It’s very easy to find yourself surrounded by creative people doing interesting work, while living in Berlin. But for us, French-Canadian Genevieve Schetagne of ‘mon bibi’ has been an inspiration as she always finds a way to thread her character into her hand-made and incredibly unique hats. She’s been kind enough to answer a few of our questions and now she’s SemiDomesticated’s first featured designer!
Above: Collection of vintage buttons // Genevieve wearing one of her own creations // Material shopping in Paris.
Please start by telling us a little about yourself, including how and when you got started hat-making.
I am a 28-year-old girl from Montreal. I’ve been living in Berlin since 2007 and I have a Masters Degree in Film Studies. I can’t recall when my passion for hats began but it certainly has to do with my love for cinema, actresses and black and white films. One weekend I did a course on how to make felt hats and the idea of making small cocktail hats started like this. I also did a 3 month internship with a hatmaker in Berlin.
So, why hats?
Because life is more fun with them. Hats tell a lot about the people who are wearing them. Nowadays they don’t have to do with social status like they used to, but the fact of wearing a hat is meaningful. Since the 1960’s there are fewer people wearing them. I really hope to see a real hat revival soon. Hats are simply a different accessory, something different than jewelry or shoes. They can be simply worn for protection against the elements, but for me they really are a way to express myself.
Do you have an idea of how many hats you have made?
A couple of hundred
What motivates you?
The gift of being able to create everyday is simply a blessing. I feel free. My hats make people happy so I am happy.
What comes first – the materials or the design idea?
Definitely the material. I don’t draw sketches. I find material: colourful textile, old buttons, vintage trimming. New stuff as well of course. Then I put everything on the table. It’s a chaos. But from the chaos comes ideas.
How do you choose your materials?
I like finding old buttons and vintage lace/textile at fleamarkets or specialized stores like haberdashery shops that offer vintage products. When I am inspired by something and it’s not too expensive, I buy it. So most of my hats are unique pieces or in limited editions. But I try to keep them inexpensive so that everyone can afford one.
What part of the creative process excites you the most?
Looking for material, buying textile. And the very last touch: decorating the hats with a veil, velvet flowers and sequins!
Pictures from Gigi’s online shop on DaWanda
What makes you different from other hat makers?
I think every hat maker is different than the other. Hats made by milliners are made by hand so they are per definition unique pieces. But I have never seen hand-felted round shapes like mine. I developed the idea and the technique by myself. The fact that they are made of felt makes them wearable everyday. I just started to make cocktail hats with silk. They are more chic and elegant.
Tell us about the name mon bibi. How did you come up with it and what does it mean?
I come from Montreal so I am Quebecois and my mother tongue is French. A bibi is simply the name used in french for a pill box hat and often any other small cocktail hat that is not a fascinator or head piece. But bibi can also be the nickname of the person you love… So it either means my small hat or my love.
What have been your biggest challenges trying to make a living as a hat-maker?
How often do I hear – I love hats but they don’t look nice on me or – I don’t have the audacity or the opportunity to wear one. My biggest challenge is to convince people that they can wear hats everyday and for many occasions. And everyone can find a hat that will fit them. People are not used to wearing hats just for the beauty of it anymore. Sad but true.
If you could give one of your hats to anyone in the world, who would it be?
Louise Brooks but she no longer lives. Maybe to the Queen of England because her hats look so boring.
Tell us a few things you think people shouldn’t waste their money on (and instead spend it on one of your bibis)?
Alcohol and cigarettes. I have nothing against it but I have the feeling everyone is broke in Berlin because they go out a lot and drink too much. One less beer every night and little by little you can save money and buy a bibi!
What do you do when you’re not making or selling hats?
I work a lot but the rest of my time I like cooking, going out, going to the movies or taking baths. I also really enjoy having a flexible schedule and take a coffee with friends whenever I want. I also love spending time with my husband.
Pictures from photo shoot by Marcus Jolly
What do you love about living in Berlin?
It is the city where everything is still possible. For young artists and designers it is the perfect place to experiment and share. There are so many extraordinary human beings here. Also a lot of collaboration and generosity. People are original and unique. The city is effervescent and never sleeps.
And what are the things you miss most about Canada?
The calm, the easiness of talking to strangers and the friendliness of people everywhere on the street. Canada is just more easy going. I miss family and friends of course.
Where do you hope to be, in terms of your career and personal life in five years?
I hope to live entirely from my passion and keep being inspired. I hope to be as happy as I am right now, perhaps have children and to see an invasion of bibis around the planet.