Albertus Swanepoel is a New York based milliner by way of South Africa. Known for his unique artisanal pieces (his fedoras in particular are a fan favorite) and his collaborations with everyone from Target to Bergdorf Goodman, Swanepoel’s craftsmanship is a rare treat in the era of fast fashion. In addition to his namesake collection which re-imagines classic styles in playful renditions, Swanepoel also collaborates with a slew of fashion designers each season – among them Carolina Herrera, Proenza Schouler, and Adam Lippes – on whimsical, one of a kind runway pieces. When we caught up with him at his Garment District studio as he prepared for the hubbub of fashion week, we thought the craftsmanship and classicism of Blancpain’s Villeret collection would be the perfect pairing.
Where are you from, and how long have you lived in NY? I’m from Pretoria, in South Africa, and I moved here in October 1989.
When did you become a milliner? After a few years doing gloves, I went to FIT in 1991 and started to learn how to make hats.
How would you describe your latest collection? My new SS19 collection is more casual, beach and airy. I feel hats need to be comfortable and modern.
What is inspiring your work right now? I am always inspired by Africa and the diversity of this city.
Go-to spot in the neighborhood surrounding your studio: I absolutely love Kazu Nori and of course Lady M bakery almost next door. (Ed. note: Kazu Nori is a Japanese restaurant specializing in hand rolls; it’s located at 15 W. 28th St. Lady M Bakery, which is known for their beautifully decorated cakes, is located at 1178 Broadway.)
Favorite thing about your studio: The light in here and the high ceilings. I also love being surrounded by all the accoutrements I work with as well.
What you love to do in NY when you’re not working: I’m a big opera fan, otherwise movies and watching some series on Netflix with our cat.
Someone else’s work that you find inspiring right now: I love Wayne Thiebaud’s use of color and I am also very taken with the drama and force in the Delacroix exhibition at the Met.