NOBODY USED TO WEAR HATS IN CHINA. SO WHAT? 中国没有帽饰的传统 – 那又怎样？
Elisabeth Koch definitely doesn’t need any coffee to keep going. She is an avid tea drinker though, and a very nice person to talk to. And she is a talented milliner – one of the few in China and probably the only foreigner. But there is something more. She has passion in her eyes, and by talking to her, and by looking at her while dealing with her daily work, you can definitely tell that she loves her job.
A job that is made of photo shootings, celebrities, high teas, parties, glossy magazines, models & designers but also of long hours in her studio sewing. And while she needs physiotherapy to deal with her back pain (too many hours sitting in the same wrong position while sewing), she doesn’t need anything else to keep going. She seems to have found the perfect recipe for her personal success: balance between her personal time and working hours.
About this, and much more, we talked when we met at her studio in Beijing last week.
Where are you from?[Laughs, but we actually laughed a lot during the interview, so this doesn’t really count] I sound American, but there is so much more than that! I left the USA when I was 12 – which means that I missed lots of happenings in the normal life of every American: I didn’t go to prom and I didn’t drive any of those big cars. Born from Dutch parents, with some Welsh origins, I moved to Berlin first and then to Luxembourg. Then London for university and finally Amsterdam for a master degree. If you ask me where my home is right now, I would say it’s Beijing, where my kids are and where I feel comfortable in my daily activities. But if we want to go deeper, I think my home is in Atlanta, Georgia, where my parents are. Every time I go back – at least once a year – it’s like going back to my childhood, with my parents telling me and my siblings what to do and what not. It’s fun.
（笑。其实整个采访的过程我们一直在笑，所以这也不算什么。）我口音像美国人，但是背后的故事更多！我12岁时离开美国 – 这就意味着我其实错过了很多普通美国人的正常生活：我没参加过毕业舞会，也没有开过那些大车。我的父母是荷兰人，并有些威尔士血统，我先搬去柏林，又去了卢森堡。然后我去伦敦读大学，去阿姆斯特丹（终于！）读硕士。如果你现在问我的家在哪，我会说是北京，我的孩子在这里，我对我在这里的生活感到舒服。但是如果更深入一些，我认为我的家在佐治亚州的亚特兰大，是我父母生活的地方。每次我回去的时候 – 我每年至少回去一次 – 我觉得回到了我的童年，那时我父母总是告诫我和我的兄弟姐妹哪些可以做，哪些事情不能做。非常有趣。
Have you always wanted to design hats?
I’ve always wanted to create something new with my hands. It’s because I come from a very creative family and since I was a kid I’ve loved to dress up and realise my clothes and accessories by myself. Sadly I was not able to channel this passion when I was younger, and I didn’t go to any design or creative school. It’s only more recently that I decided this would be my career, and signed up for a hat designing course.
What’s in a hat?
A hat is an extra accessory which, most of the times, is not necessary – unless, of course, we are referring to functional hats. They are decorations, exactly like jewels. But I also see them as masks. Stephen Jones, milliner, once said that with a hat “even a working mum can be a teenager”. You can hide behind it, and you can be a completely different person, if you want to. I think that’s the beauty of a hat.
大多数时候，帽饰是额外的装饰，并不是必要的 – 当然，除非我们指的是那些功能性的帽饰。它们是装饰，就跟珠宝一样。但我认为它们是面具。帽饰设计师Stephen Jones曾经说过，一顶帽子能让“一位工作的母亲变成少女”。如果你想的话，你可以藏在后面，变成一个完全不同的人。我觉得这是帽饰的美处所在。
Which are the milestones in your career?[Laughs, but then again – it happened pretty often] I think the very first step in the right direction was to get a studio out of my house. It was very similar to a cave – a basement room with no window. But it was my own hat studio. I felt so happy and free to pursue my dream! More recently, I think being on the cover of the 100th issue of Vogue China was a pretty big deal! Mario Testino took an amazing picture with one of my hats, and WOW! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the magazine! Another milestone could definitely be my participation to a TED talk. I was so honoured and at the same time so terrified. I had to prepare so hard and practice day and night not to trail off. Haven’t seen the video yet – we’ll see how it went when it comes out!
