Iconic Milliner Kokin
Kokin is a fabulous New York City-based Milliner, who has designed hats for the likes of Laura Dern, Julia Roberts, Britney Spears, Beyonce, and many more. He has been a part of iconic cultural moments from Sex and the City and Clueless to Gossip Girl. He has worked with top designers including the likes of Ralph Lauren, Oscar De La Renta, Donna Karan, Zac Posen, Creatures Of Comfort, and others. Kokin's work can be viewed in Vogue, Elle, Bazaar, Mademoiselle, Italian Vogue, Allure, Essence, Vanity Fair, Lucky, The New York Times, and other international publications. His expertise makes him one of the industry’s top milliners and IRK magazine was lucky enough to sit down with him to discuss his experiences.
Fashion Editior- @thecannonmediagroup
Model: Eva @loeil.de.la.mer
Cannon: How did you discover the art of Millinery, when did you know you were a milliner?
Kokin: I took 3 night-school classes just for fun at the Fashion Institute of Technology- PR, Photography, and Millinery, my mother and grandmother always wore hats when I was growing up in Buffalo, I loved them but didn't see myself becoming a hat designer. I moved to New York along with my college girlfriend to become an actor. When I went to the first hat class my new professor the legendary Ann Albrizio was addressing the class as if we were all fashion students (which I was not) I raised my hand and said I am not really a FIT student and I had no idea what she was talking about as she listed the tools we needed to obtain for the class. She asked me "are you interested"? I told her I was, "so stay"! she said, and so I did.
I had my own ideas and interpretations of what she was teaching and she encouraged me. Before long I thought that I could start my own business and then I could audition whenever I wanted, I had no idea the business would snowball from making hats in my kitchen and that I wouldn't ever audition again.
I knew I was a milliner when Bergdorf Goodman commissioned me to make a special collection for them in the style of CHANEL to show with their debut presentation of Karl Lagerfeld. My hats were featured with CHANEL in all of the windows along 5th avenue, and do I have one picture of this? Not one.
Cannon: Celebrities from Julia Roberts to Beyonce have worn your hats, and your designs are loved by many, so when you design a Kokin Hat, who are you designing for?
Kokin: I don't and have never had a focus group, I have made hats for 8-year-old girls, Chihuahuas, socialites, entertainers, movie stars, and glamour girls of all ages. My hats are never for the fainthearted or wallflowers.
Cannon: Your hats are truly stunning and completely unique, what or who is your biggest inspiration?
Kokin: Old Hollywood has always been a big influence, the major couturiers of Paris and Italy always, some classic American designers as well as art and music, travel always gets me revved up, whenever I go someplace I try and observe the people, the culture and the setting and colors, beauty and inspiration is everywhere when you are artistic, the eye never rests.
Cannon: With the rise of fast fashion trends are changing so quickly - how do you adapt?
Kokin: It’s not impossible when you finally grow up to realize that something that is truly beautiful and well made will always be just that, quality in material and design endures and is always a 'trend". People have to be more self-aware to be truly on-trend, something that is not flattering on you will never be a trend, it just looks desperate.
Cannon: What has been your favorite piece to date?
Kokin: There are many things that I have done, usually custom pieces that I really love and am proud of. Looking back at the time also that Donna Karan's DKNY sent out every single model on the runway wearing KOKIN. It was also exciting when I was just starting out and Oscar de La Renta opened his show with girls wearing these jeweled fezzes I had created for his collection, but one hat, in particular, has an amazing memory that resonates to this day.
In 2019 I did a hat for Alicia Keys when she hosted the Grammy Awards, it was a high crown Black velour fedora with a crushed leather band. I was sitting and watching the show with my then 10-year-old son Zachary when out she came wearing the hat and she sat down and played two pianos at once with the KOKIN on her head. My kid was so excited, screaming, dancing on the bed, carrying on and yelling "daddy, this is so amazing"!! "Daddy she looks so cool!!" Daddy, I love you"!! He was so proud of me that night, so that had to be my favorite piece ever.
Cannon: What advice do you have for aspiring designers and milliners?
Kokin: Opening your own boutique to showcase your work and experiment is also quite a good idea, hearing firsthand the feedback from the customer is always smart.
It is also most necessary to be original, and always remember that most people who wear serious hats aren't serious at all, or need you to help them live out their dream. Of course, those are the most fun clients to have, but it’s a lot of work and hand-holding. When a hat is a success the woman can be completely transformed and find new power that she didn't know she had.