It’s far easier to follow your head than your heart with HURTENCE’s off-kilter millinery, which is bringing new dimensions to this most traditional of accessories. More Or Less speaks to designer MADDY THORNALLEY about her beautiful and bizarre creations, all of them handmade using vintage fabrics.

Photography by Esther Theaker Styling by Isabelle Sayer Text by Ross Aston

“Toppers, pindrops, perchers are great names for hats, but I often refer to my pieces as Hurtences,” says Maddy Thornalley, founder of the cult headwear brand Hurtence. You can see why the word hat doesn’t cut the mustard; the London-born designer’s creations are as distinctly Hurtence as they are seditious, inimitable and just plain weird (in the best way possible). Fashioned out of vintage fabrics, the handmade pieces are, in Thornalley’s words, “auspicious gimcrackery – something ornamental yet with good intentions.”

Blackberry cap by Hurtence, £130; vintage shirt, stylist’s own; top by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, £50 from Chi Chi Ra Ra

 

“It basically all started with one hat,” she explains. “I bought a hat in Los Angeles, this cute chequerboard thing, and wished that I had more like it.” After completing a degree in art at Camberwell College of Arts, she moved to Copenhagen, where her early explorations into hat-making started. “It was a simple process of discovery. I was bored, so decided to recreate my favourite hat.” Things often don’t quite turn out the way they intended to, and it was no different for Thornalley: “That first one didn’t come out anything like how I thought it would, but I found myself on this different trajectory and I thought ‘Right, let’s make more of these.’ That was the origin story.” Hurtence’s namesake remains under wraps, though. The only clue offered to its meaning is a seemingly risqué reference to a Danish mistranslation. We all have our secrets.

 

Velvet cowboy hat by Hurtence, £115; top, £15, hired from Contemporary Wardrobe

 

The design of each hat is led by the material chosen for the job over any particular silhouette, dictated by whatever fabric she finds at flea markets, deadstock warehouses and charity shops. The finished shapes often land in an anachronistic middle ground between the surreal and classic; though not necessarily driven by nostalgia, Thornalley’s means of production certainly harkens back to a less wasteful age. “It just makes sense for me to create sustainably. When I’ve tried to buy supplies from fabric stores, I’ve given up. There is just no need to buy new. There is more than enough already out there.” It’s a win-win scenario for the designer, too. Rare gems that you wouldn’t be able to source from contemporary fabric suppliers means that each piece has no pair and nothing is thrown away while making it. “The techniques involved in hat manufacturing means that it is very low-wastage,” Thornalley says. “There’s this folding process that you do with any minor cut-offs being retained. The vintage fabric can be so precious and there are a million ways in which the scraps can be used.”

Blackberry cap by Hurtence, £130; vintage dress, £25, and sash, £15, both by Vivienne Westwood, hired from Contemporary Wardrobe.

 

Hemp hat by Hurtence, £130; dress and sash as before.

 

A single hat can take up to a day to create. However, as Thornalley describes it, “the more complicated shapes that I’ve been making recently take a lot longer,” which is no bad thing in her in mind. “My dream for the future is just slowing down the pace of consumption. Fast fashion stresses me out.” After acknowledging the convenience of the current clothing industry, the designer offers some insight: “I presume everyone’s got an interest in their own identity. Appealing to people’s individualism and their desire for more meaningful, personal pieces is important.” It’s a connection to the self that goes beyond mere appearances, she explains. “When someone finds a Hurtence item that really works for them, they connect with it, it really changes how they express themselves. Each one brings a different kind of feeling.”

“My dream for the future is just slowing down the pace of consumption. Fast fashion stresses me out”

There’s a word that Thornalley uses to define what she creates: “Energy. There is a definite force to the pieces. I want to create a sort of channelling for people’s heads, some sort of zonal space.” It’s a signal that her customers are deftly attuned to, and something that they recognise in others. “Everyone who shops at Hurtence is obviously a solid person. They understand what it’s about. My friends will tell me how they met someone wearing one of my designs and started a conversation with them, and more often than not they’ll get on well. It’s this interconnectedness between everyone that wears Hurtence that I love.”

Garden hat by Hurtence, £120; leotard, £26 from Dancia International; vintage smock by Vivienne Westwood, £35, hired from Contemporary Wardrobe

 

Big bow hat by Hurtence, £150; leotard, £26, from Dancia International; shirt, £12, hired from Chi Chi Ra Ra.

Model: Oudey Egone at Premier. Hair: Franziska Presche. Make-up: Vassilis Theotokis. Lighting assistant: Anna Olszewska. Styling assistant: Lydia Platt. Hair assistant: Chika Hamada