Manchester's Northern Quarter - H'atelier Jen Scott Russell

Jen's brimming with ideas in her new hat showroom

WHEN Jen Scott Russell went out for dinner with friends recently, a much younger, attractive man on another table couldn’t take his eyes off her. In fact, he was so smitten that he insisted on them having a photograph together…all because she was wearing a hat!

‘People always talk to you when you’re wearing a hat,’ says the delightful Jen, owner of trendy H’atelier in Manchester’s achingly hip Northern Quarter.

‘To me a hat is an untapped resource in anybody’s wardrobe. Sometimes I see all these lovely creatures on the catwalk or the red carpet and I feel they’ve missed something…it is of course, a hat.’

Summer of course, is when most women are thrown into a hat buying panic. Ascot, RHS Tatton Flower Show, weddings, degree ceremonies are all hat-wearing occasions but most designs you’d find in the shops aren’t terribly inspiring.

‘Oh but hats can transform a personality,’ insists Rusholme-based Jen.‘People come to me and say they couldn’t possibly wear such an outrageous design but then as soon as they put it on, they’re a foot taller and more confident. It’s wonderful to see.’

H’atelier recently moved from tucked away premises in the roof of a Northern Quarter back street to a much grander showroom, on Stevenson Square, where clients can really enjoy the process of having a bespoke hat created for them.

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If the hat is for a special occasion, the client is encouraged to bring along the outfit they’ll wear on the day perhaps even a dress she’d like to colour match and Jen begins to weave her magic.

‘The hat has got to work for the event as well as make the person feel extra special,’

‘So we’ll sit down and talk it through before we even start on a design.’Given her passion for creating delectable headgear it’s surprising too, to learn that Jen wasn’t always a milliner. She started as a menswear designer at the Royal College of Art and graduated into lecturing and web design but it was a move from London to Manchester that led to a late career change.

‘I started making hats in my basement at home,’ she reveals. ‘I did it there but it took up too much space, so that’s when I started to look for somewhere to base my business. And I always wanted to be in the Northern Quarter. I love the energy and the vibe and the fact that all the independent, creative businesses tend to be there as well.’

H’atelier, 10 Stevenson Square, Northern Quarter M1 1FBTel: 0161 236 1643www.hatelier.co.uk

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