Author Archives for: Jacqueline Kolbe


Hat Restoration Services

If you have spent a pretty penny on your hat and now find yourself in need of  a professional Milliners’ block and knack, then JKM will give you that!

At JK Millinery we create our hats from concept through to production and retail. Often we service our clients with our specialized sizing and reshaping techniques, offering our clients the personal service the head so readily deserves.  We realize that although there are hundreds of hat retailers there is a great lack for proper fitment and restoration of our most favorite hats and head wear.

Many of our clients also travel internationally with their hats and as we know some  hats can become easily damaged and bruised. Since we at JKM create hats from scratch, we know exactly how to breath the life back into your old favorite hats and head wear…so give us a chance to prove it! Gentleman and Ladies your Panamas deserve a wash and a press and block to take them back to their  higher former days of flare and fancy. Dented and dirty head wear is not necessary, nor is buying a new hat when you have several in the back of the closet that simply need some TLC!

JKM  offers:

1. professional head sizing service…allowing for the perfect fit and comfort.

2. re-blocking of your crown

3. re-blocking of your brim

4.removal of dents and hat trauma

5. fixing, mending , restoration

For more than 15 years I have offered this service to the South African  Film industry. I have taken flattened pancake hats and brought them back to their vintage glory. Re-blocking and re-shaping, cleaning and restoration has been one of the main teaching avenues of my career. I learnt the most about hats by simply looking at how the slow crafters of the past had created them. I was fortunate to have been given this responsibility once again for The Long Walk To Freedom, Nelson Mandela Story. I fixed and re blocked hundreds of hats for that project. I really do do the blocking work myself as it makes no sense to stand and give instruction to another….. you have to feel the style of the hat and each one has a personality…that is not something that you can easily teach to another.


Bespoke Millinery Service

Local clients in need of special head wear not found ready made to purchase on my website are requested to contact me privately and set up an appointment. Many of my clients are from outside of Cape Town and I have managed to satisfy their needs with a communication of images, emails and trusted phone conferences in which we are all confirmed to be on the same page. Below I will outline the general procedure I like to follow when accepting a clients order.


How To Make Contact and Place an Order

1. Please make contact with JKM via email and state your head wear design needs. Please give us as much information as possible so that we can send you a complete quote.

We need to know;

1. who is the hat for

2. do you have a preference or image description of what you are looking for.

3. do you have a budget

4. when is the function date/ due date

5. are there any design-size-fabric-color restrictions to the event where the hat will be worn

6. Is it a day or night affair

7. Color and style of dress

8. Color and style of shoes and bag & Jewels

9. Height of their partner

10. will you be active or passive ( important for costume hats and dancers especially)

11. Will you be changing your hairstyle or hair color before the day of the event ( are you planning on getting extensions? )


What You Need To Send

1. One Portrait picture of yourself….I need to determine your hairstyle, hair color, facial structure, skin tone

2. full body shot- preferably wearing the dress or costume for the event ( If not possible then please send a sketch or picture of the dress with a sample of fabric for match purposes and a separate picture of you in another dress for body balance purposes.)

3. Picture of shoes and handbag and jewels

4. Any logos or  invitation imaging


**Please take the above as a guideline, as to what I will need from you. I am use to working with Film Directors and Interpreting their vision. I appreciate seeing your images and ideas and will offer advice and suggestion if you need some guidance. If  guidance is everything you need and more, then please don’t panic, finding your perfect style or hat should be a fun experience that we will enjoy together.

Once I have a clear understanding of your needs you will be sent a JK Millinery Quote. On email written acceptance of your quote you will be requested to make a % deposit against your order. Your deposit will be taken as a confirmation of your commitment to the order and the order will be placed in our working schedule for production. The time to create and complete your order will be written on your quote. Times may vary depending on the time of year and the number of orders in production.

On average I appreciate working 6 weeks to 2 months ahead of time and I do not work too far ahead of time unless the client is prepared to receive the hats when complete. My studio just does not function for the storage of hats.

