Meet Yuki Isshiki, de woman behind Demure Couture hat, the most amazing hats that are designed and made in Amsterdam. Born in Japan, moved to London but ended up in Amsterdam where she designs and makes every hat herself. By hand. From the first moment Yuki started, Belle’s Club founder Sylvia was a great admirer and fan of Yuki’s hats. And she’s convinced you will be too after reading this interview with Yuki.
What is your first memory of clothes and style?
That would definitely be my grand mother. She had an amazing style! Her family used to have a kimono fabric business in Japan and she would know everything about fabrics. She never followed fashion, but she was so stylish. When we would buy clothes together she would tell me how it’s made and if it’ s good quality. For her it was all about style en that was a very good lesson for me, and still has a really big influence on me.
How did you become a hatmaker?
After graduating University in Japan, I moved to London at the age of 23 to work for banks and consultancy firms. But I always liked to make things by hand and one day I found this opportunity to learn the craft of hat making from a lady who made hats for Vivienne Westwood. Hat making remained my hobby in London, but when I came to Amsterdam in 2007 more and more people told me that I should turn the hat making into my work. And so I did. The entrepreneurial spirit is more alive in Amsterdam I guess. In the beginning I worked from home for a select range of private clients, but in 2016 I decided to start with a small collection and a brand: Demure Couture hat.
What distinguishes your work?
The quality of the material, the handwork and the fact that there is only one unique piece of each design. I learned a lot about the quality of the fabric of my teacher in London and of course my grandmother, what the fabric is made of is really important. For instance, not all wool is the same. Therefore I work with a supplier who really respects my values and wishes. Besides the quality of the fabric I do everything by hand, I don’t want to mass-produce. There are things in the hat making process that can also be done by a sewing machine, but I still want to do it by hand because it’s nicer when you don’t see stitches. Plus, it can also be more comfortable. But obviously, it takes more time as well. If you want to make money in fashion you think of a generic design and let them be produced in hundreds, but that’s not my value.
How do you think about the fashion industry nowadays?
Fashion has really never been my thing. But I like making things with my hands and I love fabric and somehow I ended up in fashion. For me, my brand is more about personality, style and quality. Happily for me, people are more into craft and quality lately. That’s probably because there’s more and more awareness about the flaws of the fashion industry, which is a good thing. But I must say I have a little problem with #sustainability. People sometimes tell me to promote the sustainable side of my brand because it’s a thing now, but I think it should be your base instead of branding.
Where does your standpoint on a sustainable base come from?
I grew up in Japan and I’m raised with the idea that everything is given to me with hard work. Japan is not a really rich country if you look at recourses, so it’s really in that culture that we are very careful with recourses we have. We are raised with the idea that you have to work hard to have things, so I don’t throw things away. If I have dinner I don’t like, I still finish it because an animal or plant died for it. The least I can do is to give some consciousness to what has been given to me. Since here’s no space for a conscious mind within mass consumption, mass consumption isn’t something I associate with.
Who’s your spirit animal?
I think that would be my father and grandmother, she had such a big influence on me since I was small. And these two never got on well funny enough. They were always fighting. My brain is my father and my heart is my grandmother.
What does being independent mean to you?
It means responsibility and a lot of pressure. I often end up making decisions and that’s the hardest part. Commercial and creative don’t always go along, so balance is important. On the other hand: I’m my own boss so and can allow myself some real creative freedom and that’s really nice. If I’ve had done it for the money I would’ve started another business.