- Words Solly Warner
Straight out of a forager's dream, Delly Deacon is creating totally quirky one-of-a-kind hats.
This is Pushing Fashion Forward, a new interview series championing unique talents within the rising world of sustainable fashion. Whether it’s a small team running an independent brand or a young creative upcycling old material in their bedroom, we want to show how small businesses can offer so much more than their fast fashion counterparts, encouraging a realistic approach to sustainable style.
Delly Deacon studied 3D design and craft at the University of Brighton before landing on the idea of making hats from which she never looked back. Now based in North London, Delly has forged her own innovative way creating a sustainably made product. The ethical designer uses locally foraged elements, from the likes of Hackney Marshes, to provide rich, earth tones to her naturally dyed hats. From dock leaves to ash trees, sloe berries, elderberries and blackberries, the fabrics are hand washed with iron to darken the colours.
The hats are made up of patchworked cotton stitched with a sense of freedom, giving each design varied surfaces and tones. Each hat is then coated in beeswax once constructed, adding to its rough and crinkled texture. Over time the beeswax softens and ages to fit each wearer. Staying true to a zero-waste mindset throughout the entire construction process, each hat comes with a dust bag made from scrap fabric that is left over.
Embracing imperfection and celebrating all things natural, Delly Deacon’s work emulates the mood of a wanderer in reverie, reflecting a symbiotic relationship between nature and the maker.
Delly captures a truly distinctive aesthetic in her headwear. Think of it when you have a favourite t-shirt or jumper that has been passed on from a parent and has that perfect fade and weathering to it. Delly’s hat hold that same well-worn look and feel but as a new product, that will only become even better with age.
We spoke to Delly about how working with nature gives an element of surprise, when she knows a hat is finished, and why reducing waste and promoting sustainability is important to her.
How long have you been making things? Where did your curiosity to create come from?
I have been making and sewing as long as I can remember really, my Mum did fashion and costume design so I would hijack her sewing machine and fabric as often as possible. That then grew and developed into other materials, but I ended coming back full circle to the sewing machine in the end.
Did your time in Brighton help shape you as a designer and creator? When did you land on hats?
My time in Brighton was a real learning curve. My course was quite full-on learning about woodwork, metalwork, ceramics and polymers. There were lots of things I struggled with, but it gave me a very whole understanding of materials which has been invaluable, and it set me on the path to work out my own pace and practice. I didn’t make a hat until I left university but the patchwork techniques and beeswaxing was something I developed making tents and foraging bags for my final project that I then applied to the hats.
Can you remember the first complete hat that you made? Do you still have it?
I made my first hat about 3 years ago; it was a great first hat to be honest. I posted it on Instagram and the feedback was great and my mate Jade bought it and it still resides on her head and wall. So, thanks to Jade for believing in me.
You use natural dyes in your work. Have you always had an interest in nature and how do you choose which dyes you source?
Most of my work has been based around nature and picking bits up on walks. I’ve only just started delving into the work of natural dyeing, but it has been really enjoyable learning about what plants are in season and what they do. It can be hit and miss but I like that element of surprise and working with what you’ve been given. I tend to just walk around locally and go to Hackney Marshes and see what sprigs and berries there are, take a couple natural dye books with me and see what I can take without taking too much.
You also use beeswax when creating your hats. Can you tell us when you first discovered this process and what some of the benefits are?
I first used it at university, for my final project I made huge barrel rucksacks that I wanted to be waterproof so you could wade through water, they were resin barrels with a coppiced wood frames, but they needed a fabric drawstring but waterproof top. That’s where the idea of waxing the fabric came into play. It’s a fun process to work with and gives cotton a wonderful texture that softens over time and makes it 100% waterproof.
Why do you like to work with old material scraps?
It’s a combination of reasons. I think as well as using waste and making sure you are making the most of your material, it gives you some limitation on your work that I like to play with otherwise I get overwhelmed with options. Also, I am rubbish at throwing things away so if I can put a tiny fabric scrap to good use, I’m happy. It might also come back to using my mum’s leftovers to sew with and that being the format I am used to.
You’ve collaborated with brands like Carhartt recently. Are there any other particular designers that you’d like to work with? Is collaboration something you’re always open to?
I am more of a solo worker by nature, I like to get into my own zone and do what I want, but if there is anyone that trusts in what I’m doing and lets me get stuck in I’m happy. Carhartt were great to work with and really trusting. It was an open back and forth collaboration and I felt really comfortable. If I can find a situation like that again I would be more than happy to collaborate.
As someone who makes unique, handmade products, how do you know when a hat is finished?
That’s a really good question, I’ve struggled a lot with this in the past, I work into my pieces a lot, putting patches on, pulling hats apart and putting them back together. I’ve only recently really learnt to let things go and not fret too much if they are not perfect because that’s not the nature of my work anyway. Once the wax is on the deal is sealed and I just have to let it go.
Are you looking to expand your product range in the future?
As much I enjoy hats, I would love to start moving into other directions again. In the past I have made all sorts of objects so I would like to delve into that world again. It has been great to have a focus that I could really streamline my work into, it’s easy to get distracted but I’ve got two eyes on my hats for now.
Why is reducing waste and promoting sustainability important to you? Why should people support small, independent businesses?
It should be at the back of every designer’s mind, to make sure you’re not putting too much waste into the world and making the most of what you are using. Sustainability is not something that intentionally leads my work, but it is an instinctual consideration when I am making something. It is impossible to be 100% sustainable so I don’t let it restrict my creativity, but I think if you make what you love and try and make an object with integrity and you support those that do the same, that’s the best anyone can do. It means you are buying into objects made with care and in turn you appreciate and look after that item much more than something that is two a penny.