Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Celebration of Hats - by Iva Ksenevich

Fate conspires in the strangest ways to bring hats to us.  And wonderful adventures to accompany the hats.

You might remember that way back in March we went to a "do" at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan (see our posting here).  We didn't tell you then, but we were stopped by a gorgeous woman named Zlata, who complimented us on our hats, and, with the magic of her smart phone, showed us photo upon photo of hats made by her sister Iva in Moscow.  Good thing we wear glasses, which kept our eyes from popping too far out of their sockets.  Zlata said her sister would be coming to the U.S. in July, and asked if we would like to meet Iva and maybe do something with her hats.  Of course we said Da.

Four months later, Iva came to town with nearly her entire collection and we found ourselves in Zlata's apartment, in a frenzy of hat wearing (scroll down to see that).  It all went so well that Iva invited us to model three hats each for her website, and booked tres sympa (very cool) photographer Francois Charlier to memorialize the event.  Did we mention that Iva and Zlata were two-thirds of a set of triplets?  And we had the wonderful fortune to meet Alisa, the third member of the triumvirate.

Iva's millinery philosophy includes the concept and illusion of "motion" -- through textured, layered, sweeping fabrics, textiles and designs. Mix in a healthy color sense and a sense of wonder and et voila! That's Iva in the center.  We're each wearing one of her hand made creations.

To give you a taste of what you'll see on the website, we've included just a few shots from the shoot.  These were all taken at the periphery of Little Italy, and the tourists had as much fun watching, and taking their own photos, as we did voguing around in Iva's chapeaux.  (Iva and Francois were very patient with the interruptions.)  The opening photo is also from the shoot.  (In case you didn't guess.)

Can you tell how much fun we were having?

That's some of the finished product.  Let us show you some of the many hats Iva brought from Moscow, that we got to try on at Zlata's apartment.

Here's Valerie in the hat Jean is wearing in the opening photo.  The colorful, layered geometric lines and suede-like texture in this sophisticated grey hat create a much more interesting landscape than a simple toque.

At the end of the evening of frenzied try-ons, Iva kindly offered us each one of a selection of her confections.  This is the one Jean took home.

The hat Valerie is wearing in the opening photo is the one she took home.  In the opening photo, it reads grey and black with brown and black feathers. But as Jean illustrates below, from the other side and back, the hat most definitely reads bright red. Iva's ability to create this sense of surprise is one of the most endearing qualities of her designs.

The white plastic splash looks like one of those old National Geographic mid-air stop-frame photographic images of of spilled milk splashing, a true embodiment of Philip Treacy's devotion to motion.   It's actually a piece of plastic that she shredded and melted.  (Valerie wears this in the third shoot photo above.)  The simple design on a black velvet headband is at once amusing and arresting.

Iva called this her fish net hat.  The net, paired here with a small red disk, is actually made of metal and very sturdy.   Iva delights in using surprising and mundane materials and transforming them into things of beauty.  She wore it beautifully and the color complimented her grey dress.

Here are the three of us, this time with Jean wearing the fishnet hat.

One of the most interesting results of this entire exercise was our realization that hats we never thought would look good on us surprised us by being imminently wearable and attractive. It was a lesson that we have to continue to go outside our comfort zone. Case in point, the hat Iva is wearing in the big photo of the three of us in front of the purple pink painted wall looked terrific on Valerie too.

That the same hat would look so great on all three of us was a great revelation.

Another of Eva's hats used a striped, pleated double disk design.

And here it is, seen from the other side.

Iva designed this feathered crown so that women with long hair could secure it to the nape of the neck for a royal look.

Jean tried it two different ways.

Valerie's style, tilted more to the front, looked very 1950s Norell/Norman Parkinson.  Iva told us that she sterilized the feathers, which she'd found, before creating the hat.  We hadn't thought to ask, but once you think of it, it's comforting to know.

This purple cone shaped hat with colorful accents was a killer look.

Valerie wears the purple hat in the opposite direction, for a completely different effect.  Iva blew us away when she told us she had only taken two millinery classes, neither one more than two weeks long!

This tall feathered hat could be worn forwards or backwards, displaying more -- or less -- red. It is incredibly dramatic. And lord knows, we love drama!

Of course, we'd have to remove such a tall hat if we were to have gotten into a taxi (speaking from past experience).  But as we've often said, one must suffer for one's art...

This red and pink floral velveteen hat has a short brim. Jean was extremely hesitant to try it but once she did, she loved it.

Valerie tried wearing it back to front, for a sort of flower-power/Nehru effect.

This brown hat, which resembled either a bird in flight or an exotic flower, could also be worn forward or backward, tilted to one side or the other. Each angle showed different colors and textures.  Here's one way:

And here's another:

We both fell in love with this creation. and wound up calling it the manta ray hat, but we could just as easily have called it the bat hat or the stealth bomber hat.   Jean is wearing it in our second photo.  Here it is on Valerie.

Below is a closeup of this amazingly constructed hat, about which Jean has actually had dreams!

And here it is upside down.  Each of Iva's hats has her label in it. Notice how the golden oval is hand stitched?  Iva described spending quite a lot of time on each of her works, making sure she gets the details exactly the way she wants them.

We wanted to end this post with the most dramatic, evocative piece in Iva's collection. We called this "The Miss Haversham" hat.  Not sure the Dickens anti-hero was an appropriate choice for the name, but we were thinking along the lines of a very proper English woman of a certain age, a certain social class and a certain time period.  Jean is wearing this in the fourth photo above (paired with her antique silk folding children's parasol).  Valerie takes it out for a spin below.

But you really must see it from behind as well.

The serendipity involved in this connection makes our heads spin.  That our trip to the Classic Car Club of Manhattan event in honor of Luca Forgeois (a local boy from Long Island who aspires to be a Formula1 driver) was the genesis is icing on the cake.

Needless to say, we are both thrilled with our Iva Ksenevich hats but also more thrilled to have connected with such a talented, artistic milliner.

(For your future reference, the Russian word for hat is shapkah.)


  1. I LOVE Iva's hats - the shapes are so interesting, and the fact that they can be worn different ways makes them even better. Given my short/long hair, these are the perfect size of hat for me so that you can still see my hair. The large mesh one is fabulous, but perhaps not the best for daily wear. The splash one is very cool!

  2. How wonderfully creative and spectacular these hats are! The white plastic splash is quite dramatic and the one that I think Valerie chose in the brown & black with red is a beauty. You must have had such fun!
    jill in Ontario

  3. Lovely! And here my post on our chance encounter:

  4. Ladies, it was my pleasure to share my art with you! Looking forward to more collaborations int he future, you are amazing! Warmest hugs form Moscow! Iva

  5. I am in love! Gorgeous headwear, and the two of you are perfect models for Iva's designs.