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The Modern Milliner: The Whimsical Universe of Xtinel's Designer Stephane Christinel
NCO 048
2023-04-16
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by
0xB6734B4E01D1cD9A626efD6c86F031cBbF9B4936

N: Hi Stephane! It's great to have this opportunity to chat with you. Could you share a bit about your upbringing and your journey to becoming a designer? What was it that drew you specifically to the world of hat design?

S: I grew up on the west coast of Canada, spending much of my time in the forest and by the ocean. I was always daydreaming, watching old movies, and reading. After moving to Montreal in my early 20s, I started doing freelance styling. I found that I could never find the right pieces for creative shoots and would end up making them myself with limited sewing abilities. After studying technical sewing at a trade school, I began coming into myself as a designer and building my label.

What I love about hats is their protective quality and their endless possibilities. Anything can be made into a hat.

N: Your hats are not only visually stunning but also seem to possess a fantastic tactile quality. I'm particularly intrigued by your use of repurposed materials and how you transform them into luxury items. In your view, what defines "luxury"?

S: The use of repurposed materials came very naturally. I have been buying my clothes in thrift shops all my life and worked as a buyer for vintage boutiques for years. Within my community of friends, finding fabulous vintage pieces and reworking them for a night out is a huge part of how we express ourselves and our visual language. To me, luxury could refer to anything that is made with intention and care.

N: In a way, I almost feel like you are not particularly driven by the idea of luxury but rather storytelling. Is that correct?

S: Totally. Storytelling and world-building is something that is always on my mind when creating. The notion of luxury, while alluring, can be archaic. I'm more concerned with building a universe that feels immersive and liberating. My hope is that people feel a sense of whimsical sensuality and fantasy when wearing my pieces.

N: The role of the milliner has evolved over time, with hats once being a wardrobe staple for both men and women. Are there any historical eras that inspire you? What references inform your design choices?

S: I draw most of my inspiration from the natural world, mythology, old films, and historical fashion. I love the elegance and drama of medieval and Renaissance headwear, as well as the maximalism of the bonnets of the 1800s.

N: It appears that you've successfully carved out a niche for yourself in the fashion world. What advice would you give other designers on "branding" themselves to find opportunities? Did you learn any valuable lessons during the process?

S: I definitely feel that I am still developing as a designer and have much more to learn, but I think that the most important thing is being true to yourself. Taking time to formulate your perspective, asking yourself what you would like to convey with your pieces, and why.

When your creation comes from a holistic place, its authenticity speaks for itself.

N: Out of all the hats you've designed, which one is your favorite and why?

S: It changes, but right now it's probably the ruched satin Narcissus hat. It's extra large and feels like a soft cocoon.

All images courtesy of Stephane Christinel.
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