Lai Symes

2000 QEST Scholar - Millinery
East Sussex

Lai makes bespoke hats from her workroom in the grounds of Eastbourne College, East Sussex, nestled between the sea and the South Downs National Park. Her hats are the opposite of fast fashion; they are made carefully by hand using traditional couture millinery techniques resulting in one of a kind, exquisitely finished pieces which compliment the wearer and reflect how they want to feel.  Lai’s skill and passion is in working with each customer to design their unique hat for whatever the occasion and materials are often especially sourced or hand dyed to achieve an exact match with a customer’s outfit.

Lai was awarded her QEST Scholarship in 2000. She used this to further her study of couture millinery techniques by training under Rose Cory MBE.

I am most inspired by the materials I use. Whether it be a tiny piece of silk kimono fabric from Japan given to me by my sister or vintage brass studs picked up somewhere years before and kept for just the right trimming.