Certain circumstances do often make a 6 week lead time impossible. Stylists will know we are usually given a couple of days if lucky to create for commercials and other last minute events. I am always open to your communications to check my availability, however if you do have the advantage of time to plan then please do. Unfortunately, funerals also leave little time to plan, so please call to check my availability. My loyal clients will know that i will move heaven and earth not to let you down.


Hats are generally light in weight and therefore the mass of the hat becomes the greater factor when posting locally and Internationally. Often my National clients arrange their own courier to collect the hat for a speedy overnight service.The postage cost will be quoted by JKM according to the original design ideas. Should the client wish to increase the size and trims of the hat, this may influence the cost of the packaging and posting.

Your Hat will be packaged and posted in a JKM  hat box with tissue paper, covered with brown paper for protection. Once your order has been placed I will send you the best posting options to your  country of destination. If you have your own courier or a friend can deliver for you, then please advise when placing your order.





Cape Town Hat Shops

We are a little Bespoke Millinery and Hat Making Business. Our Hat Shops are situated at the Watershed, V&A Waterfront and in the De Waterkant, Cape Town, South Africa.

The Hat Studio, in the trendy De Waterkant, offers its clients, an individual and personal experience at expressing their crowns. At JKM we create short Hat Ranges, not Seasonal Collections. Our ranges last until they are sold out. We are constantly changing our fabrics and patterns to offer a fresh range to our clients every few weeks.

Please feel free to pop by and compare the styling and fabrics offered at JKM.

Authentically African with a cosmopolitan twist flared through its creators. Unlike shoes we have not really explored the various styles and shapes that the head wear world affords. At JKM you will be treated to a delicious variety of hats and head wear for both men, women and children.

Customers having discovered JKM at the Watershed are excited to have a unique and Quirky Milliner on their doorstep. We pride ourselves on our quality and our commitment to returning to natural materials and local fabrics and trims wherever possible. We know that not every hat has been made for every head! Hats and heads are as varied in expression and style as those who wear them.

If your individuality is something which you wish to express then this is your hat home! If your attention to detail and balance is aligned to ours then you have found your hat hub! The JKM Watershed offers you all of our creations to view and fit. Often you will find even more than what we have seen online as the Head Milliner Jacqueline Kolbe is constantly sourcing new fabrics and creating new patterns.

‘My need to create forces me to try new fabrics and patterns on a weekly basis. Having the mobility and ability to move from one style to another has kept me hooked and invigorated in the craft of Millinery! Feel free to challenge me, no head is too big, or too small to be crowned and adorned!’ – Jacqueline Kolbe

JK Millinery is proud to be associated and affiliated in practice with the growing

Slow Fashion Movement! 

The Slow Fashion Movement is based on the same principles of the Slow Food Movement, as the alternative to mass-produced clothing. The Slow Clothing Movement was intended to reject all mass-produced clothing, referring only to clothing made by hand, but has broadened to include many interpretations and is practiced in various ways. Some examples of slow fashion practices include:

  • Opposing and boycotting mass-produced fashion (AKA “Fast-Fashion” or “McFashion”).

  • Choosing artisan products to support smaller businesses, fair trade and locally-made clothes.

  • Buying secondhand or vintage clothing and donating unwanted garments.

  • Choosing clothing made with sustainable, ethically-made or recycled fabrics.

  • Choosing quality garments that will last longer, transcend trends (a “classic” style), and be repairable.

  • Doing it yourself – making, mending, customizing, altering, and up-cycling your own clothing.

  • Slowing the rate of fashion consumption: buying fewer clothes less often.

Slow Fashion is “quality over quantity”. This phrase is used to summarize the basic principles of slowing down the rate of clothing consumption by choosing garments that last longer.

