by Karen Leong in New Fashion on Friday 14 September 2007

After winning the i-D Styling and Maria Luisa awards at 2007’s International Talent Support (a.k.a. ITS) – an annual event in Trieste supporting young fashion designers and photographers – a shell-shocked Justin Smith threw himself into celebrations. Smith, born in 1978, is the millinery world’s new rising star. His MA show at London’s Royal College of Art was extremely well received. ‘The concept for my show was based all around the performative hat’, he says. ‘I started with the models, found out what they performed with and worked back from there. For example, the burlesque fan dancer wore the fans on her head as part of the hat, and took them off and performed on the catwalk with them. So the main themes were the performative hat inspired by circus, performance and an East End Victorian funeral’. His graduate collection is bound to take your breath away. So how did this ambitious and hardworking milliner go from training as a chef to hairdressing to millinery? ‘It has been an organic process on following my creativity’, he explains. ‘The story is too long for a better explanation!’ While Justin labours in his studio on private commissions and collaborates with designers for fashion week, he continues to be a hairdresser three days a week. But with such obvioustalent, he’ll be far too busy making hats to hold down the part-time job for long.