With the word Champagne in the name, I knew this brand was one for me! A hat is a bold statement and can change your outfit completely, so having one which transitions effortlessly from a day out in London to a trip out to a country pub or a champagne filled day at the races, is essential. Why have a different hat for every occasion when you can have one which suits all – both a ‘Champagne’ and a ‘Muddy Boot’ environment?

That’s why the Champagne & Muddy Boots black Chelsea hat is my must-have this month… and with Cheltenham Festival just around the corner, it’s a perfect go-to for a last minute finishing touch to your outfit!

I’m a city girl originally but I now live in the beautiful Peak District.”

Being a country girl living most of her life in London, this hat was a perfect choice for me. The black colour and classy Chelsea style ensures this fedora is fit for the city streets, whilst the subtle addition of a guinea feather wrap adds that touch of the country.

It’s good to know we are in safe hands when it comes to creating a country/city fusion inspired design, as brand founder, Claire Simpson is no stranger to the bright lights of the city. She says: “I’m a city girl originally but I now live in the beautiful Peak District. I didn’t want all of my designs for my fedoras to only be wearable in the country, walking the dog or at a shoot day for example. I wanted to create some pieces that were versatile and could be worn whilst out walking in the countryside or at Cheltenham races, but looked equally fabulous when worn with jeans & a leather jacket in the city. The Chelsea, Ritz, Tabatha & Camden are perfect examples of this. I guess as the saying goes, ‘you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl’! So that comes through in some of my designs.”

It’s hard to believe this brand was only launched just one year ago, and more so that it was by complete accident. Claire explains; “I was out for a friend’s birthday and she told me that she wanted a traditional country hat with a modern edge for Cheltenham Races and asked me where I could recommend. I’d had a few glasses of wine so drunkly said “I will make you a hat!”. I’ve been doing millinery for 12 years, with a few years break when I had my youngest child & we moved into a house in Derbyshire that we have been doing major renovations on. I posted the hat I’d made for my friend on my personal social media and I was astounded by the response & requests for similar hats or for hats for weddings & Ascot etc… Champagne & Muddy Boots was born!”

Aside from style, comfort is a huge factor for me when choosing any item of clothing or accessory. I mean, who wants a hat that keeps slipping over your eyes, or makes your head itch? I have the Chelsea hat in a size small which fits perfectly and even manages to stay in place on those windy days… of which we all know there are pretty regular here in the UK! Being made of wool, there can always be a slight reservation that a hat can be irritable… rest assured – I honestly don’t realise I have this hat on – the wool is extremely soft and cosy!

“A beautiful hat whispers, it doesn’t scream!”

Claire’s collection spreads much wider than just the Chelsea hat with glamourous hats specifically designed for race meets and more casual hats tailored towards a country walk to the pub. As we all know, the racing season is very much upon us, with Cheltenham Festival beginning on March 13th, Royal Ascot kicking off on June 19th and  of course, the Grand National on Saturday, April 14th… but Claire explains there is a hat for every occasion!

Picture credit: Champagne & Muddy Boots

Picture credit: Champagne & Muddy Boots

Picture credit: Champagne & Muddy Boots

She says it “really depends upon the type of race meet as to what design I create.” Adding: ” For example, the hats I make for Cheltenham Races wouldn’t necessarily be suitable for Royal Ascot. My customers want a more traditional country look for Cheltenham, but often with a modern edge. Whereas my hats for Royal Ascot are often made using a different lighter fabric, and are about looking striking but in a classically chic way. I don’t design crazy, comical hats. I prefer my ladies to turn heads in a understated, chic manor. A beautiful hat whispers, it doesn’t scream!”

The hats range from £49 to £148, with fully bespoke hats starting at £125. Of course, if you are looking to go all out on a show stopper for Ascot, you can expect to pay more.

In the city, I like to wear mine with a long coat, black skinny jeans and knee high boots. And in the country…well with Dubarry’s of course, along with a wax jacket and jeans.

Check out my full interview with Claire below:

When and where did it all begin for Champagne & Muddy Boots? Champagne & Muddy Boots as a brand started out less than a year ago, completely by accident! I was out for a friend’s birthday and she told me that she wanted a traditional country hat with a modern edge for Cheltenham Races and asked me where I could recommend. I’d had a few glasses of wine so drunkly said “I will make you a hat!”. I’ve been doing millinery for 12 years, with a few years break when I had my youngest child & we moved into a house in Derbyshire that we have been doing major renovations on. I posted the hat I’d made for my friend on my personal social media and I was astounded by the response & requests for similar hats or for hats for weddings & Ascot etc… Champagne & Muddy Boots was born!  

It’s a fantastic name- how did you come up with it? There’s 2 reasons behind the name. Firstly, before I was a milliner I worked as a fashion designer in London and was a city girl at heart. Going from designing collections and being at London & Paris Fashion Week , to years later living in the countryside, married with 2 kids and a dog, initially inspired the name. Secondly, I make hats for weddings and Ascot etc which is like the ‘champagne’ hats and then there’s my hats which ladies wear for shoot days or walking the dog in their ‘muddy boots’.

So it’s just you making hats…? That must be hard work? Yes, currently it’s just me working from a little workroom at home. But I recently made the decision to have someone helping me with machine blocking some of my ready to wear hats, but that’s done at a different site as I simply don’t have the space for all the equipment needed. All of the rest of the work on those hats is done by me in my workroom, and all of the fully bespoke pieces are made from start to finish by me. It is hard work & sometimes I wish I had a team, especially when I’m only on feather 3 of 50 or more feathers that need stitching on by hand!

The hats and their feather designs are fantastic- where does your inspiration and creativity come from? I always find this a hard question to answer when asked. It’s hard for me to pin point exactly what inspires me. Sometimes I may be sat at my desk just playing around with feathers & a new design comes together out of nowhere. Other times I will see a photo of a celebrity at a wedding in a magazine & think ‘Oh that outfit would of looked better with a hat made like x, y & z instead’. Or I can wake up on a morning having had a dream about a new design & I will scribble it down…yes I really do dream about hats!

What I love about the black Chelsea hat is it’s ability to be worn both on the streets of London and out in the country, was that the aim? You have hit the nail on the head! As I mentioned before, I’m a city girl originally but I now live in the beautiful Peak District. I didn’t want all of my designs for my fedoras to only be wearable in the country, walking the dog or at a shoot day for example. I wanted to create some pieces that were versatile and could be worn whilst out walking in the countryside or at Cheltenham races, but looked equally fabulous when worn with jeans & a leather jacket in the city. The Chelsea, Ritz, Tabatha & Camden are perfect examples of this. I guess as the saying goes, ‘you can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl’! So that comes through in some of my designs.

The race season is almost upon us… tell me about the designs you create specifically for race meets This really depends upon the type of race meet as to what design I create. So for example, the hats I make for Cheltenham Races wouldn’t necessarily be suitable for Royal Ascot. My customers want a more traditional country look for Cheltenham, but often with a modern edge. Whereas my hats for Royal Ascot are often made using a different lighter fabric, and are about looking striking but in a classically chic way. I don’t design crazy, comical hats. I prefer my ladies to turn heads in a understated, chic manor. A beautiful hat whispers, it doesn’t scream!

What does 2018 have in store for Champagne & Muddy Boots? I’m hoping that the brand continues to grow in 2018. I’ve been overwhelmed with the response & support I’ve had in such a short period of time so far. I am also hoping to do a few different country shows etc in the near future and for my hats to be stocked in some more shops. So watch this space for updates! 

Thanks for reading,

Lois x

Categories: Fashion

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