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In Conversation With Claire Howeson

We didn't have to go far to find this
month's muse. Just around the corner
from us in beautiful Chelsea, we
caught up with Claire Howeson,
Founder and designer at Penmayne
of London.

Coming from a corporate background
and faced with a dying urge to be
more creative, Claire signed up to a
millinery course. Needless to say, she
has never looked back. Her mission
now is to bring back beautiful hats as
everyday accessories - hats that you
will want to wear, fall in love with and
simply won't want to leave home
without. We sat down with Claire to
find out how it all started and what
inspires her to keep creating. Here's
what she had to say…

Claire Howeson

Can you tell us a bit about your story? How did Penmayne of London start?

I began my working life as a Lawyer in the City. I loved it but had wanted to run my own business for as long as I can remember... so I took the leap 3½ years ago now. Looking back, the professional training and commercial experience has been the backbone of my own business so I am really pleased I started there.

I learnt millinery as a hobby whilst I was a lawyer – a little creative outlet in a corporate world. When I left the City, I spent 6 months working for two milliners in London and studying in the evenings. Then I just went for it and have learnt most of my technical skills on the job. The best way to learn is just to dive in and do it!!

Where does your passion for millinery come from?

My grandmother was a costume designer for Film and I always loved the hats in her drawings. There is something so elegant about a woman in a hat, the silhouette is beautiful.

When I started learning about the millinery industry it really struck me that hats, as an every day accessory needed some more attention. Everyone needs a great hat in their life. A great hat is like a great friend; timeless, ageless and always puts a spring in your step and a smile on your face. That's where Penmayne started…

Claire Howeson

What inspires you to keep creating beautiful hats?

Seeing them on my customers, day after day. There is nothing more wonderful than seeing something you have created, and poured your heart into, being worn by somebody who looks and feels great in it. Our focus is on great hat shapes, quality materials and simple but beautiful trims – so all you have to do is wear it and look great.

Can you walk us through a day in your life?

I can run you through a day in my life!! I am an early riser so I try and exercise in the morning before the day runs away with me. I tend to do all my meetings before lunch and then spend the afternoon in the studio. I try really hard to finish work by 7pm so that I have an evening, otherwise it can be all consuming. Life as a small business owner is an adventure and every day is completely different but I love that about it.

Claire Howeson

How do you make your clothes work for you and your busy lifestyle?

It's really important for me to feel good in what I wear every day– making that extra bit of effort makes such a difference. I wear a lot of denim, monochrome and grey so it's really easy to mix and match. I had my colours done recently and was told that I should wear bold bright colours rather than blacks and greys – obviously I ignored it! And I never wear heels. I wish I could but I'm on the go all day and I would never survive.

What are your go-to wardrobe staples?

Denim, denim and more denim! You can't go wrong. I also love a polo-neck and a collarless jacket in the winter, it never gets boring.

Here at Wrap London HQ we are firm believers in effortless style. Do you have any tips for someone looking to add a hat to their everyday attire?

Layers. It's all about the layers. I also think it's important not to overthink it and keep it relaxed. I love wearing hats with jeans, trainers and a big jumper and scarf, they look great as part of that dressed-down look. Most importantly it's about feeling really comfortable in a hat, once you get to that stage you will be reaching for it every time you leave the house, whatever you are wearing.

Claire Howeson

And finally...
The best thing about my job is... I never quite know what might happen tomorrow
If I wasn't running Penmayne of London, I would be... running another small business
My guilty pleasure is... Artisan Du Chocolat, Salted Caramels. Dreamy
Words to live by... Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much
My ideal breakfast is... Toast & Marmalade (naughty!)
A day isn't complete until I've... had a bath, whatever the hour
All I want for Christmas is... A Vinyl Player (pleeeaase)

Get the look
Shop the full A/W16 collection here >
Photography by Sandra Seaton @sandraseatonphoto_
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