Toronto designer David Dunkley joined the ranks of the international hat-making elite this year when he received the prestigious Hatty Award from Hat Life magazine.
Dunkley, who launched KC’s Hats six years ago, says he got into the hat-making business “by accident.” He opened his shop, Studio 998, on Bathurst St two years ago and now works full-time as a milliner — that’s a hat-maker, for the uninitiated.
“This is my third career and my most favourite,” Dunkley says. “I was working at a job I was unhappy with, and my partner signed us up for a hat-making class the school board offered at night, just down the street at Central Tech.”
That class sparked something in Dunkley, and he hasn’t stopped making hats since.
“I was a scientist. I’d never designed before,” he says. “Because my background is not art, I had to mature and grow as an artist.”
Part of that growth has included learning with the luminaries of the field. He’s studied with theatrical milliner Barbara Hobbs and is off to England soon to study under former royal milliner Rose Cory, who designed hats for the Queen Mother.
Dunkley’s classically handmade headwear runs the gamut — top hats, bridal veils, headbands — and he works with everything from felt to furs, silver wire, beads, feathers and more.
“I love feathers,” he says. “They’re my favourite embellishment.”
Since opening his studio, his work has been featured in national magazines and at Toronto Fashion Week and Fashion Cares. He recently designed a hat for Cheryl Tiegs to wear at Hats On for Awareness, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s gala fundraiser.
But hats aren’t just for fashionistas and hipsters, and there’s no such thing as a head that’s not suited for hats, Dunkley says.
“Hats are like great clothes. If the proportion and size are correct, they’ll look great,” he says. “The colours and embellishments have to match the face, and you have to be comfortable having a crown on your head.”
Dunkley is one of just 30 milliners around the world to receive a Hatty, which Hat Life publisher Denise Keller says “serve[s] to intensify the spotlight on the headwear industry in a manner that not only honours individual contributions, but draws international attention to the exciting developments occurring in this extremely dynamic fashion segment.”
See Dunkley’s designs at kcshats.com or at Studio 998 at 998 Bathurst St.