Carole Denford has been a pioneer within the hat industry for more than 30 years, and was at the forefront of its revival during the early 1980s. Together with her husband Nigel and a team of exceptional staff, they opened six specialist hat shops, including the famous outlet at 58 Neal Street, Covent Garden. For more than 10 years their hats appeared in almost every magazines, and queues formed outside every day. With Carole’s adventurous buying The Hat Shop was the first to offer new British and international labels such as Marzi, Mühlbauer, Fred Bare, Grevi, Kokin etc… which caught the eye of the young, enterprising and creative Covent Garden ‘set’.
Musicians Annie Lenox, Boy George and Kim Wilde were regular visitors, as were actors such as Maureen Lipman and footballer Ian Wright… and it would have remained a great place to shop. But for the fact London’s greedy landlords began to push up rents significantly driving out the very businesses that had created that success.
So with their wide experience and inside knowledge of selling and making hats, and with a new generation hungry to learn, the Denford’s decided to move into publishing and in 1999 and with their daughter Alice, they set up The Hat Magazine as a trade journal for the international industry. Over the next 18 years they would travel the world visiting factories, designers, trade shows and events, judging competitions and learning about the skills of hat making from specialists.
When the magazine became too large to handle they passed it to Elly Stemerdink from the Netherlands, and Carole set up a small consultancy business. One of the ideas she had been nurturing was to reinstate the defunct British Hat Guild, but in a new format. Smaller designers and artistic makers were now the leading lights in the UK headwear industry and so a ‘Christmas drink’ was arranged to talk about forming a new British Hat Guild. And the story continues!