Gigi Burris is one of fashion’s newest It-Girls. A graduate from Parsons School of Design, she is at the forefront of hat, headband, and veil design. Her pieces have been worn by Angelia Jolie, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Vanessa Hudgens, and singer Banks. Her designs have even graced the covers of Vogue and walked the halls of this past year’s Met Gala. In other words, she’s the real deal.
Gigi’s passion for hats began at a young age, and only intensified when she visited Paris. She found herself moved by the grace, sophistication, and boldness of Parisian style. Trained by the infamous milliner, Leah Chalfen, she views her, as well as Coco Chanel and Jeanne Lanvin as her most influential creative and millinery muses. In 2009, Gigi founded Gigi Burris Millenary. Gigi’s creations are produced with only the finest material and couture sewing techniques, so each piece is truly one of a kind. Très chic, no?
I had the privilege of interviewing this sweet, determined, talented designer who shared with me a few style secrets. She also gave me the inside scoop on her latest beauty must-haves that keep her glamorous and glowing as she takes the fashion world by storm.
Gigi Burris: I worked on a project with Diane Von Furstenburg, and my friend Lola introduced me to Ohne Titel. From there I met Steven Kolb [the CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)]. My big break came when I became a part of the Vogue Fashion Fund in 2014, which was a game changer. I got a full page feature in Vogue. The makeup artist really wanted to do this bold red lip, but when you have a hat, it’s a lot. I don’t usually do a bold lip with a hat. But anyway, Vogue has been such a great support system for me over the past years.
Annie: I saw that Vogue spread. You looked absolutely amazing and your hair was beautiful.
Gigi: Thank you. It was amazing to see myself featured in Vogue. The interview definitely put my name on the map in the fashion industry.
Annie: So how did you get involved with the Met Gala?
Gigi: It was all Vogue. Vogue pulled the pieces. Also, my friend who worked closely with H&M and Vogue helped me put my pieces on Vanessa Hudgens and Banks, who both wore custom-made H&M dresses for the Met Gala. Diane [Von Furstenburg] has also been so supportive of me since the Vogue Fashion Fund, and asked me for a few pieces, so I made some for her too.
Annie: Did you have the chance to attend any of the Met Gala post-parties?
Gigi: No, I had so many last minute hat requests. I had stayed up all-night the night before and I was just exhausted. Everyone was wearing my hats, it was crazy. The Met Gala is a really big deal for your career. It’s one of those things that really get people talking.
Annie: Your hats are absolutely stunning for big events. They are so bold and unique. Is there a way to rock a hat more casually too? Tell me a little bit about accessorizing for nights out, or a dinner date, for example.
Gigi: I love to put on a headband. Any hair accessory with feathers makes me feel dressed up for dinner dates. For the weekend, I love to wear a veil, especially a voilette veil. A voilette veil is a headband that is gathered by the ears as supposed to the top. I designed the bulk of my voilette veils so that they sit above the lip line, so women can still drink and eat. You have to think about some sort of function. Even if you are not going to eat, you have to be able to sip champagne. Everyone is looking at you and talking about you, and I think that most women would even be a little jealous. As a matter of fact, Neiman Marcus actually just picked up my veil collection for their autumn/winter collection. I cannot wait to see customers donning my voilette veils.
Annie: That’s so exciting! I need a voilette veil. What makeup look would you suggest pairing with a veil?
Gigi: If I wear a voilette veil, I create a “lessened” smokey eye look. You are playing up drama and trying to be sexy, so you don’t want to be bare, but you still want a little something.
Gigi: Skincare is so important regardless of your style. If you have bad skin, it’s difficult to accessorize, especially when you wear attention-grabbing accessories near your face. Since I do not have naturally smooth skin, I try really hard to keep my skin looking healthy. It definitely does not come naturally, so I work at it. Lately, I’ve been using Obagi and Retinol Creams. I also love to use my Clarisonic at night with their Acne Face Wash. My dermatologist, Dr. Lisa Airan, recommended it to me. My mom and I actually went together. Dr. Arien was the one who also put me on Retina Micro and it’s made a huge difference. She’s amazing. I’m very dedicated to having good skin.
Annie: How do you feel about makeup? Do you have any tips for wearing makeup with hats?
