Cassandra MacGregor, milliner and owner of The House of MacGregor in the Bishop Arts District in Dallas, talks New York, family, vintage lace, happy customers, color palates and Japan.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka. All photos courtesy of Cassandra.
You’re from Dallas, but you studied millinery at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. You quit your office job after completing your studies and spent 5 years learning from and making hats with theatrical milliners on Broadway, fashion show hat suppliers and couturiers. What are some of the most important lessons that you learned during that time?
How important it is to work for other people! What I learned from the millinery classes I took is so scant compared to what I learned working under these talented people who had been making hats for so much longer than me.
Your designs have appeared in W, Italian Vogue, D Magazine, and many more publications. What are some of your proudest moments/biggest accomplishments as a milliner?
The W cover was my first big boost to let me (and my supportive friends and family) know that I was moving in the right direction and to stay on this path. My proudest moments though are when my customers come to pick up their custom hats and they love them. When they so obviously feel good in them, I know I did my job well.
You moved back to Dallas in 2008 and opened your own shop. What prompted the move and what are some of the biggest differences between working in New York and working in Dallas?
I moved back to Dallas to be closer to my family again. I had been gone for 8 years and am so fortunate to have a grandmother who is 95 and still here. This also is a much friendlier market to start a new business in.
The majority of my New York business has been cocktail hats while Dallas is all fedoras and newsboys. I don’t think there is a culture yet in Big D where putting on some veiling for an evening out feels natural.
One of the biggest rewards is working so directly with my customers and putting a look together that expresses them. I am also not a numbers person and am surprised how satisfying it is to balance my accounts every month.
The most challenging aspect is that you are doing everything. Marketing, sales, inventory, the books…you juggle so many balls at once!
What is your all-time favorite millinery project that you’ve completed?
I have a dear customer who is a burlesque dancer in New York. She will come in with outfits she is working on or dances she created and we will come up with hats to finish the look. A felt teapot cocktail hat down to some nude colored veiling with rhinestones, she lets me explore my more creative side.
Who are some of your favorite designers?
For designer fashion I am loving Marc Jacobs right now. All those ruffles and long skirts, I think they are flattering and whimsical at the same time. I just met an amazing artist the other day named Magda Berlinger who creates true art out of vintage lace pieces. Each one is unique and so gorgeous on.
I have a great archive of vintage hat books that I thumb through every season or when I am stuck on an idea. I also visit museums if I need to refresh my color palate. I follow the fashion trends to make sure my hats are wearable with the clothes people are buying.
What does the future hold for The House of MacGregor?
I would like to start selling my hats in Japan within the next year or two. They are avid hat wearers! I will probably maintain my second floor retail space; it gives me a lot more flexibility than a traditional store would to work on my pieces. I will continue to source high quality materials to keep making my hats a step above what you would find in a traditional store.