Harvy Santos


Harvy Santos didn’t plan to be a fashion designer—fashion found him. His unusual entry into the fashion industry, specifically hat design, has been nothing but pure success. For the second time, he is a part of the prestigious Hedonism exhibition at London Fashion Week this fall. The British Fashion Council event celebrates and rewards up-and-coming British hat designers. These designers get the opportunity to show their product at London Fashion Week, and also receive mentoring and elite input into their business plans and fashion direction—aiding and challenging milliners. The initiative was created by Stephen Jones and offers an ideal platform for emerging British milliners like Santos.

Santos began his career as a ballet dancer in Hong Kong. In London, his ballet background still influences his design. “In ballet we always move and try to make shapes with our bodies. I try to capture that in my hats. In my bird collection (Birdy, Spring/Summer 2016), I tried to collect them mid-flight. It’s all about capturing that kind of movement, not at one obvious angle,”


His latest collection for Autumn/Winter 2016-2017, Battalion, showcases a traditional military theme. According to him, “Military fashion has a special part in my life. I’ve always liked the look of formal military wear from the Romans to modern times because there’s always some sort of regalia. I tried to look at it in a different way. With all this regalia you forget about the simplicity. I maintained the shape to look and feel military, but I made it more fashion and chic with a Harvy twist.” The latest collection highlights signature geometric and bold shapes with shades of grey, eggplant purple, wine and dark green. The hats exude energy through an explosion of colors. “I take that messiness and make it beautiful and elegant for a woman.”

All of his hats are hand-made in his London studio. Depending on the design, envisioning and completing one hat can take anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days. “The process involves having a base first. I block by hand, and everything is hand-made in my studio, except when I need a sewing machine. The trims are our own; we dye our own feathers and bend our own wire. It all goes back to craft and doing really fine work to make sure everything is perfect. It is a luxury product.” The wearing of the creation is his favorite part of hat design. He tries to make his hats look effortless and light. “Whenever I finish one I put it on like a child without his parents home trying on clothes.”

Santos defines his style and hats as slightly pop with an elegant twist. And that’s what makes his hats unique—they insist that you take a second glance to fully capture all that they offer. “I am very proud of my achievements as an early brand, and that people have actually responded to my esthetic, which is different.”


Santos draws inspiration from everything around him, but says if there is one historical time period that inspires and influences his designs, it is the twenties. “That was when people started to see the modernity of the world, and pushed boundaries and shapes.”

Today’s hats need to address both style and usage. “You put it on and you instantly become stylish and chic. But, it can also protect you from the sun. Sometimes it is just pure decoration, which is also a part of life.”

His favorite hat from the latest collection, he says, is the Rae Busby, a large square hat with purple and black feathers and a chain draped in the middle. “The chains on the guards in London was the first thing that really hit me when I moved there. I feel like this hat summarizes London.” and his own journey as well. When it comes to creation, he adds, “I always think about the present and the future.”

Text by Eden Marcus