Collections Women’s Ranges: Top Hats:. Fascinators Cocktail Hats Sinamay Hats Sun Hats Bandanna Unisex

Men’s Ranges: Top Hats 5 Panel Cap JKM Golfer ( Flat Cap Style ) Pork Pie Fedora Theatrical and Costume Hats & Headdresses

Men's Fashion Hats

Men’s Range – Sizes Medium to Extra Large

Men’s Fashion

Hats and Caps

Men's Fashion Hats and Caps

JK Millinery creating hats and Caps for both Men and Women. We create for special occasions as well as everyday wear. At our hats shops we are known and respected for catering to the needs of those with special needs. Our masculine collection of hats and caps range from medium to extra large.

Model Millinery

Model Millinery – Tea Cup Cocktail Hat Continued…

Phase 2 – How To Create a Tea Cup Hat

After completing an initial sample for the Tetley Big Tea promotion, I was told that the client had changed their mind as they no longer believed the idea would work. I was initially disappointed but realized that not every sample would produce an order. I consoled myself with the fact that the opportunity of preparing this sample had taught me a new trick or two. Once I came to this understanding, I received a further email from my client in Durban to ask if I could produce a larger sample. I was sent a picture and asked to reproduce it to the best of my ability.

In preparing my second sample, I had to find a way to create the large Tea Cup hat so that if the order was approved, I would be able to replicate the design 30 times over. Since we had already been working on this idea for over two weeks, the deadline was drawing too near for comfort. I could not use the base structure of my previous sample, as it was too small. These are times when thinking out of the box is a necessity. After a closer examination of the photo and the base structure, I discovered my way forward.

Since the actual Tea Cup was over sized, I had to increase the base size to give the hat a stable fit, while cheating the tilt of the cup. I love these challenges!!! I completed the sample and had it couriered to Durban.

The order was immediately approved and I had less than 2 weeks to create 30 Tea Cup Hats! In order to successful complete the order on time, I worked according to mass production. I began with the plates and then completed the cups. Once the the cups and saucers were complete I began blocking the bases. I then attached the plates to the bases, to achieve the correct tilt. Once that was complete I attached the cups, added the tea fill and finally attached the handles. The cups and saucers were covered with Duchess Satin. My greatest fear was that the fabric would be soiled through all the handling that was needed. I scotch guarded both the cups and saucers before they were attached and luckily my fears were unwarranted. I completed the order 30 minutes before the courier arrived! There is nothing more satisfying to me than the successful completion of a job well done!

**** Please note the Yellow Silk Tea Cup Cocktail Hat on the main blog page,  was a personal challenge to see how eloquent I could master the design. Often when asked to create something I will always take the design one step further in my own time. This is a perfect example of how I teach myself to create unusual Model Millinery Hats!

A Practical History Lesson On American Hats!

At the moment I am working on making hats for a Discovery Channel Drama Documentary. I have been asked by Diana, the movies Wardrobe Mistress to fill some of their head wear gaps. Diana is also responsible for the wardrobe of Section 9, Story Of An African Farm, King Solomon’s Mines among countless other productions.

I have been given the opportunity of working with Diana several times and have always learnt something important from the experience. This time I have been asked to produce hats for an American history movie which begins in 1640- 1940. I have completed a Confederate style hat which is similar to the Canadian Mountie Styled Hat. I had a great time hand blocking this shape. In order for me to get the styling correct I had to understand the reason for the structuring and style. As I began to block and steam the crown in the Mountie style, I also placed the blocked shapes prematurely on my head and suddenly came to understand that the dents were for resting an enlarged crown on the head and that the protruded pocket at the center of the hat acted as a heat conductor. It has been proven that the human body looses 80% of its heat through its head. This brilliant style utilized that fact to act as a heater. If the style had sat flat on the head, it would not create the same warmth effect. Once I understood this, my blocking became a natural form of sculpture.

