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Making a Scene: Milliner brings her hats to craft fest

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Lined with fleece, Ruby3 faux fur hats are stylish and practical. l'etoile magazine / Special to The Forum2 / 6
Lee's spring collection is inspired by Triple Crown Winners and illustrations by Allegra Lockstadt. Lauren Krysti / Special to The Forum3 / 6
Ruby3 spring hats feature ribbons representing Triple Crown Winners. Lauren Krysti / Special to the Forum4 / 6
Anna Lee Fashion Week Minnesota / Special to The Forum5 / 6
Ruby3 spring hats feature ribbons representing Triple Crown Winners. Lauren Krysti / Special to the Forum6 / 6

FARGO – Anna Lee's hats are an invitation.

The 38-year-old milliner creates elegant, simple and bold hats that encourage conversation.

"It's almost like people feel they can interact with you," Lee says. "You get compliments in ways that you don't necessarily if you were wearing a bracelet or something like that."

She'll bring a selection of her Ruby3 hats to the sixth annual Unglued: Craft Fest Saturday at the Plains Art Museum. It'll be Lee's second time selling her hats in Fargo this year as she prepares to move back in June.

"This opportunity to present my work in Fargo as an artist has been along the lines of what I've always loved about Fargo – that ability to be connected to a community and feel supported," she says.

A Fargo native, Lee attended North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University Moorhead before moving to the Twin Cities 16 years ago. During her time in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Lee created her hat business and a product development studio called Workerby, established Voltage: Fashion Amplified, started Minnesota Fashion Week a decade ago and worked in product development at Target.

She'll move back to the Fargo-Moorhead area this summer to be closer to her boyfriend and his family. Although she'll still be involved with the fashion scene in Minneapolis, Lee's work will come with her.

"I hope to have a positive impact on the creative community in Fargo-Moorhead. I don't know what that's going to look like," she says. "What I've learned is all you can do is be yourself and see how you fit in with the community."

Ashley Morken, owner of Unglued, thinks Lee's going to fit in just fine. Morken says Lee offers something new to the community. It's the first time a milliner will be selling hats at the craft fest.

"Anna's hats have such a great modern design to them that we are seeing fit what has been in our favorite fashion and design blogs, Instagrams and shops," she says. "They're handcrafted with such skilled ability and uniqueness that they were an easy fit into the modern, handmade appeal of the fest."

When did you start making hats, and why hats?

I got into hats because what happens to the art after you create it? I started to think that for myself, my art really needed to have some type of function. When a person can wear it, it then provides something greater.

It's where I found my niche in the Twin Cities, was as a milliner. You can make a bold statement, but don't have to worry about how it fits a body. There's more artistic expression.

Do you wear hats?

I've always had a love of hats. I started wearing hats in junior high. Although I admit — and this is where I have compassion for anyone who is nervous about wearing hats — sometimes you don't have the personal energy to wear a bold hat.

I think it does take a certain personality to wear something bold on your head. At the same time, there's no better way to just add to a look than accessories. The hat's kind of like a cherry on top.

I think the thing about hats is they're a personal statement. I have a magnificent collection of hats and I like to collect other milliner's hats to support them. I feel like how can I expect other people to buy my hats if I'm not buying other people's hats?

What's the process of creating a hat?

It's pretty non-linear. I worked for Target off and on for a decade and I didn't design for them, but I worked in product development so I'd take the designer's ideas and then I would work with factories to make them happen.

It's really about playing for me. Sometimes, I'll take a day in the studio and I'll just block five hats and try a bunch of different things. My creative process is really about playing in the studio and it's definitely built on a foundation of honed knowledge.

I'll be working on five hats at one time. It takes some of the pressure off — doing multiple at one time removes the preciousness. I have my own tricks on how to get over perfectionism paralysis.

What types of hats will you bring to the Unglued: Craft Fest? What's your spring collection like?

Knowing that it's still winter, I'll have some of my faux fur winter hats. They're about $60 — simple, expressive faux fur hats. They're lined with fleece so they're super warm. I do felt blocking, as well, and I'll be bringing some of my fall/winter collection.

I'll bring a couple fascinators and straw hats because those are kind of my sneak peek at spring 2016. My spring collection is inspired by a collaboration I did with illustrator Allegra Lockstadt (of Minneapolis) on the 12 Triple Crown winners (horses that win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the same year).

I'll have Panama straw hats using the same ribbons, but they'll be much more accessible to a general public. I really work to find that balance between what's going to work for a customer and really giving myself the creative license to make some pieces that will probably sell. It's like haute couture versus ready-to-wear.

What are you hoping to accomplish in Fargo-Moorhead?

At this time I don't have an agenda at all. We'll see. I have, in the past, had this voracious appetite to say yes to anything and do as many things as possible. One of the things I've learned with that is to take my time. And what I've learned over the years is work is work, and creativity is creativity and people are really the most important thing. My goal has been to bring my work with me because I want to be closer to the people who matter to me. From my perspective, it really appears to be a vital time in Fargo-Moorhead. I'll get a lot out of moving to Fargo.



Instagram: @ruby3annalee

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Anna G. Larson

Anna G. Larson is a features reporter with The Forum who writes a weekly column featuring stylish people in Fargo-Moorhead. Larson graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in journalism and joined The Forum in July 2012. She's a Fargo native who enjoys travel, food, baking, fashion, animals, coffee and all things Midwestern. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @msannagrace 

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