It seems nowadays more and more hat boxes, collecting dust on the top shelves of closets across the West Shore, are protecting trinkets and not the grand headpieces they are meant to house.
That’s a problem one Colwood woman wants to draw attention to and entice as many women as she can into the wonderful world of hats.
Maria Curcic spends a large portion of her day in her home studio, sculpting fabrics into ladies hats and headpieces.
“It’s a lot of detail … It’s like little works of art,” she noted.
With more celebrities wearing fedoras and fascinators being seen at more than just royal weddings and the Kentucky Derby, women’s headwear is surging in popularity.
“I was making (fascinators) and wearing it in the late ’80s … Nobody knew what it was,” she said with a laugh. “It’s sort of a lost art that’s coming out … people are embracing it.”
Curcic displayed some of her creations recently at the Deighton Cup at Hastings Racetrack in Vancouver. The day-long event hosted roughly 4,000 derby revellers, sporting their finest headpieces and silk bow ties. “It was really nice to see everyone dressed up to the nines.” Many women in attendance even made their own headpieces, which added to her delight. “You can make anything out of any material. If you have the idea, the sky’s the limit.”
While some of her delicate Deighton Cup creations only lasted the day – some barely survived for the main event – the fact so many people embraced their creativity makes Curcic bubble with excitement. “It’s soothing for the soul,” she added.
In her own creations she likes to incorporate found items whenever possible. “I want them to be different; I don’t want them to be mainstream. I’m playing with weird and wild things.”
On a bike ride about 10 years ago, Curcic came across a pile of large brown feathers, probably from a juvenile bald eagle or a hawk. Without a backpack or saddle bag handy, she had no way to transport them down the trail. “I threw them in my jacket … I had these feathers sticking out around my neck while I’m mountain biking down this hill.” She laughed as she recalled the crazy ride, the occasional feather flying out.
Stored for years, the plumes called to her recently and she created a headpiece from them. Curcic likes to incorporate found items and vintage fabrics into her designs and saves the tiniest scrapes of those precious materials. “I don’t have a lot of waste and what I do have I give to other artists,” she said. “When you give it to another artist they find something new … One creative thing inspires another.”
Curcic’s creative background isn’t just limited to her time spent outdoors collecting items to use in her work. “I was born in Paris and I grew up (there),” she said, a smile pulling at her bright red lips. “I love vintage style. I’m really sort of retro.” Her outfit on this day, a powder blue dress with red flowers, is no shy reference to that love of vintage fashion. “I’ve been collecting vintage clothes since I was 12,” an admittedly odd hobby for a child.
As the daughter of a seamstress, she noted that fashion is in her blood. Curcic’s mother, “a stylish lady,” was the kind of person that could drape a piece of fabric over a sewing mannequin and see a garment unfold in front of her, no pattern required. It was a skill that still leaves Curcic in awe.
Her own designs range from what she described as “avant-garde” to the casual, with something for everyone. She also has a funeral line in the works. “A lot of Europeans wear the veiling and you can’t find that here,” she said.
On the other end of the spectrum, she creates many pieces for weddings, although they’re not your typical marriage celebrations. “Most of my clients are artists like me,” she said, noting that the brides are more likely to be wearing a pink dress than a white one.
Sharing them with collectors around the world, Curcic posts photos of her hand-crafted pieces of wearable art to her website once complete. While her headpieces – and other accessories – are for sale, she also has a rental program that offers different options for four-day rentals. More information on her collections and rental options can be found at mariacurcic.com.
But the most important thing Curcic hopes to inspire with her designs is creativity in others.
“People get so caught up in their devices they don’t see the beauty all around,” she said. “I don’t want to miss out on that, because that’s what makes us human. We should be absorbing that.”
Her home is a space that looks to inspire creativity in all that she does. “That’s how I live my life,” she said, smiling. “I’m a one-woman show.”