There’s something so romantic and regal about hats. They instantly transport you to a time when living life was an art, demanding a certain etiquette and grace. Of course one observed many a hat at the recent much-hyped royal weddings in England and Wales, but largely hats have disappeared from the fashion scene. So while today this once-a-staple of a lady’s closet may seem like a relic of a bygone era, Nazgul Nejmi, half-Cypriot half-Pakistani business graduate, is bringing hats back from fashion obscurity in her current hedonistic home town, Dubai, under the label Nazgul Nejmi Millinery.
“I have always had a fascination for hats. My twin sister and I would love to dress up ala the 1920s when we were little girls,” says Nejmi of her passion. “In today’s world, hats have slipped away but Dubai hosts annual races where they always have titles for the best dressed lady and the best hat. So one observes a lot of women trying to make a statement there, and that’s where I really started three years ago when my hat caught people’s attention.” Although Nejmi couldn’t enter the competition because she had passed the deadline, her creation elicited enough compliments for her to take this business seriously. At the launch of the Burj Khalifa, she made a hat upon which her own tiny version of the sky scraper stood, earning her recognition in the Dubai press.
Given how Dubai has managed to retain traditional clothing, despite its hyper modern nature, the city provides the best market for headgears like hats that are a more stylised method of covering one’s hair. Hence Nejmi’s Millinery does the whole gamut from tiaras to funky scarves and headgear, to a wide spectrum of hats. “Dubai has become very fashion conscious over the years and hats are an untapped market,” says Nejmi. “It’s fashionable and artistic and a great accessory that expresses a lot more about one’s personality than any other article. A hat has to be designed to fit the face, form and personality of the person who wears it. Hence each piece is by default custom-made and Nejmi produces only one of each kind to retain the exclusivity of the product.
“Hat making is a secret skill that people don’t really want to teach you,” says Nejmi, explaining how she taught herself. She learnt from researching on whatever hat related information she could find and is now applying for courses abroad to improve on those self-learnt skills.
“Annually I make about 22 to 30 hats for the races, which are my own creations and then take special orders for occasions like weddings and fashion shows,” reveals Nejmi. The smaller hats are priced at around $100 and the cost of bigger hats goes upto $700. Although a self-professed period film buff, Nejmi has equally mastered making futuristic and artistic creations that usually grace the ramp or the head of someone eccentric. “I’d love to make a hat for the Dubai Sheikh’s wife, Princess Haya, and someone like Lady Gaga.” Her personal favourite though is the pillbox hat, a Jackie Kennedy favourite, and a fez hat, that is reminiscent of her Turkish Cypriot heritage.
Next on Nejmi’s agenda is to contact airlines to revamp air hostesses’ uniforms where hats are a critical aspect of their attire. Headgear has also made a trepid entry into Pakistan’s fashion weeks over the last year and it would be fun to see how Nejmi explores this side of her heritage on the ramp.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2011.