Gigi: Well, you can’t wear too much makeup when you accessorize because it’s just too aggressive. Whenever I put on a hat, I stick with one statement look. I either do a statement eye OR a statement lip. You cannot have two bold statement looks because it’s not “modern.” Today, the “no makeup” makeup is the modern beauty look.
Annie: Do you perceive hats as fashion or function?
Gigi: When I first started, hats were fashion statements for me. I was working with stylists such as Carl Templer and Patti Wilson and we were doing lots of made to order work – whatever they dreamed up for their editorial stories. So I made all of these really cool and kooky hats. After gaining more editorial support, I started to work on more functional ready-to-wear pieces. In fact, that’s now the bread and butter of my business. The hair accessories I love, but they are strictly ornamental. If you’re short on time to style your hair, you can just put on a hat.
Annie: Exactly. But while hats are so practical, they also really make your look pop.
Gigi: I know! When you wear a hat, you’re in a way asking for attention. It takes a girl with confidence to wear a hat, but when she does, her look is complete.
Gigi: The first thing to know is that it’s like dressing for your body type – not every hat is going to look good on everyone. You have to consider your skin color, jaw, and bone structure. Similar to how you should dress for your body type, you need to choose hats based on your facial features. For example, people with fair skin complexions should not select pink hats because it emphasizes the pink undertones in their skin. Stick to colors that look good with your skin tone, because they will be totally amplified when they sit right by your face.
You also have to think about your face shape. Take me, for example. Since I have a soft jawline and an oval face, I look best with a shorter hat brim that offsets the length of my face. I choose hats with higher crowns in order to offset the roundness of my jaw line.
Annie: What would look good on me?
Gigi: Well, you have a heart-shaped face, so you look flattering in any type of hat.
Annie: Can you usually picture which hat will look best for your client when you work with them?
Gigi: I don’t always immediately see which hat will offset my clients’ faces; however, once they put it on, I automatically know which hat suits their face shape. The most rewarding part about my job is witnessing their reaction when they find the perfect hat. A hat is such an emotional accessory.
Annie: Your hair is beautiful. How do you maintain such healthy locks?
Gigi: Well, I’ve never dyed it. I wanted to dye it purple, but I haven’t yet. My biggest secret is Tommy Buckett at Serge Normant. He’s been my hairstylist for almost 10 years. He cuts my hair to a length that allows it to air dry, so I can easily put a hat on it. I am often running from SoulCycle and I need to be able to leave with wet hair, and just throw a hat on it.
Gigi: I do SoulCycle at least once a week, but I try to do twice a week. I also love to walk. If it’s possible for me to walk somewhere – I will walk. I live downtown so it’s really easy. Yoga is great too. Yoga counterbalances the tightness of SoulCycle.
Annie: What is your favorite piece of beauty advice? What is the secret to looking and feeling your best?
Gigi: One word: grooming. Grooming is incredibly important. For example, if you want to try the “no makeup” makeup look, you need to have a groomed eyebrow, smooth skin, and straight teeth. It’s about being classic and well groomed. It takes a lot of work, but it’s so worth it. Everyone is talking about ‘no makeup’ makeup, and it’s the hallmark of this idea. Simple but basic grooming includes, haircut, manicure, eyebrow sculpting, a facial and a manicure. I don’t even use nail polish, but I use a nail strengthener to make them strong and less brittle.
Annie: What are your summer beauty essentials?
Gigi: Lemon juice. It makes such a difference. I have blonde hair, so lemon juice brightens my blonde hair and makes it shine and glow in the summer. I use John Freida Lemon Juice Hair Spray. I believe this product is discontinued, but it was my holy grail. [Try a similar product here.] I use 75 SPF on my body, because I’m crazy like that. And for my face, Revision Sunscreen SPF 45 is my favorite. I’m originally from Florida, so I find sunscreen so important.
Gigi’s Glow Guide:
Bold Red Lip Color: Nars Velvet Matte Matte Lipstick Pencil in Red Square
Mascara: Edward Bess Bess-Lash Mascara
Lip Balm: By Terry Baume de Rose Lip Balm
Perfume: L’Artisan Parfumeur Piment Brulant (which smells like chocolate cinnamon – it’s heaven)
Hair Stylist: Tommy Buckett at Serge Normant in New York City