- Milliner Sarah Sokol, 31, made the elaborate four-tiered hat that Janelle Monáe wore to the Met Gala on Monday night.
- Sokol spoke to INSIDER about the whirlwind 40 hours of work that went into creating the piece of wearable art.
- Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.
Topping off the ensemble was an elaborate headpiece composed of four stacked hats, created by milliner Sarah Sokol.
The day after the gala, INSIDER spoke with Sokol, 31, about the whirlwind week that went into creating the piece of wearable art for one of the biggest fashion events of the year.
From a hobby to a profession outfitting celebrities
The Brooklyn native said she was first introduced to hat-making through a course at the Pratt Institute, where she majored in interior design. After graduation, she worked for about three years designing commercial kitchens, while continuing to make hats on the side as a hobby.
“I started going to Burning Man and got involved in the community here and more into costumes,” she told INSIDER. “It was a hobby and then it was like, ‘No, I have to do this as a profession, I love this way too much.'”
So in 2014, she started learning the craft from couture milliner Anya Caliendo. She also spent a few weeks in Bristol, England, training in theatrical millinery. By 2015, she had started her own business. Today, she also works for a theatrical millinery studio in Manhattan, making hats for Broadway and Disney, a couple of days a week.
- Sarah Sokol
But it wasn’t until fairly recently that she started working with more high-profile clients.
Since then, Sokol said her workload has “blown up.” She recently designed the headpiece that “Games of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke wore in the May issue of Vogue España, as well as the fascinator Lil’ Kim wore to Marc Jacobs’ wedding in April.
A week and a half to create a masterpiece
Sokol said she was first approached by Monáe’s stylist, Alexandra Mandelkorn, to make something for the artist to wear to the Grammy’s in February. While that didn’t work out, Mandelkorn did come back to her when she was putting Monáe’s look together for the Met Gala.
They had their first phone call on April 25, a date Sokol said she remembers well because she was going to see the new “Avengers” movie that night. That left her with about a week-and-a-half to create the hat.
- Sarah Sokol
Initially, Mandelkorn sent Sokol a photo from a shoot Monáe did for Allure for inspiration. It shows Monáe wearing a large wide-brimmed black hat with three smaller hats stacked on top of them (the hats were designed by Marc Jacobs).
Sokol sent back an Instagram photo of a similar look, where the hats are on a tilt. They decided to make something closer to that look.
Sokol spent the next week at her in-home studio in Brooklyn crafting the hats and sculpting them together. She said the whole process took 40 hours, not including the time she spent at fittings.
And that’s not to mention the time she was spending making another fascinator for the Met Gala, for Senreve handbag company co-founder Coral Chung:
‘A dream come true’
Sokol said she had her first fitting with Monáe on the Saturday before the Met Gala, and it was emotional.
“The first fitting we did, I was just crying because it’s a dream come true,” she told INSIDER.
After the hat was created, she said she had to make a few minor adjustments to make sure it fit on Monáe’s head securely.
If you’re wondering how Monáe was able to walk around with such a tall headpiece, Sokol said there was a mesh panel in the back that they used to help securely bobby pin the hat onto her head.
Sokol said it was “insane” to see the whole look come together. And Monáe loved the hat, as well.
“[Alexandra] said it was the first thing that she commented on when she went into the fitting with Christian [Sorianio]’s dress and everything,” Sokol said. “It was the first thing she commented on. She absolutely adored it.”
- Noam Galai/GC Images
After seeing her creation on the Met Gala pink carpet, atop one of the biggest names in music, Sokol celebrated by going out to dinner with her boyfriend.
While she hasn’t heard from any stylists about future work yet, she hopes the exposure at the biggest fashion event of the year will propel her business.
“I never in a million years thought I would be able to make something for the Met Gala. Like, that is insane,” Sokol said. “And I feel like this look was fashion history.”
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