Simon Meanwell-Ralph, the founder of 'Marvellous Millinery' has been making bespoke occasion wear hats for discerning customers since 2011 in his rose garden studio at his home in Winchester, UK. He is happily married and has three loopy yellow Labradors. Hats have always been his passion. His hats have been worn to many elegant weddings all around the world and graced the covers of glossy magazines. He has also designed hats for the British Royal Family.
Simon Meanwell-Ralph working in his studio in Winchester
“I have always had a flair for the dramatic and a hat 'completes' an outfit perfectly like a flamboyant bow at the end of a magnificent recital onstage. It also, (pretty much) always draws attention to the wearer - a certain amount of 'look at me' because most people nowadays don't wear hats. Personally - I'm never seen without one - they're what I'm known for!”
His hobby is Amateur Dramatics - in particular Musical Theatre, and he often gets involved with helping with the costumes or set design as well as performing. When it comes to going to university, his degree was in jewellery design from where he gained many transferrable skills from his time designing wearable objects in precious metals, to now designing and creating 'jewels for the head' which often feature crystals and wires.
How did you start your millinery journey? What are your sources of inspiration?
"I have been making and trimming hats for my mother and sister for as long as I can remember - when I was in my early teens perhaps? Then, as the years went by, I was asked by other family members and friends to make hats for weddings until I was lucky enough to be able to take my passion and make it my everyday job - I love what I do for a living!"
Image: A childhood memory of Simon and his sister (aged 5 and 3)
"My inspiration lies squarely in two places - the beauty of flowers (particularly roses) which I grow in my own garden and also see when I visit National Trust gardens - particularly Mottisfont Abbey near where I live which as luck would have it, houses the national collection of old-fashioned roses - delightful! And the second inspiration comes from working with materials and objects that I amass in certain colour combinations - I then start 'sketching' ideas with my hands at my bench and see what blossoms from there. Every day is a new challenge - which I revel in."
Image by: kateizakphotography.com - The roses in the garden near his studio are his constant inspiration
Simon Meanwell-Ralph is very well-known for making practical hats because they stay put throughout the day without being knocked when greeting guests (the ultimate 'kissing brim'), they have presence in photographs without getting in the way and also they can travel safely to destination weddings - particularly when protected in a biscuit tin tucked into the middle of the suitcase! He offers a wide range of different styles and scales of hat in his studio, so that he can offer something to please most customers who visit him in his Winchester home studio.
“I make each one to order and customise it to the bespoke requirements of each individual customer; larger picture hats in various designs and crown/brim combinations, stylish saucer hats that are very popular because they are easy to wear, smaller pillbox hats for smart occasions and some headband fascinators as well.”
Do you have a signature style? Tell us more about your most populat hat style.
“I suppose I am best known for the wide range of cocktail hats that I design and make, because of their versatility, comfort and style. It has been a great pleasure to have created many of these unique pieces specifically to sell through The Hat Circle. Like I said before, these little hats are a 'jewel for the head' and they suit most ladies who try them on."
A signature cocktail hat (bespoke) from Simon Meanwell’s collection.