Hats off to Karen Morris Millinery

by | Aug 2023

Model wears hat from Karen Morris Millinery.

Photo: Shelly Mosman

Hatmaker creates custom toppers for clients and sells her wares at this month’s Twin City Polo Classic.

If your image of millinery—the art of hat-making—is one of towering Victorian numbers dripping with taxidermized birds and ridiculous ruffles, a quick visit to the studio of Twin Cities milliner Karen Morris will instantly disabuse you of that perception. Morris’ hats are contemporary and sculptural, perfectly walking the line between understated and attention-grabbing. “I like to go to art or science museums, and I get a lot of inspiration from there,” Morris says. “And I travel a lot. I’ll stop in London or Tokyo and see different things—I love seeing sculptures.”

Morris herself has a story that traverses the globe. “I was born in Hong Kong and moved to Minnesota in 2008 with my husband,” she says. “I didn’t have any friends or family here, so I needed some hobbies to fill my time.” Morris’ degree is in business management, but she’d always loved fashion and design. She took the opportunity to dive headfirst into millinery. “I’m basically self-taught,” she says. “I bought a lot of books and did Google searches and tried to find my tools and equipment step by step.” But a lot of the tricks of the trade, she says, aren’t available in books—you need an in-person tutor. Morris sought out millinery mentors and traveled to England and Australia to work with experienced hatmakers who shared their wisdom with her.

The craft was one thing. The business was another. “In the beginning, it was quite hard. Many ladies in Minnesota want something practical instead of fashionable,” Morris says with a laugh. “My hats are lighter, more occasion-wear.” She applied to various art and fashion shows and was a vendor at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in Shakopee. Slowly but surely, her clientele began to grow, including several local clients around Lake Minnetonka, who wear her millinery confections to galas, horse racing events, private parties on the lake and more.

Morris now has a showroom where clients can stop by or schedule an appointment, and her hats are featured in local fashion shows and art markets, sometimes as partnerships with clothing designers. Her true trade is in custom hats, she says. “Most of the time, clients don’t buy the existing stock. They’ll bring their outfit to my studio, and we’ll talk about colors and designs to match,” she says.

Karen Morris Millinery

Photo: Erin Smith

Local content creator and influencer Carla Anderson says her connection with Morris happened around an event they both love: the Polo Classic, hosted every August by the Twin City Polo Club in Maple Plain.

Anderson heard about the event and, as a lifelong horse-lover, decided to check it out. “I love the art of fashion and have a lot of respect for it—and for any festivities around it. I love to dress up,” she says. At the boutique where she found her dress for the Polo Classic, the salespeople asked if she was familiar with Morris’ work. “I just fell in love with Karen,” Anderson says. “I knew she had an eye for it. Right away, I reached out and said, ‘I need to meet you.’”

Anderson went to Morris’ studio ahead of last year’s Polo Classic to collaborate on her hat. “I told her about the design I wanted, the size, the colors—and she just nailed it,” she says. “We made this beautiful hat, and she was just outstanding.” Anderson received many compliments on her hat at the Polo Classic and was eager to work with Morris again. For Fashion Week MN this past spring, Anderson says, “I don’t mind repeating an outfit; I wore my dress somewhere else. But I needed to make a change elsewhere, and I decided on a hat.”

Another of Morris’ lake area clients is Jenny Verner, who met Morris at the marketplace of a business luncheon. “First, she made a mauve felt hat for me—I saw it at the marketplace, and by the time I went back to buy it, she had sold it!” Verner says. “Then I was able to go to her showroom, get fitted and have her make the hat. It matched my coat perfectly.” Verner says she loves working with Morris. “She is a professional and an artist,” she says. “She’s very creative and knows what a good fit is.”

Karen Morris Millinery

Hats and Horses

Guests at this month’s Polo Classic at the Twin City Polo Club in Maple Plain can find Morris’ hats and meet the designer herself. She’s an official sponsor of the event, which benefits This Old Horse, an organization that supports horses that are retiring or rescued. Morris says the mission means a lot to her; growing up in Hong Kong, she knew horse racing well—the region has a thriving horse racing scene with events on the scale of the Kentucky Derby or Royal Ascot. She’s looking forward to the Polo Classic. “I love the event,” she says. “It’s lots of fun and so good to see all the horses.” For additional details about the Polo Classic, click here.

Karen Morris Millinery
1500 Jackson St. NE Suite 210, Mpls. (by appointment only)
Facebook: Karen Morris Millinery
Instagram: @karenmorrismillinery
Pinterest: @kmhats

Carla Anderson
Instagram: @thecarlaanderson


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