At 24 years old, Sassa Ann van Wyk has already achieved what most aspiring designers dream of. Raised in the Alps of Northern Italy, the Germany-born, Vienna-based milliner keeps a low profile. Her illustrious background, however, is one to marvel at. An alumna of the esteemed Modeschule Hetzendorf, Van Wyk was inspired by her mother, who was a knitwear designer. “I started making hats when I was 14. I was not very fond of using machines and so I did every small detail by hand,” she shares.
After clinching the Feltmakers’ Design Award in 2014, Van Wyk went on to cut her teeth at Irish haute couture milliner Phillip Treacy’s studio as an intern. Under his tutelage, she was quickly immersed in Treacy’s fantastical and eccentric universe of headwear. Think gargantuan ships and silhouettes crafted out of tufts of hair and head-to-toe fairy lights. “My time with Phillip Treacy impacted my work a lot. All of my knowledge regarding craftsmanship, stitching and sewing came from his studio and the amazing women who worked there,” she recounts fondly.
Still, Van Wyk is quick to point out that her take on hat-making boasts a different message; one of child-like fun and fantasy in the otherwise buttoned-up world of luxury. “They can look a bit childish sometimes, a bit like a costume. I really love the fun and unserious twist they have. They just look very silly.” In 2018, Van Wyk founded her eponymous label, where she debuted whimsical hats fashioned out of vintage textiles and finds from her adventures in Vienna. She adds: “The quintessential Sassa Ann van Wyk wearer is anyone who has the guts to do so.”
“The quintessential Sassa Ann van Wyk wearer is anyone who has the guts to do so.”
The sustainability aspect of her brand, she shares, was a natural starting place and the adage ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ held true. Working on a tight budget, the young designer sourced materials such as embroidered tablecloths and pre-loved gowns for her pieces. The most unforgettable find was a cut-out from a discarded sofa which found new life as a feather-embroidered hat.
Today, customers can own her hats through made-to-order requests or by enquiring about pieces featured on her Instagram page. Highlights of Van Wyk’s most recent pieces for sale include a fully wearable cross-section of a miniature building made out of painted wooden boards and a green-and-white striped fur hood hat.
This year marks the 10th year of millinery for Van Wyk, but her passion for it has not waned. Her next stop? Milan or Florence. And something tells us Van Wyk foresees finding treasures in both cities.
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