The Bernstock Speirs hat shop, open since 2004, is on the northern tip of the famous Brick Lane, away from the hustle and bustle of the shops, galleries and curry houses, as well as the weekend market crowds. The shop location quietly reflects the Bernstock Speirs brand – cool, off beat, away from the main stream and a style leader.

In fact, their pom pom hat with veil was recently copied by retail giant Aldo, but luckily withdrawn from sale after highlighted on Twitter by my cousin Style Bubble no less.

I sat down for tea and a natter with the lovely and funny Paul Bernstock and Thelma Speirs back in July at their atelier…


Paul Bernstock and Thelma Speirs in their shop…


Having worked together for over 30 years, it’s obvious you have a really successful partnership. What is the secret to your good working relationship?

Thelma: Appreciating each other’s strengths and having a friendship to start with…having the same sort of taste. We do different tasks but we’re both creative and we design together. Paul is really good at sewing so he works out the techniques. A sense of humour helps.

Paul: It boils down to a trust. It’s a trust across everything, from the designing to running the business and the financials. We trust that the other person always has the best interests of what we’re doing.



I personally think the custom of wearing hats is quite a British thing and a hat wearing event that springs to mind is Ascot. What do you think of the creations at Ascot?

Paul: We’ve done things for friends such as Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth in HBO’s Game Of Thrones). It’s not what we do but we did something for her as she’s a friend and so fabulous. It’s a world away from what we usually do. We always wanted our work to relate to what people really wear.

Thelma: It’s not what we want to do. It looks like period costume or Downtown Abbey. Sometimes we do a take on it such as the veil and fascinator to make it utility. It would be good if someone wore a bunny hat to Ascot but they don’t.


How would you describe the Bernstock Speirs aesthetic?

Thelma: I think it’s utility but it’s poppy.


Who would you like to see in your hats who hasn’t worn them yet?

Thelma: We did give Tilda Swinton a bunny cap and I love her and the way she looks. Otherwise, we’re not into celebrities really. We get people coming into the shop and they look brilliant in our hats and that makes us happy.

Paul: I remember our topless hat which Kylie Minogue wore on the cover of her 1st album. It was kind of inspired by Chanel. The first time we went to show in New York in 1982, I remember seeing a woman on the street wearing it and we were so excited. A real person went and bought it and they looked really good.

Paul: Everything we do…we spend a lot of time to make sure it can be produced effectively and the way it’s produced is also really important. When we sell a lot of something, we’re really excited not just for the financial thing but that it’s got a reach and is appealing to people. The pricing is accessible so it’s affordable. It’s affordable luxury. One off creations don’t interest us. It’s about things that can be mass produced.


So you manufacture everything in the UK?

Paul: All the manufacture is in the UK. The knitwear is all done in Nottingham. We have been working with the same hat blockers in Luton since we started. We try to source as much as we can from the UK. The yarns are British. Unfortunately we can’t get some things anymore such as felts and straw so we get that from Italy. A lot of things pass through here and get finished in our atelier.


Patterns for the hats…


A special order for Opening Ceremony in Tokyo is ready to be despatched…


Thank you so much Thelma and Paul for allowing me to get a glimpse behind the scenes of your atelier!


I couldn't help taking these selfies. I can't decide between the bunny cap and the pom pom veil hat…I guess I'll just have to get both!

PicMonkey Collage

Bernstock Speirs is at 234 Brick Lane, London E2 7EB (020 7739 7385). Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 10am – 6pm, Sat & Sun 11am – 5pm.

Join me…