I also used this opportunity of working with Diana to connect with a local hat factory to block the shapes that i felt could be Hydraulically Blocked  with their blocks. I am hoping to form an empowerment initiative in the manufacturing Millinery industry. This is my first step forward in this direction and I feel the opportunities for all could be bountiful with the proper backing! My vision is to create a Millinery business where the workers are the owners!!! Its the only natural and correct way forward in the manufacturing sector. It is time that the creatives and the workers were rewarded and not just the Big Title Holders! I can see how my vision could work especially with the entertainment industry and the movies that will be shot here using our new film studio here in Cape Town. At the moment many hats are brought in from costume houses in the UK. I am also doing some stitch work for the American Civil War Caps. I really love the fit of this style of hat also. It is snug and just feels good on the head. I am learning that there is a great deal to be said for the so called ‘old fashions!’ It was not just about exterior appearance but also mechanics and sensibility. I think I am going to enjoy exploring these possibilities further!

Once I complete the Caps, I will be producing some Tri-cones. I will be contacted to produce more hats as they continue filming. Hats were big in America from 1640 to 1940….lucky for me!

Model Millinery - Silk Lady Bird Cocktail Hat

When Does A Hat Maker Become A Milliner?

When Does a Hat Maker Become a Milliner

Does the title Milliner come with the amount of official courses undertaken? Has it now become a common term used by anyone who can make or trim a hat? Does an apprenticeship alongside an experienced milliner automatically define the student as a Milliner too?

In the past, the only true way to learn the millinery craft would be through an apprenticeship. This apprenticeship could span many years. I ask these questions because I myself, was often called a Milliner, when I still considered myself a hat maker. I had already been working as a hat maker for over 10 years, and had taught myself many of the millinery secrets.

I never received an official apprenticeship under a renowned Millinery Designer. My education was very much afforded me through a few evening courses in London. Mainly I learnt through experimentation and through the ladies and gentlemen that I found working in the Millinery Factories and Theater here, in South Africa.

Many of the ladies I have met in the factories had been there since their teenage years. They had been given a position within the factory and remained there their entire lives. What I experienced in these factories was that the creative spark had been squashed to produce lines of imitation. They were not encouraged to think outside the box, instead they were forced to fit in it. Anything that was seen as different had also been identified as wrong! The Millinery tricks and craftsmanship was excellent, but the design ideas were simply imitation of Europe. It was obvious to me that Millinery had hit a creative dead end in South Africa. I myself witnessed the passing of two Millinery factories in Cape Town.

Due to the political situation in SA, the workers were not invested in, but used as cheap labor to reproduce the fashions from overseas. The ladies were not encouraged to express individuality or offer new. That was the responsibility of the Designer/ Owner, who had an authority and was addressed simply Mrs. Know it all. The staff were to perfect their ability to copy. Definitely a valuable practice on the road to creativity, however it is a creative death sentence if the buck stops there.

I remember my first day at MM Keller Milliners. The staff obviously knew that they should be expecting a new designer as their Designer of many years had retired. I had been told by management that the designs were the same for over 25 years. That I should be warned to prepare for battle with the staff, with any changes I proposed. Most of the ladies were old enough to be my mother and grandmother. Just imagine telling your granny to try something new, when she had been doing the same for her whole life. As the manager walked me towards my new glass studio, you could have heard a pin drop. I was officially under inspection from the toughest group I had ever encountered.

I started by designing the Winter collection. Some of the styles had already been blocked and I began to trim. After the first week of polite responses from the ladies, I found that it was the men in the blocking room who gave me my first break. At the conclusion of the first weeks work, I found the Head Blocker in my studio doorway. We were situated on opposite sides of the factory and he had come to inspect whether everyone was wasting their time. I invited this gentleman in and he proceeded to look over my work. He did not say much, simply smiled and gave an affirmative nod. I was only to discover later that this gentleman never gave much away, and the nod had meant everything. I now had the support and backing of the blockers but still faced some opposition from the trimming ladies.

My ideas were new to them which meant that I was asking for change. Since the designs had not changed for so many years, the ladies found it difficult to bend their ways. I had unwittingly introduced a new style of rose to my collection. This was not the way it was done! In introducing a new design I had altered the hierarchical expertise. This action brought the head trimmer out from behind her table, all guns blazing. I realized from this, that instead of teaching, I first had to be prepared to be taught.

