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Haiti’s Creatives / Hat of the Week Sketch – Gigi Burris Millinery

July 17, 2010

I was listening to NPR yesterday in my studio and they were interviewing a Haitian musician whose home was devastated in the January 2010 earthquake.  He and his band mates have managed to get some gigs in New York and other places away from home and he was talking about how surreal it was to play for a packed crowd, stay in a nice hotel during the tour, and then go home to squalor.

Listening to him, I flashed back to one of the thoughts I had when I started processing the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 – after the initial shock and horror of the deaths and devastation, it occurred to me how many famous pieces of art were also lost in the wreckage of the Towers.  As an artist, I can’t help but think this way.

So when the Haitian musician was talking, I wondered if there were any milliners in Haiti who lost their livelihoods like so many others.  How many milliners lost all their inventory, their hat blocks, their supplies that took years – maybe decades – to accumulate?  Hoping to sketch a Haitian milliner’s hat this week, I Googled “haitian milliner” and a couple of variations on that, but found not a one.  Surely there have been milliners in Haiti…?  If so, who and where are they now?

In my search, I ran across this Elle article featuring a fundraiser by New York creatives to help raise relief money for Haiti and it mentioned Gigi Burris as one of the contributing creatives.  Gigi established her millinery atelier in 2009 after graduating from Parsons School of Design and apprenticing to Leah Chalfen.  At the fresh young age of 23, Gigi already has a long and notable curriculum vitae under her belt.  Keep your eye on her – she’s already going places and giving back along the way, which is one of my favorite things to do.

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Hat of the Week Sketch

This week’s HOTW sketch is a Gigi Burris creation from her Fall/Winter 2010 collection.  I was particularly intrigued by her repetitive use of cone shaped hats in this collection, and today’s featured sketch struck me as particularly unique.

It appears to be cream straw braid sewn into a cone shape and flanked by two bundled feather bunches that remind me of shamanic smudge feather fans (to cleanse energies by directing smoke in specific areas – used by Native American tribes and other cultures globally).  The stark geometry of it is very appealing to me.  Gigi used what looks like burnt ostrich feather spines for linear effect, then softened the rigidness of the piece with some stray ostrich plumes that snake their way down the cone.

This hat has both a very modern and an ancient feel to it, which I find fascinating and timeless.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Gigi Burris Millinery, Fall/Winter 2010 collection

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