Georgia O’Keeffe loved a hat. The renowned American contemporary artist was rarely without one, living and working beneath the harsh New Mexico desert sun until her death in 1986.
More than 30 years later, O’Keeffe’s signature black parson’s hat has provided the inspiration for a collaboration between Sydney milliner Helen Kaminski and creative sustainable workshop Canvs Bottega.
Canvs Bottega founder Sheree Commerford (another Aussie) spent time travelling through the American southwest, and it was also a muse for their upcycled Mesa collection. “The hats are a sustainable adaption of a modern classic, designed to stand the style test of time,” says Commerford.
Working closely with Helen Kaminski’s head of design, Pernille Sejer, and master craftsman Garry Bishop, Commerford fused existing materials with pure Merino wool felt to create a limited-edition collection re-blocked by hand in Sydney. “We wanted to combine our strengths to create something of value and beauty, breathing a new life into existing products that otherwise might have been forgotten,” she says.
The collaboration comprises three styles: the Mesa Wide Brim, inspired by the gaucho-style hats O’Keeffe wore; the Mesa Mid Brim, a slightly smaller version; and the Mesa Short Brim, smaller again.
Available in three colours – black, nougat and warm brown – each style features a chin strap handcrafted by female-led artisan communities in Sri Lanka, using sustainably harvested Madagascan raffia with an adjustable leather toggle made with materials upcycled from previous Helen Kaminski collections.
The hats are part of an upcycle program Helen Kaminski launched in 2020 that allows buyers to customise a new hat from existing styles and fabrics. It also aligns with Canvs Bottega’s use of dead stock to create new pieces. “When you look past the beauty and function of the designs you’re left with process, craft and re-invention. For me, it’s these things that make this collection unique and special.”