words Koko Ntuen photography Marika Johansson and Thomas Andersson
I first meet Hanna, the designer behind the label Ruth-Hannah, because I am staring at her. Her tattoos, face, haircut, and outfit are all striking. I was sitting across from her at Snotty’s in Södermalm, and I just turned to her and said something like, “You look cool, are you an artist?” She nodded and told me, “I make hats.”
She invites me to her artist space in Södermalm where her vintage hat molds – lace, feathers, pearls, vaudeville posters and her exquisitely crafted hats – surround me. Amongst it all is a framed vintage picture of a woman, her grandmother.
“That was Ruth, my grandmother. Her mother was a milliner in the 19th Century. My grandmother always told me about her hats and her life. That’s how my interest in hats got started so I pay homage to her in my label.”
Hanna got her start as an apprentice at the prestigious Dramaten, under master milliner Barbra Scott. A year after her studies she launched her line and began crafting gorgeous hats using ecological bamboo fabric, lace, feathers, pearls and other dynamic materials. It’s no wonder she is a staple in the burlesque scene, creating extravagant work for some of the most exciting shows in Stockholm.
How did you decide to start making hats?
It just came overnight. I graduated from Hantverksakademin in 2008 from fashion design. I was sewing a lot and working for shops and gas stations and just making enough money to pay rent. I was just sitting one day and thought, ‘I need to do something with my creativity.’ I took a small milliner class, loved it and began to email milliners in Stockholm to get an apprenticeship. I got one at Dramaten and over two years I learned the craft of millinery under Barbra Scott.
What about the 1920’s is it that inspires you?
I love that style! I love Coco Chanel, she actually made hats at that time. I just loved what women were wearing at that time and love the burlesque styles and showgirls and all the bling bling. I love all of it!
How do you feel when you see people wearing your hats?
It’s great of course. The first Christmas I was in school, I gave everyone in my family hats, which is a great gift! I also work with a lot of burlesque artists here in Stockholm, so that’s amazing, to see my hats on stage. I made a huge hat this summer with a flamingo. That was my masterpiece. Most of the process was thinking about how to make it work. I worked with the dancer, Ivoncita, on the routine, it was called Exotica. The number starts with her as a palm tree, then she transforms into a flamingo and then she turns into a pineapple. I made all of the hats and she just takes them and reveals the next one. It was really exciting and hard work!
What would be your dream project to work on?
I love working with artists. I especially like working with burlesque artists. They give me so much creative freedom like, “I’m doing a jungle number, make a jungle hat!” It would be so fun to do a whole show, like make 20 hats for one big cabaret or something.
What is your signature hat?
Turbans are probably my signature hat because I love to make them and I make plenty of them but my favourite hats to make are party hats.
How does Stockholm inspire you?
I love Stockholm, this is my hometown. I love dancing, going to clubs, street-wear, listening to good music and interacting with musicians. I work with this girl Adele who is in a drug beat duo called For BDK. My favorite club before it closed down was Debaser Slussen. That was the greatest place, everyone was always there. Now I frequent Fräulein Frauke Presents, Marie Laveau, Trädgården (in the summer) and Södra Teatern.
What is your favourite neighborhood?
Södermalm. I think you have to be here.
Find out more at www.ruth-hannah.com