From Russia With Love: Learning Millinery in Moscow

What it’s like learning millinery in Russia, in Jesse Newton’s own words.

Why millinery? Why not clothes or shoes or bags or other accessories? 

Well, learning millinery is something I’ve never done before, and it’s something that’s always interested me. It’s so elegant and sophisticated.

From Russia With Love: Learning Millinery in Moscow | Track Mode

Jesse and Iva. Image: Jesse Newton

Have you made hats before? Or any other kind of clothing? 

Before this internship, I had never sketched or made any hats! Millinery was something I’d always wanted to make, but I honestly had no idea where to even start! I felt like learning millinery was my next new thing, and I’m loving every minute of it!

Who are your fashion icons and why? 

My biggest fashion icon is none other than the Lady Gaga! I love that she constantly takes risks, reinvents herself, but never forgets who she truly is. I’ve been a Little Monster since the beginning! Haha

How would you describe your style?

I would describe my style as all over the place: I’m a happy mix between classy chic and Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!  Some days I wear all black while others I’m wearing silver metallic pants, cheetah print, and bleached denim. I definitely try not to stick to one style, I love switching things up and trying unexpected things!

Who is your favourite hat-maker and why? 

Besides Iva (of course) I would have to say my favourite hat-maker would be Philip Treacy. I love his unique shapes and silhouettes, and he also worked with Alexander McQueen to make outlandish and gorgeous works of art. I admire their work so much.

How did you find out about Iva? 

While on the hunt for internships this past semester, I was lying in bed on Instagram late one school night flipping through the discovery section. I saw this gorgeous model wearing this extravagant fuchsia-coloured hat and I was mesmerised. I decided to look at more on her website where I found her email address. Being the brave soul that I am, figuring I had nothing to lose. I sent her a quick email about myself and how I love her work (expecting to never hear back from her, by the way)! When I woke the next morning, I had an email from Iva expressing her interest in me, and the rest is history!

From Russia With Love: Learning Millinery in Moscow | Track Mode

What do you like about Iva’s work? 

Iva’s work looks so amazing and she always loves to experiment with different things! She describes her working process as very experimental, which is so fascinating to watch, and it is always an adventure for the both of us. She’s not afraid to try new things, and she mixes new, urban concepts with her formal millinery training to create unique, stunning pieces of art!

How is Moscow so far? Do you like it? Is this your first time? What were your first impressions? How is it different from home? 

It really hit me that I was leaving America when the person beside me on the airplane to Moscow was speaking Russian to the flight attendant, … then it also hit me that I spoke very little Russian. Needless to say I knew I was in for the experience of a lifetime!

Yes, this is my first time in Moscow! My first impression coming into the city was that Moscow had tons of really cool architecture, and that there were tons of people! Now, I do love the city and the architecture, but the one thing I didn’t think enough about was how much walking I’d be doing every day! I went from driving everywhere to walking everywhere and it has definitely been a difficult adjustment! While I’ve been here for two months I have lost 27 pounds (12 kilograms)!!

From Russia With Love: Learning Millinery in Moscow | Track Mode

What are you favourite things about Moscow?

One of my favourite things to do here in Moscow is to walk through Gorky Park after work with Iva. We people-watch, listen to live performers, and relax after a long day at work!

What have you learned from Iva so far? 

From Iva, I have learned so much! The process of constructing a millinery piece, as well as how to be a perfectionist. When I first started learning millinery and sewing, Iva would inspect my work, point out a mistake, then hand it back for me to re-do! By the end of my internship, I got to where I could really inspect my own work, and redo my mistakes without having to be told. Also, I learned a golden rule: Just because you spend time on it, it doesn’t make it good! I learned to become emotionally detached from my work (…or at least a little bit) and view my pieces with a more critical eye!

From Russia With Love: Learning Millinery in Moscow | Track Mode

I see you’ve done a fashion shoot. What was the experience like? How long did it take? What were the things you had to do for it? Did you enjoy it? What did you learn? 

Yes! We did two photoshoots while I’ve been here! We shot Iva’s new Look Book 2017 (check out her Instagram and Facebook to see the beautiful work) and it was incredible to be working in such an artistic, professional setting! Iva put me in charge of taking backstage photos for her different social media platforms, and it was a long, tiring, and  amazing day!

What will you miss about Russia, Iva, and your internship? 

What I will miss most about Russia will definitely be Iva and my roommate, Anya! Both have become great friends of mine, and I have come to cherish our time together these past few months! For Russia, I will miss the gorgeous architecture and the wonderful Moscow weather!

From Russia With Love: Learning Millinery in Moscow | Track Mode

Image: Jesse Newton

What do you hope to learn? What plans do you have for your career? 

When I came here, Iva asked me the same question! I told her I wasn’t sure, but I want to learn to be more detail oriented, have a better understanding of the millinery process (which I now know is fascinating and VERY detail oriented!)

What plans do I have for my career? When I get back to Mississippi, I will start my senior year of college and I can’t wait to be back with all my wonderful friends and professors! As far as my next big adventure,  I am showing a full collection in October at Kansas City Fashion Week in Kansas City, Missouri; this will be my first of many collections to come and I can’t wait to start sewing for it, as well as throwing in a few millinery pieces!!

As for my career after college, I hope to move to New York for a fashion design/ patternmaking job, adopt a few cats, and live happily ever after!!

I’d also like to say a huge thank you to my friends, my Mississippi State University professors, and especially my parents and brother for always believing in me, and encouraging me to be my very best! I couldn’t have come here to Moscow without their support and encouragement!! They all mean the world to me!

This piece has been slightly edited for brevity and style.

Track Mode is a horse racing and fashion site founded and curated by Nina O’Brien. Subscribe to our newsletter for exclusive race day fashion edits delivered straight to your inbox, and find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google +.