Cocktail hats for Ascot... and every other day

CHANCES are, when you meet Sahar Freemantle you will be slightly stopped in your tracks. Not only is she a striking combination of an Iranian mother and English father (hence the name), she will probably be wearing bright red lipstick and a cocktail hat. And, being a cocktail hat designer, it’ll probably be one of hers. You’ll stare at her a bit helplessly, but instead of thinking “what is that girl wearing?” you’ll think, “Damn, I want one. That is lovely. And daring.”

We have a funny relationship with hats – on one hand they are the domain of the rich and famous, those who have the money to commission them from celebrity milliners such as Phillip Treacy and and Stephen Jones. On the other, grannies and drunken party girls whip them out in a variety of tastes (mostly poor) for the races and weddings.

Yet Freemantle, who studied costume design at the Edinburgh School of Art, manages to add a third type of hat: the wearable, everyday, but still special hat. “When I do a fair or exhibition, people want to just admire the hats but always protest that hats don’t suit them. I always say ‘just let me try and prove you wrong.’ And 95 per cent of the time they’re amazed because it really does suit them – and they leave converted to cocktail hat wearers.” I was the same – not a hat person (huge hair, big head) – but once Freemantle had secured one of her hats on my head I fell in love with the look; it was a red feathery thing that added gorgeous shapes and colour, almost like a continuation to my head. I walked head held high round the office with my newfound feathered cap.

Freemantle loves to see the “transformation” in someone’s confidence and posture when they don one of her creations. But the hat must match the person: “My hats try to take an inner beauty and express it in a wearable sculpture,” she says. “They bring out something extra, a confidence, you walk tall, you know you look great.”

Freemantle is inspired by the natural world, even things like insects, which – while grotesque, have their own beauty (hence her company’s name, Uglylovely). Also key is her Baha’i faith, a religion that says beauty and creativity are the essence of the divine. Judging from these hats, it’s hard not to agree. Hats from £120. To book an appointment with Sahar, call 07891 041 378.