A Fascinating Lady Dorset

PUBLISHED: 11:58 27 April 2012 | UPDATED: 21:19 20 February 2013

A Fascinating Lady Dorset

A Fascinating Lady Dorset

Helen Fisher feels the feathery fascination of Jemma Loveridge's bespoke millinery creations

A Fascinating Lady

Helen Fisher feels the feathery fascination of Jemma Loveridges bespoke millinery creations

Tucked away at the end of Jemma Loveridges Broadwindsor garden is a purpose-built studio packed to the rafters with a rainbow riot of coloured feathers. In this space she creates her unique range of fascinators which are destined to grace many a famous head this season - from Ascot and Goodwood to Henley and Wimbledon not to mention walking up the aisle at numerous Society weddings.

"Can you make me sound like Im some top drawer hat designer like Philip Treacy," she jokes, as my eyes linger longingly over the myriad of gorgeous feathered pieces that cover her work table. "Write that Ive got at least 10 staff busy beavering away, and that I offered you a Fair Trade cappuccino while leggy models paraded up and down wearing my latest headwear!" She may not be at the heart of Londons fashion scene but Jemma has still managed to carve out a very successful millinery business in deepest rural Dorset.

Prior to marrying, moving to Dorset and having three children, Jemma was the sponsorship director for Forte plc; for 11 years she worked for Lord Forte and Sir Rocco Forte organising their racing, motor racing, polo, golf and sailing programmes, as well as being part of the team that opened Forte hotels around the globe. Being part of such a large international business gave Jemma a clear understanding of professionalism. "Im now a complete freak when it comes to attention to detail, I wouldnt dream of sending out one of my fascinators unless it looked absolutely perfect," she says firmly. "It has to be utterly beautiful before it goes, because I want it to be adored by the customer."

Jemmas former career meant that she mixed with some extremely high-powered people. "I arranged for Lady Thatcher to attend the openings of two European Forte Hotels," she recalls. "I accompanied her on a private plane with a police escort through the cities. All the briefing meetings were held in her home. She was the most concise and precise person Ive ever worked for and wanted to be briefed on every last detail."

Wearing smart formal clothing was de rigueur for Jemmas job and from this came a love of wearing hats. This love affair with millinery eventually transformed into designing it too. Jemma and her friend, Andrea Neville-Rolfe, both signed up for a three-month hat making course in Lyme Regis. Jemma remembers this experimental stage fondly. "We started off by using saucepans as hat blocks," she laughs. "One of our early successes was a mini top hat on a piece of elastic, known as a cocktail top hat, which we made using a mould based on a baked beans tin!"

Soon Jemma started selling hats on-line, but because of the complexity of head sizes and the practical need to try hats on before buying she decided to move into fascinators These fabulous feathered creations are an easy one-size-fits-all, off-the-peg purchase. "Hats are a bespoke business" she explains "it was my husband, Steven, who came up with the brilliant idea of creating my own range of fascinators instead."

The history of the fascinator is a flamboyant one. During the reign of King George III in the late 1700s, the Duchess of Devonshire, a trendsetter of her day, started a fashion for wearing enormous ostrich plumes in her hair. This was the birth of what we now know as the fascinator. The fashion had died a death by the Swinging Sixties but returned to the limelight when the Duchess of Cornwall wore a fascinator for her marriage to Prince Charles in 2005; even the Queen wore one to the wedding of her grandson Peter Philips. However, its thanks to our own trendsetting Duchess of Cambridge that the fascinator is this years must-have fashion accessory.

Jemmas fascinators are predominantly made of feathers and come in five distinct styles in a wide range of colours. She also has an elegant selection of bridal fascinators. The fascinators are sewn onto a hair comb or it can be attached to a hair band, so can be used on very short hair.

The announcement that fascinators have been banned from the Royal enclosure at Ascot hasnt stopped Jemma. The new dress code states that: "A headpiece which has a base of four inches (10cm) or more in diameter is acceptable as an alternative to a hat." Ingeniously Jemma has added the option of mounting the fascinators onto a small straw-like disk with matching hair band, ensuring her fascinators will get Royal approval.

There can also be practical advantages to wearing a fascinator, especially when it comes to the mother-of-the-bride. "They often wear big, low hats with brims and spend their whole day twisting their heads when they greet and kiss guests. Also by the end of the day youre blighted with flattened hat-hair" The lightness of a fascinator avoids these big hat issues and, as Jemma points out, are more practical. "Fascinators often use duck or chicken feathers which cope perfectly well if caught in a typical English down-pour."

Jemmas attention to detail even extends to the smart cream and black hat box in which the fascinators are carefully packed in a froth of fuchsia pink tissue, before being sent out to the customer. "I like to imagine that when my box arrives, its a complete treat," she beams. "When the customer opens the lid, inside shell find a perfect, sumptuous, sensational moment of girlie gorgeousness!"

Latest from the Dorset