My name is Elizabeth Koch; well I never did make hats anywhere else properly until I came here. I set the whole business up when I got here. Proper hats the old fashioned way, over the wooden mould. Besides that I did them in a place where there isn't anybody else doing them, and that makes my hats different anyway, I never would have made these hats if I had done this in Holland, or in America or somewhere else. But here I have to see what can I use? And then my pieces start from what can I use that I can get locally? What's not too heavy. I mean you'll find me at markets putting things on my head just to see how heavy it is and how it feels. The hardest part is language barrier. I mean, of course I learned Chinese before I came here, I started learning Chinese before I came here. I learned for about four years, and then I just plateaued. I'm happy with I can say and I just left it that way, you can drop me anywhere in China and I'll find my way home, I'm fine. It is a big issue when you want to have contracts drawn up or you're in negotiations with other companies. Funny how that went, and I never planned that; it isn't something you can plan. I mean, if you think about it, what if I was a jewellery or shoe designer? Nobody would notice. Hats are just so obvious and in your face, especially if you're wearing a crazy one, which I love to wear. So all the magazine people were like, here's my card, here's my card. I passed cards out at parties, before I knew it they were coming in, pulling hats for photo shoots constantly, within six months I had 12 pages in Harpers Bazaar.
And also I custom make hats, so I have a lot of clients that will come to me with their dress and say, this is the dress I'm wearing and the event is going to be in France, it's hot or it's cold or it's winter. I take all of these things into consideration. What does she look like? Tall, thin, larger, whatever, face shape, body shape, hair color, hairstyle, is it curly; all of these things we take into consideration and then we come up with a custom made hat for that client. So I have ready-to-wear and also custom made.
So, I've got a hat made of playing cards, and the reason why I made that, this is interesting, it completely wasn't my idea. Because I was being interviewed for CCTV, that's China Central Television, and they said, we've got a challenge for you. This was all on camera. And I thought, oh, what are they going to do? And so they said, You like to make hats out of interesting materials, how about trying to make a hat out of this? And they come out with a deck of playing cards; it was like a flat pack. And I'm thinking, Oh my gosh! But of course I didn't show it like that, I was like. Sure! Easy! Give me a challenge? So the first thing I realized was they're flat, too flat, so I just started folding them from corner to corner which makes an asymmetric fold. So I was folding them all and I actually sewed them all, there's no glue in that entire hat, I sewed them all onto a case, so they do move. And then, you'll never guess, a few weeks later I had an invitation to a Casino Royale party, a black tie event. So guess which hat I wore? My card hat, it was perfect. Well, I've made a hat that was an Eiffel tower; it was made of wood. And in the wood category I've done dinosaurs, lobsters, scorpions, peacocks; that was an amazing piece that was for a collaboration event. I never would have made the hats I've made if I wasn't here. So definitely the Chinese clients that I have prefer not to have too "Chinesey" style of hats. So no dragons or chopsticks, which I have used for many foreigners who live in China who are going to, let's say their daughters wedding in France, or Austria or somewhere, and they want a little Chinese twist, like a bit of a fan or something fun. But the Chinese themselves would never want that.
Yes, so I have wool winter hats, which could be worn every day. There are everyday hats, they're nice and warm, and those sell very well. I also have a lot of party hats, and then I've gone to the extreme, wild hats. Most of the wild hats go to very exceptional clients who like to wear those hats, and photo shoots. And then I have the everyday hats, which are very popular; everybody can wear them, especially in the winter. But I also have a lot of demand for the summer sun hat because here in China most people buy hats for two reasons: to keep warm in winter, or to keep the sun off of your face in the summer. It's already grown so much since I've been here, and I'm actually an optimistic person, so that's good. And there's been so much development in terms of hat etiquette. I have a friend here who is a Harvard MBA graduate and a Swiss finishing school graduate, she's from Hong Kong. She started the most amazing Chinese etiquette school for ladies here Beijing, and she asked me, Could you do a hat etiquette course? I'm like, Yeah, sure I can? I know enough about it, I might as well, but I never would have come up with that myself. So now I'm being hired by all sorts of different brands and companies to give hat, if it's just for fun, I mean usually it's just for fun, a group event, we'll do a hat etiquette class together, and everyone will try hats on and take pictures, have a good time. And it's very interesting how things are just branching off in different directions I never thought would have happened.
When I got here nobody was wearing hats, besides the functional hats, which even then were quite horrible, factory made, very cheap, for me, disgusting looking things; all polyester and plastic and gross. But I've really noticed as time goes on I see a lot of people wearing more hats, and not only, I'm talking about girls, not only the casual trilby, but more party style. And sometimes I'll see my own hats; I come across my own hats very often at events. You do need shoes, you kind of need a handbag, you don't really need jewellery, but those accessories are more popular than hats. And a lot of people don't want the attention, because hats do tend to grab your attention; so it is a little extra piece of luxury that might not be necessary and there's a big segment that just doesn't want to go there, that's fine. But there's a large segment that does, and they love to wear hats and they love the attention. I think it's whatever makes you feel great. If buying a new lipstick and putting that on makes you feel great, that's luxury for you, right?