Q: How did you decide to become a milliner in SL?
A: (Grins). My hat building journey has the humblest of beginnings . I used to camp a lot , sorting my inventory and chatting with fellow campers. I started building to pass the time and since I do love hats in RL, it was an easy choice for me. I discovered Hosoi Ichiba where at the time had camping bar chairs which helped cover the texture upload charges. The owner was very kind allowing me to discreetly build behind the bar. After I made the hats, I gave them to all my camping buddies to wear and it was hilarious to see us all sitting there wearing my hats!
Q: Building hats and having a business are two different things entirely. How did you progress from being camper to business woman?
A: (Grins even more). My first friend in SL popped in one day after a long absence and I showed her what I had done with the hats and a little store I had set up called the Union Jack Store. It was just a little tent in the middle of nowhere with re-textured freebie items. We then had this hair-brained idea to open up a shop together and my first attempts were two hat stands with hats perched on them. The store was called Mad About Hats and my first purchase was from a Neko . I was in shock that someone would actually buy one of my products!
Q: You presently market under two store names, could you explain why?
A: Mad About Hats is a boutique which offers everyday elegance and casual styled hats based on RL hats. I have classic Fedoras, top hats, baseball and newsboys caps, sunhats, cowboy hats, cavalier hats etc. Couture Chapeau offers a higher end limited edition collection which I present every season. Here I am allowed to fully use my creativity and imagination. It is a line where you get a glimpse of what I am about since I throw my heart and soul into it. And of course, it is a hat which I enjoy wearing tremendously since I would never sell a hat I didn’t absolutely adore. I have even had RL businesses approach me about designing for them but I’m not sure if I am ready for that.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration for your hats?
A: I get it from my RL experience and also SL experience. The Narnia Collection I presented in December last year was inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia which is still one of my all time favourite fantasy books.
I also have a RL fashion background and association with a world renowned designer, and my designs are often inspired from working with her on her collections. My forthcoming Christmas/winter collection will be totally glamourous with touches of rich colour and textures.
Q: Do you mind sharing some of your hat building secrets?
A: Oh believe me there is no great secret. At the beginning, I used all the simpler standard programmes, such as Wings 3D and Rokuro. I am rather slow, to tell you the truth or as someone kindly put, “ exacting”, so it took me a few months to get the shapes I was looking for. I made some dreadful mistakes but the funny part is that some of those mistakes turned out to be ‘happy’ ones and ended up being part of my best selling hats! So I one tip I will give to new sculptors is to never delete any of your scupltie textures…you never know when they could be useful one day! Right now I collaborate with a RL graphics designer and sculptie master who has tweaked my shapes and now provides new ones which I put together, embellish and get ready for sale.I also use the Photoshop to make my own textures and I am always open to learning more and upgrading my skills. I am a ‘Jill-of-all-trades’ and a painter among other things in RL. Second Life provides another blank canvas for me to create upon.
Q: What is your biggest challenge as a milliner and business woman in SL?
A: Oh that’s easy to answer… prim hair and filling vendors! ( LOL) I spend a lot of time trying to help people to fit hats on their heads and now I have offered hair trimming classes at my store. I post notices in the SL community events under education when I offer them and also in my group I Love Hats! As for filling vendors, that is bane of my existence here in SL and I am forever making mistakes! Fortunately I have sweet understanding customers and I really do try to rectify any errors as soon as possible.
Q: As a relatively long time SL resident what words of advice would you give to up and coming designers?
A: First of all I have to explain that my products are not like a must have animation or hair so I operate a little differently. Friendships have been very important here in SL and my friends helped me much of the way. Many of my customers have also become friends and I am amazed at how much word of mouth business I get. The best advice is to treat everyone with respect and dignity, especially new residents… today’s newbie could be SL next big magnate ! We can all learn the business part eventually but in the end it is a loyal following of customers and friends who will provide your bread and butter through referrals. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all for their encouragement and help because without them, I would have closed up shop a long time ago.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A: In SL, my wish for residents is to have fun, enjoy the creativity and laugh a lot. In RL, my hope is for everyone to have MORE fun and to laugh harder!