Dominique Hanke - Hive Mind Millinery, Fashion Styling and the Art World Expo Challenge

Image by Eric JW Li
I have known Dominique Hanke of Hive Mind Millinery for several years now and have had the pleasure of writing on her several times. So today I want to mix things up a bit and include a few things at the start that are usually at the end.  First are the previous articles you can look at - Hive Mind Millinery 2014 CoutureA Peace of Fashion and VFW 2012.  The second is to let you know any ticket purchased for Art World Expo 2014 from one of the artists/exhibitors involved directly supports their participation in this event. To support Hanke, either purchase your ticket from her in person or through this link -

Now for this article.  A few things have changed since our last interview. Hanke continues to grow as a designer and be challenged by the process of building her brand, but she has also increasingly stepped into the role of stylist both for individuals and photoshoots. In a twist of fate, her fashion show at the upcoming Art World Expo 2014 has grown from just a showcase for her current hat collection to a styling challenge.

Hanke has been given the task of creating a collection of looks for the models to wear that will pair
with her hats. The looks must be created from 100% used clothing purchased at thrift stores within a given budget. This includes shoes, accessories - anything outside her Hive Mind Millinery offerings. Something old will walk hand in hand with something new - and the results promise to be surprising. Is she up for the challenge?  Absolutely!  I will be there excited to see the results and I hope you'll join me.

Image on Left by Johnny Se, Image on Right by Paul Behm
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Where were you born, where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in Kinver, a small village in South Staffordshire, England.

What were you like as a kid and teen? Any stories that show a hint you would embrace fashion styling and millinery in the future?

Since I was a small child I have had a love of fashion. I would sketch designs for fantastical outfits and spend hours dressing up in my mother fanciest outfits, and yes, hats always featured heavily! As I hit my early teens, the mall quickly became my favourite place to hang out. This wasn't so much to meet boys, as was the case with many of my peers, but to spend hours pacing the aisles looking at the fabrics, cut and design of the latest fashions.

Talk about you journey to becoming a hat designer? Highs, lows, and your favourite memory so far.

Millinery was something that had always interested me, but I had no idea how to tackle learning it due in no small part to the fact that I had no idea what it was called. After a great deal of perseverance and a few chance meetings, I found myself taken into the fold of the local Vancouver fashion scene and the North American Millinery Guild.

I have so many highs, it is hard to select one, but two stand out in particular: My very first runway show with Jennifer Gray, Shaughnessy Chow and Nicolette Lang-Andersen for Jennyfleur Loves, presented by Vernard Goud (LuvNGrace), and seeing my pieces hit the runway at New York's Couture Fashion Week as part of a show with the ridiculously talented designer Sho Sho Esquiro.

Left image by Ed NG, Centre image by Eric JW Li, Right image courtesy of Retail Insider
As far as lows, I try to see the upside in everything that happens, but the one thing that I have found disheartening is the lack of understanding some people seem to have regarding the economies of scale in the global fashion market and how that compares to independent designers. It can be a little frustrating when people try to equate the value of a hand-crafted designer piece to a mass-produced item. Not everyone can afford to buy into the design scene, and not everyone wants to, but criticizing a designer for asking more for their work than a big box store to me is saddening and something I find many designers experience in their careers.

Which established hat designer do you admire?

Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones - Both of these designers have paved the way for contemporary milliners. They constantly redefine the accepted idea of hats and headwear.

Photo on far right courtesy of The Social Life
The other side of the coin is you have established quite a portfolio as a fashion Stylist. How did this come about? What has been your favourite shoot so far?

It was definitely not something I pursued actively, but I've increasingly found that styling goes hand in hand with my job. If ever I put together a shoot or a show for my hats, I have to consider the outfits carefully. I love working with all fashion, not just hats, and relish the chance to create a full composition.

My first styling job outside of my own shoots came when I was asked by a local actress and Leo nominee Sarah Deakins to style her outfit for the Leo Awards. I was happy to take on a new challenge and soon it brought many enquiries and evolved from there. I look at styling as an extension of what I do and a chance to create through a different outlet. I love the shoot I did with photographer Johnny Se, model Karie Holst and MUA Sara Vande Vyver using Sho Sho Esquiro's pieces. The shoot had a kind of sinister feel, yet romantic and whimsical. I loved the contradictions and the team is so much fun!

Photography by Johnny Se
Talk about inspiration as it applies to both the creation of hats and to styling a photo shoot.

I find my inspiration actually in very different ways for both. Often a texture, shape or detail inspires me for my pieces, and that something small becomes the seed for the bigger picture. With styling it is often the overall target feel that provides the starting point. It is almost like deconstructing the desired style and rebuilding it in a unique way.

You were on the slate to show your hats in the fashion show at Art World Expo already, and then I understand a sponsor stepped in to challenge you to create a collection from all used clothing, shoes,etc. as well. How you are approaching this challenge - the combination of new and old.

Due the generosity of an unnamed sponsor, I am able to create a collection using my hats, and in addition create a collection to go with them, created entirely from thrifted garments. I am so excited by this challenge, not only because of the opportunity to bring eco thrifted fashion as a viable option to a more mainstream audience, but also to work thrifted, pre-loved clothing with couture high fashion pieces. My goal is to create two cohesive collections: firstly daywear hats and clothing, and then moving on to a more vibrant/ dramatic second collection featuring the more of my couture hats.

Photography by Thosh Collins (from lookbook shoot for designer Sho Sho Esquiro's lookbook.

Is there anything you can share about what will see on the runway? Not a spoiler alert, but an enticing teaser?

The collection is going to be separated into two segments. one more daywear, the other couture. I want all the collections to feel wearable and reach a fashion-focused audience. Both millinery and eco fashion often get lumped into unfair categories - Millinery frumpy and/or exclusive, and thrift fashion hippie, unflattering and unstylish.

As your brand grows, what are your goals for the next 5 years?

I hope to keep being part of the process of building awareness of Millinery, hand-crafted design and the local fashion scene. I have real hopes for Hive Mind stretching its reach across North America and I hope to see it grow into a strong international brand.

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For more information, to purchase a hat from the current collection or to contact designer Dominique Hanke regarding a custom order go to You can also find Hive Mind on Facebook at or follow on twitter at 
@HiveMindHats or @CocoChapeau.