

Now, for the first time ever, clients have the opportunity to purchase Jane’s beautiful hats online which include seasonal ready to wear collections, exclusive couture designs and a selection of limited edition anniversary pieces at www.janecorbett.co.uk.

Each month this year sees the launch of a limited edition anniversary piece. The first choice was inspired by the rich damson felt worn by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge at Sandringham. Jane says “When it comes to design, this dramatic folded shape represents one of my key signature styles and it is one of the most popular requested pieces. I had no doubt that this needed to be the hat to launch the start of my anniversary year by adding a subtle twist to this timeless classic design.”

Spring and summer predictions

Jane feels trends will be heavily influenced by the return of many classic shapes and designs inspired by the Jackie Kennedy era: “These chic statement pieces, which in turn are very versatile across all age ranges, will give an elegance to many occasions, which we will hopefully see being interpreted throughout the coming season. It is an exciting time for millinery fashion and I am absolutely delighted to be celebrating such a significant milestone 
this year.”

Out and about with Jane

Jane loves to walk her bonkers spaniel Lara in the beautiful Berkshire countryside, and a lot of her design inspiration happens on these walks. She is also inspired by the antique shops and loves to browse for vintage fabrics.

Her favourite local shops are The Hungerford Bookshop, who are always willing to go the extra mile to help, and the florist Martin and the Magpie, who always have stunning bouquets and often use their own grown wild flowers.

An old favourite, just outside of Hungerford, for a bite to eat and a drink is The Wheatsheaf in Chilton Foliat. With a love of red wine, The Naked Grape is also a firm favourite to buy a good bottle of wine, especially with Barnaby’s expert advice and now with shops such as Jax Jeans and Mojo’s there isn’t much need to shop outside of Hungerford apart from the all-important millinery materials.

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