Meet Gladys Tamez, the milliner to the stars and Lady Gaga’s go-to hatter

Gaga’s style is obviously iconic, especially when it comes to headwear, whether it’s a well-placed slice of meat or shiny black wide jeweled brim surrounding her with a curtain of crystals, millinery is an art form, and we’ll never get over her unforgettable Victoria’s Secret performance in 2016.

The strength behind the hat, Gladys TamezConstantly designs the chic hats you see on almost every celebrity and style star, but lately she’s been making headlines again with the unveiling of her latest project: a collaboration with The Tesoro, in which the two independent Mexican companies join forces to create a tequila-inspired straw cowboy hat as a tribute to the country’s deep history of craftsmanship. We chatted with Tamez herself for some insight into the process and what she has coming up. (FYI, you can buy the hat here!)

How did you discover millinery?
I had a dress line that was all over It Girls in Hollywood, but with the hits came a burnout and I wanted to do something more stylish and purposeful. I grew up in northern Mexico and the hat is such an important part of insignia, and when you look at the biggest style icons, they always wear hats. I grew up [up] I love Bianca Jagger, Cher and Patti Hansen, all of whom wear hats with such confidence, but I haven’t seen anything on the market that meets my criteria for high quality, balanced design and complementary to most outfits . My definition of luxury is in the making of the hat, not in the branding. I just wanted to fill the void and it went from there.

You have collaborated with many A-listers in your career so far. Can you share some of your favorite stories behind one or two of these experiences?
My favorite collaborator is Lady Gaga. She has such an encyclopedic knowledge of fashion and respects and understands the hat as an essential part of personal style. Although we did many projects, my favorite was the “Million Dollar Hat” for her Victoria’s Secret performance in Paris. We decided to merge Gypsy Rose Lee and Bob Mackie and created the Swarovski encrusted cowboy hat that had a curtain of black crystals that mimicked a risque dress. She had to play in it, so it had to hold up with her, and it did! And not a single crystal fell. Every customer has a story to tell, and I love finding their perfect hat so they can feel the empowerment and confidence a good hat can give them in their everyday life. My hats have brought people success, love and fabulous feelings. I want to share this as widely as possible.

How do you personally interpret the intersection of tequila and Mexican fashion?
Tequila is a source of pride for Mexicans, something we can call our own that the world has embraced, with good reason – it’s an emotional drink that exudes a real sense of place. It transports you to Mexico with every sip. I learned how Tequila is made from very specific Agave conditions. To make El Tesoro, the Camarena allow the agave to reach maximum stress conditions [as] the plant works incredibly hard to produce life-sustaining nutrients, and only then is the agave harvested. Stress creates beauty. The same can be said for fashion – pieces that have a story behind them, a sense of belonging, struggle and triumph. My hats are inspired by things I’ve seen around the world, but especially my home country of Mexico, a beautiful place despite and because of its struggles. We Mexicans are very passionate people, and it shows in everything we create.

How did you and El Tesoro meet? And what was the experience, given that this is your first collaboration with a Tequila brand?
El Tesoro is a true artist’s tequila. We came together to create a custom piece that honors the way El Tesoro is made – the old-fashioned way, without cutting corners. The process takes time, patience and diligence, and the result is worth it. We both share the same passion and desire to create a true feeling of luxury when people enjoy our craft, knowing how much time and attention to detail has gone into the creative process. Learning more about it, the Camarena family’s history and approach to craftsmanship has been so inspiring. Being able to celebrate our work together has connected me to my Mexican heritage on a deeper level.

What do you see in your future when it comes to delving deeper into the world of agave spirits?
I look forward to returning to Mexico, visiting La Alteña Distillery to learn more about El Tesoro and the amazing tequilas produced there, and spending time with the Camarena family. I had the chance to taste the range of El Tesoro including the Extra Añejo, one of the greatest Tequilas you can find, and the rare and beautiful Paradiso, a Don Felipe Camarena bottle aged in barrels of Cognac. The possibilities for creativity and collaboration are endless!

Any other stories/thoughts/news you would like to share with us?
My next collection is inspired by my mother, Elizabeth, who is my personal style icon. She was a Lancôme model in Mexico with big lashes, red lipstick and always dressed brand new. She recently passed away and I wanted to pay homage to her by designing a collection that brings back my earliest childhood fashion memories of reading Vogue Paris at my mother’s bookstore called Tivoli Books in my hometown in Mexico. It was here after school with my mother that I became exposed and eventually obsessed with fashion design and styling. But my mother’s support and encouragement and her singular style most inform who I am and how I design.

[Photos via @gladystamezmillinery/El Tesoro]

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