Local Milliner to Have Two Hat Designs on Display at 2020 London Hat Week Exhibition
An avid arts-and-crafts girl since she was young, milliner Kristin Mobley has always pursued her creative side.
“I learned to sew very early in life. I was an only child and a Montessori child so in my free time, I made purses, jewelry, and all sorts of stuff,” Mobley says. When she entered college, she had plans to study art and design but was dissuaded to do so, warned that artists earn a meager living. Instead, she chose to go to school in Virginia where she studied child development. While there, she met Mark Mobley, whom she would later marry. When he mentioned that he was from Louisville, Kentucky, she told him, “Take me to the Derby!”
That he did. In fact, the couple moved to Louisville permanently, and for 10 years she worked as a private nanny for several families, many of whom employed their own landscapers, maids and milliners. Each time a milliner came to the house, Mobley was riveted.
“I’d observe these lovely hat makers and would think, ‘I could do that!’” Mobley says. Though she played around with hat design, she never dove in completely.
Not long after she married Mark, Mobley experienced tragedy when her mother, who had battled mental illness for years, took her own life. Several years later, when Mobley had children of her own, she suffered from debilitating postpartum depression.
“When you have a mother who overdosed on pills, the last thing you want to tell your doctor is, ‘I’m depressed. I need medication to help turn things around,’” Mobley says. “At the same time, after losing my mom, I felt like I had to be the best mother that I could be.”
Ultimately, she sought treatment, engaged in self-care, and now feels 100% better.
Mobley’s daughters Liza Lynn (2) and Caroline Mark (1) have transformed her world view — making her appreciate what she has and evaluate what she needs.
“It’s been wonderful having children, but I needed an outlet,” Mobley says. Though she resold retro clothing, jewelry and consigned items from her closet, she wanted to give return to her interest in hat design.
After posting pictures to Instagram, her designs began garnering attention. The positive response from fashion-forward folks inspired her to enter several hat designs into a contest with the theme “to the future and back” in which designers were asked to submit a hat that was either futuristic or retro. Mobley chose to submit a flower crown, plus three others. In December 2019, when she learned that two of her designs were selected to showcase in the 2020 London Hat Week Exhibition, she was honored. She was even more flattered when she was told that she was the only milliner from Kentucky with a selected hat.
“I was in shock, honestly,” Mobley says. “My whole life my grandmother told me that with my talent, I could do anything I set my mind to, but you kind of roll your eyes at that stuff. But if London thinks I have talent, maybe my grandma was right!”
London Hat Week invites 150 milliners from 23 countries to highlight roughly 125 hats. While at London Hat Week, Mobley will have the opportunity to take courses and hear speeches from master milliners, including the Queen Mother’s.
“There will be lots of press, including the editors from Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue Magazines!” she says.
Mobley gleans inspiration for her designs by perusing thrift shops and studying fashion icons like Princess Di.
“You can draw inspiration from anywhere,” Mobley says. “I’m open-ended when it comes to ideas because I love different, unique things.”
She once nannied for a family where the husband was the fire chief and his helmet served to inspire a cool design.
Mobley never knows where and when inspiration will strike. One day a bottle of prenatal vitamins flew out of her medicine cabinet and an idea began to take shape for an entry into a contest in Melbourne in which she was challenged to “make something out of nothing.”
To get a handle on what is currently trending, Mobley follows spring and summer collections by popular designers. She likes fashion designer Richard Quinn because of his affinity for floral/retro/polka dots.
“I’m all about the flower power,” Mobley says. “In fact, a lot of my stuff is inspired by my garden.”
That comes in handy since, according to Mobley, everyone wants a flower on their hat for the Derby.
“I’m always looking at the Aussies and the Brits to figure out what to bring to the Derby,” Mobley says. “Having said that, I do have a wild side and I march to the beat of my own drum, to a certain extent.”
When it comes to hat design, Mobley finds that it’s important to sit down and doodle. That way when the time comes to make the hat, she has a sense of direction. She designs hats for clients for the Kentucky Derby in which she matches a hat design to a dress. She’s already fielding requests for this year’s race.
“I have a local radio host who is interested in having me design a hat for his girlfriend,” she says. “There’s also a local boxer who wants me to work with his date on designing a hat.”
She’s thrilled to do it because this is where she’s in her element.
“Fashion is so fun!” Mobley adds. “It’s fun to get dressed up and stand out. Even if someone doesn’t like what you’re wearing or they say, ‘Wow, what is that?’ I enjoy the curiosity of it all.”
The Derby, of course, is the culmination of fun fashion. In fact, Mobley calls it a “runway of spectacular fashion.”
“It’s just a good time — the verve and the horses. It’s so much fun,” Mobley says. “I could make a coffee table book from all of the awesome hat designs I saw at the Derby last year.
“Millinery can be isolating so I’m looking forward to learning from all these people who are masters at their craft,” she adds.
For instance, she plans to take a class in London from a milliner who teaches how to make a hat out of straw and then a purse to match.
For her, the biggest challenge of her career is simply finding the time to do it all.
“Setting that time aside to be creative and try new things is the hardest part,” she says.
Currently, Mobley designs for Revelry Boutique, a local gallery that requested to carry her unique hat designs. As far as future plans, Mobley hopes to add jewelry design to her repertoire — mainly earrings. She likes the idea of offering a hat/purse package as bamboo purses are all the rage right now. In addition, she’s toying with the idea of designing shoes.
“I’m also trying to think of an interesting way to honor my mother,” she says.
In her spare time, Mobley enjoys gardening, reading and traveling, normally to attend a concert or music festival with her husband. Her favorite vacation spot is New Orleans because, like the Derby, it’s a big party.
“It’s all about the hats and masks, food & fashion,” Mobley says. “They have their influence from the French like we do. It’s my favorite place on the planet.”
Mobley’s all-time favorite hat design is the one featured atop Audrey Hepburn’s head in the iconic movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”
“The lampshade — it doesn’t get any more classic than that,” says Mobley, a huge fan of grand designs.
“The bigger, the badder,” she says. “I love the awe — the wow.”
Find Mobley on Instagram: @derbyrevival or @krismob or visit her website at derbyrevival.com for more information.