（笑。不过就像上文提到的 – 我们总是在笑。）我认为在对的方向上迈出的第一步是在我家里划分出一个工作室。它很像一个山洞 – 没有窗户的地下室。但它是我自己的帽饰工作室。我高兴极了，而且我终于可以自由得追逐自己的梦想了！最近，我认为我的帽子登上Vogue中国第一百期的封面是件大事情。Mario Testino为我的帽饰拍了绝美的照片。当我看到杂志时，我简直不敢相信自己的眼睛。另一个里程碑是我去参加了TED的演讲。我感到无比荣幸的同时，也非常得受宠若惊。我日以继夜得努力准备和练习，生怕关键时刻掉链子。我还没看到视频 – 它播出的时候我们就能知道我表现得如何啦。
What’s your biggest dream?
Find a partner – not a creative one, more the MBA type. They should be as passionate as I am about hats but also more structured, and more business-oriented. I don’t mean to give away my ‘baby’, but I’m at a point where I need to make an important decision about the future of my company: if I want it to keep growing, I need some professional support from the business point of view. I would love someone to take their business brain into my studio and do the magics! But as I know it might take lots of time, I’m already looking for someone like that.
找到一个合作伙伴 – 不是具有创造性的，而是更倾向于MBA型的。他们需要拥有像我一样对帽饰的热情，但同时更有条理，更具有商业头脑。我不是说要把我的“孩子”送人，但是我到了一个为了我公司的未来需要做些重要决定的阶段：如果我想让公司壮大，我需要专业的商业视角的支持。我迫切的希望有人把他的商业头脑带到我的工作室里变魔术啦！但是我也意识到这需要很长的时间，我已经开始寻找这样的人了。
Are you proud of yourself?
Yes, I definitely am. When I see how many people are supportive and in love with my hats, I’m so deeply happy. And it’s growing every single day, things are happening, even in China, which is not a country where people wear hats traditionally. And I believe I’m among the people who made it happen.
If you could give one of your hats to someone famous, who would she be?
Well, many Chinese celebrities wear my pieces (among them, Angela Baby and Zhou Xun) but I would love to see one of them on Lady Gaga. She is such an icon! I almost had the opportunity when I met with her back-then stylist Nicola Formichetti. He told me they were looking into latex. I haven’t heard from him since, but every time I see latex, I think about that hat for Gaga. And who knows – another opportunity to design a hat for her might just come very soon!
嗯，很多中国明星都戴我的帽子（比方说，AngelaBaby，周迅，等等），但我希望Lady Gaga会佩戴我的帽子。她真是一个潮流标志。当我遇到她当时的造型师Nicola Formichetti时，我差点梦想成真。他告诉我他们想找些乳胶的材质。我没再收到过他的消息，但每次我看到乳胶材质，我都会想到给Gaga的帽饰。但是谁知道呢 – 也许为她设计帽饰的另一个机会很快就来了。
And I personally think that Lady Gaga would have so much fun in wearing Elisabeth’s pieces! I for sure did!
Indossare cappelli non e’ pratica molto diffusa in Cina, come pure in Italia, eppure Elisabeth Koch e’ riuscita a creare una tendenza. I suoi cappelli sono sulle teste delle celebrities, sulle copertine di Vogue e di Harper’s Bazaar e addirittura fanno capolino durante le TED talks. Eppure Elisabeth rimane con i piedi per terra, continua a fare tutto a mano e da sola, trascorrendo almeno 8 ore al giorno nel suo studio. Senza bere neanche un goccio di caffe’.
For the photo shooting at Elisabeth Koch studio I was delighted to wear:
white silk shirt白色丝绸衬衫 : Zara
pearl earrings 珍珠耳环: Dior
red lipstick 口红: Clinique hubby stick intense 03 mightiest maraschino
All the pictures of me where taken by Patrick Wong with his Canon 5D mark2.
我的照片由Patrick Wong用他的Canon 5D mark2拍摄。
Chinese translation by Vivian Zhou.
中文翻译由Vivian Zhou 完成。