I asked the ladies to teach me how to make their style of rose. I spoke broken Afrikaans, to the best of my ability, to show that I was prepared to meet them half way. I sat on the production line and made a mess in front of all of them. Then I tried again, failed and laughed and then again. I did this many times and I learnt many secrets. I hoped that by doing I would be encouraging others to try a new way, that it was acceptable to find yourself challenged. That was how we learnt. It worked. The new roses soon became second hand to the ladies. I realized then that the action of learning something new, had been associated with shame and ridicule, rather than excitement and joy. As you can imagine, I faced many challenging situations at that time. Even though I held a position of authority, I still was not comfortable with being known as a Milliner, but I was definitely on my way.

By this time I had worked as the Designer in two hat factories, created my own collections, winter and summer, Wholesaled to Harrods, The Hat Shop ( Covent Garden.) I still considered myself more of a Hat Stylist, than a Milliner.

It was only after I was forced to leave the factory and found my new profession in the Film industry, that hats really started to excite me creatively. As a stylist, word soon got around that I could make hats and the work start to filter through. I was now creating one-offs for the film and TV industry. This was the time when I slowly started to see myself as a Milliner. I just loved creating a hat from scratch. Saying this, I still would not define myself as a fully accomplished Millinery Master. I am fully aware that there is still much knowledge to learn, but the last 18 years has given me the solid base of learning through doing.

I often question, why Millinery? Perhaps it has much to do with the absolute diversification of potential designs. A true Maverick Milliner I BE! I have honed in on my craft over time and place. I believe that is why the profession has held my interest. The truth is, my Millinery education shall never end, the process is organic and the layers to learning are continuous.

So let me end this entry with my very short answers to the above questions:

When does a hat maker become a Milliner

A hat maker becomes a Milliner, when the tools and knowledge acquired, allows the hat maker to confidently say YES to the challenge of creating the unknown. Once created, the piece surpasses the expectation of the vision, and the process of creation becomes the link to ones creative source.

When does a painter become an Artist

A painter becomes an artist, when he has explored the techniques of others and subsequently comes to finding his own. When the Source of the Artist is identified and mirrored in his technique and expression of the subject.

When does a hobbyist become a Craftsman

The Craftsman is born when the hobbyist finds the source of perfection hidden within the creative process of the craft. Once the connection has been made, the hobbyist moves toward the perfection of his said craft and becomes a Craftsman.


So my understanding of this process is that, it is not to be rushed. I am definitely on my creative journey but am humbled to acknowledge that I still consider myself a Milliner in the process of learning towards my Master ship. Millinery like all the Arts and Crafts has far more to teach the student than is often recognized or acknowledged in the West. The process is slow my friends, and the rewards are often only discovered in the afterglow.

I invite you now, to join me on my journey, as an active participant! Find your creative centre, be it in Millinery, Painting, Gardening, Baking or Sand Castle making! Perfect your ART and become Conscious of the Laughter

Bur Juman – Hats Off To The Dubai World Cup Horse Race

Many Thanks to the Bur Juman Team

I received an Email from the Bur Juman Department Store in the first few weeks of January 2011. The Email served to invite me to exhibit at Bur Juman International Millinery Exhibition, which is held just prior to the Great Dubai World Cup Horse Race. Only seven Milliners are invited to this event and I was determined to make the most of this amazing opportunity. I set about creating a whimsical range of model millinery head wear, which included cupcakes and ladybugs to mention a few. I worked late into the nights in the run up to the exhibition but it was worth every ounce of energy I could muster up. I also had the wonderful opportunity of meeting other Milliners from the UK, Australia and Nigeria!

