Products and Design

Conversation with Designer and Artist HEIDILEE on Her Radical Approach to Making Hats Using 3D Printing

3D printed hats are no longer a future fantasy. Designer and Artist H E I D I L E E uses Shapeways 3D printing to create fashion and hats inspired by contemporary, avant-garde classical music. She spoke with us about her fascinating process that fuses a MacGyver approach and no boundaries mindset. Her work is so cutting edge that she’s featured in the upcoming NYC Makers: MAD Biennial exhibition here in NYC. Read on!

H E I D I L E E Cocktail Parasol Hat photo: Bryan Davis

How did you discover your passion for making hats?

I was challenged to create fashion inspired by contemporary, avant-garde classical music. I never intended to sell my pieces, but people began to notice my work and it grew from there, and over a span of time it has developed into a remarkable line.

What is your day-to-day work life like?

It varies from day to day, and depends on which pieces I’m focusing on to make. Each hat has a completely different workflow and process than the other, so I enjoy the variety of solutions each needs to enfold into being. I try to take a MacGyver-like approach to making my hats.

Where did you learn how to design and develop your incredible creations?

I apprenticed under milliner Victor Osborne. He recently moved to France to continue making haute-couture hats for runway shows such as Thom Browne (Recipient of the 2013 CFDA Menswear Designer of the Year Award and 2012 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for Fashion) and Dior for Paris Fashion Week. My uncle also instructed me, having worked in the American millinery industry for over 30 years, producing hats for designers, whose lines are carried at Barneys New York and Saks 5th Avenue. They inspired me to forge my own path in making hats that are sensible, yet innovative in headwear.

Can you shed some light into your design process?

I embrace unchartered realms in haberdashery, merging artisanal craftsmanship with cutting edge technology to formulate a radical approach to what a hat can actually be; techniques include hardware hacking, computer-aided design, 3D printing, radio-frequency communication, LED’s, lenticular vinyls, and rainbow + photopolymer holograms. My unique headgear is much more conceptually driven than other products at the same price-point and play with metaphysics and storytelling in the arena of consumer products. The hats themselves are performative and disruptive in nature, and lend to their own marketing, pushing boundaries in Fashion Alchemy.

H E I D I L E E Echo Hat photo: Charlie Wan

What inspires you?


What are some of your favorite quotes from your favorite fashion designers?

“There’s blood beneath every layer of skin.” – Alexander McQueen

“What Would you like to Develop? Besides Clothing? An Understanding.” – Martin Margiela.

“Designers are Catalysts of their Time; their role is to translate the changes, the mutations, the Evolution of Society.” – Jean Paul Gaultier.

Tell us about a recent champagne moment? Namely, what are you really excited about?

My Hats will be published in a book and exhibited at the Museum of Arts and Design from July to October 2014 for the first ever MAD Biennial: representing 100 makers that manifest the cultural capital of NYC. Makers were nominated by a pool of over 300 New York City–based cultural leaders and civic figures from a range of trades and disciplines, including museum curators, choreographers, academics, chefs, musicians, and journalists, with final participants selected by a jury led by Director Glenn Adamson and exhibition curator Jake Yuzna. From world-renowned cultural leaders to emergent enfants terribles, every maker selected demonstrated the highest level of skill in their respective field. I’m looking forward to celebrating with many friends who are also involved and hopefully meet some of the other artists as well.

Want to learn more? H E I D I L E E chats with Cool Hunting.

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