Artist Spotlight: Jenny Pfanenstiel

Artist Spotlight: Jenny Pfanenstiel

Jenny Pfanenstiel - Formé Millinery Hat Shop, Louisville, KY

Jenny Pfanenstiel, Master Milliner and owner of Formé Millinery, is internationally recognized for her award winning craft of hand creating and sculpting hats using the highest quality and rare materials found all over the world. As the "Official Milliner" of the Kentucky Derby Museum, you can find her permanent hat display at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. Vineyard Vines, McCall Patterns, and Covet Fashion are a few companies she has collaborated with to create exclusive hat collections. Clients include: Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Michelle Obama, Barbara Corcoran, and Neil Diamond. Jenny is also the Author of the book, “The Making of a Milliner". When she is not working in her Hat Shop located in Louisville, Kentucky, you can find her teaching hat making workshops all over the world.

Describe your work.
My hats are created using an age old technique that dates back over 100 years that include steaming and blocking over hat blocks, as a true Couture Milliner once did. In addition to incorporating traditional millinery skills, I have mastered the art of manipulation of traditional and nontraditional millinery materials creating “sculptures” for the head. As a Milliner, I have become known for my dedication to quality and using materials from France to Australia and incorporating these pieces to truly make one-of-a-kind pieces. My goal is to make a person feel sensational in my hats. I want them to look into the mirror and feel transformed, almost as if they are one with the creation of the hat. When a client comes into my hat shop for a custom hat, I provide an "experience". I measure their head; we discuss shapes and styles, and go through the different colors of straw and wool to pick out the appropriate color. We talk about embellishments and what would work best. In a couple weeks’ time, the client has a handmade, one-of-a-kind hat made just for them.

How did you get started in the crafts business?
At five years old, my Mother taught me how to cross stitch. That began my love for sewing and working with my hands. I grew up with my Mother making my clothes, practically growing up in a fabric store. Naturally, I went on to get a degree in Fashion Design. I created many costumes for the ballet, theatre, movies, and private clients, but I always had a passion for hats. In 2007, I decided to change gears and follow my heart. I did an apprenticeship in Australia to learn the basics of millinery and to learn the age old technique of blocking. Since I had an impeccable talent for hand sewing costumes, my craft for hand-sewn couture hats came naturally. From there, I experimented with traditional and nontraditional millinery materials creating a unique style as a modern day milliner. In the beginning, I showcased my hats at fine art shows. This allowed me to grow my business with boutiques and private clients. Eventually, I was ready for something more permanent. In 2014, I moved my hat business to Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby and Hats! I opened up a hat shop and have since been named the “Official Milliner of the Kentucky Derby Museum” and have made hats for some of the world’s most fashionable people. It has been 10 years and business is growing strong.

How long have you been wholesaling?
10 years
What are your top 3 marketing methods for reaching new buyers?
1. Consistently promote your business on all social media platforms (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). I gain new and different followers and clientele on each one. Remember the saying, Out of Sight, Out of Mind? I believe the same goes for promoting your business. I post a hat picture every day and just through my posts, I will sell that hat, or will entice someone to come into my shop that day. 

2. Every season reach out to your boutiques to let me know about new styles and trends. 

3. Higher a Sales Rep to get your product in new stores. Find a sales person that has relationships with the stores that you want to be in. Pay them a commission on their sales.

What percentage of your business is Wholesale? Retail? Commission, etc.?
40% Wholesale, 60% Retail in my hat shop, 0% Commission.

How has IndieMe helped your business?
IndieMe has allowed my brand to be exposed to more boutiques throughout the country that appreciate handmade items.

What advice do you have for new craft artists?
Market, market, market! Being a disciplined and organized person is essential to being productive on a daily basis. Customer service is always important. Always be grateful for the opportunities and relationships you have and never take them for granted. Don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket, create opportunities from all angles. Quality over quantity. If you produce great work, you will create repeat business. Be true to yourself and your work, don’t forget why you wanted to become your own boss. Don’t sell yourself short. Believe in yourself and what you create. Everyone can’t be a client. Find your niche and sell the hell out of it!

What advice do you have for new craft galleries?
Invest in the people and art you love. Trunk shows are a great way to promote new artists – Meet the Artist! Demo Days, where the artist comes and shows a technique on how they create their art. I have found that people are fascinated with how art is made. Most people are unaware of the process with certain things. This will teach those what goes into that craft and appreciate it more.

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