Below is the press release which was sent out from the Bur Juman Advertising Team

The world’s leading millinery designers will descend on Dubai just in time for you to pick out the perfect hat for a day at the races as the Bur Juman International Millinery Exhibition returns from March 16-26. In its tenth year, the popular exhibition will once again gather a bevy of award-winning milliners who will showcase hand-made hats, headpieces and fascinators to stylish race-goers looking for the perfect piece to top off their Dubai World Cup outfit.

Celebrated designers at this year’s exhibition include long-time favorites Valerie Corona, Marilena Romeo, Walter Wright Ltd, Catherine Povey and LBF Trade Limited by Christiane, along with a few exciting new names, such as Liza Georgia, Jacqueline Kolbe (JK Millinery), John 3v3 Hats by Eme and Borsalino. A sneak peak at some of the signature pieces up for grabs include extravagant creations festooned with peacock feathers, sunny flowers and net veils, as well as delicate fascinators and bang-on-trend 20’s-style silk caps to complement more conservative tastes.

Sabina Khandwani, Bur Juman Head of PR and Marketing said, “The milliners at the Bur Juman International Millinery Exhibition are among the most sought-after in their profession and their one-of-a-kind creations have been sported at races across the world, from the Royal Ascot to the Melbourne Cup. Hats are one of the most prized statement pieces in the world of fashion, and race-goers looking to make an impression at this year’s Dubai World Cup can be sure to find a hat worthy of the occasion at the exhibition.”

This year will also see the return of the popular Bur Juman Grazia Style Lounge from March 17-19, offering fashionistas expert advice on race-wear, makeup and the perfect hairstyle to show off that brand new head-piece. Top stylists will offer complimentary advice on putting together the perfect race outfit, while make-up artists and hair-stylists will demonstrate the right look to wear for the day.

“As Dubai’s most established luxury fashion destination, Bur Juman has been the go-to mall for the city’s style-conscious race-goers for many years and we are looking to welcome them once again this racing season,” added Khandwani.

The millinery exhibition will be on display opposite Saks Fifth Avenue, BurJuman Level 1, from 10 am to 10 pm March 16-26, with the Grazia Style Lounge open alongside from March 17-19 for walk-in consultations.

dubai-092-300x225 dubai-106-300x225 dubai-0831-300x225 March_12_2011_Al_Bayan_14 SL372845-300x225 March_24_2011_The_National_6-7_Page_1-672x1024March_29-April_04_2011_Grazia_82-83_Page_2-785x1024 March_24_2011_The_National_6-7_Page_2-695x1024  Dubai-Interview

The Making of a Tea Cup Hat


Creating A Tea Cup Hat From Scratch

Last week I received an email from an advertising company in Durban, asking me if it was possible to make 20-30 tea cup hats! I had never made a tea cup hat before but the idea has been in mind for some time. I had planned initially to design a tea cup hat for the Top Billing magazine photo shoot, which I did last month. In the end I decided that I would rather go with the sophistication of a miniature top hat.

The advertising company sent me some photos, with the instruction that their client was looking for an air of sophistication and glamour. The photos that I was sent looked more comical than sophisticated and the challenge was just up my alley! I love trying something new and always aim to produce a superior product to the one I was originally shown.

I suggested that we first begin with a sample and then look at the full production . The shape of the cup was my biggest challenge but I soon discovered the perfect trick. I really did have to think out of the box for this one and I am sure people would be amazed if they knew what I had used for the blocking bases of both the cup and saucer!

Once I had worked out the base level construction, everything just fell into place. I chose to do the cup and saucer in silk and the tea in chiffon, with the base finished in black satin. I completed the sample yesterday and it is now on its way to Durban, for a client briefing. If all goes to plan I will be swimming in the construction of Tea Cup Hats for the next few weeks!

If the customer decides differently, at least I will have learnt a new trick or two! That’s why I love my work! I don’t mean to sound mysterious but all the information on the full construction of on my Tea Cup Hat will be in my next Ebook, focusing on the construction of Miniature Top Hats. If you are interested in learning more, please forward me your contact details with the subject line Miniature Top Hats.