With clients including Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Cardi B, and Janelle Monáe—and a recent Interview cover featuring Rihanna in one of her designs—Sarah Sokol is on a mission to bring hats and headpieces back into the spotlight of American fashion. An accomplished milliner, Sokol’s interest in the form came from a passion for sculptural costume couture and through meeting fellow creatives in New York’s nightlife community. Her signature big-brim hats and saucers have helped spark a renaissance in American millinery style. 

Who was one influential figure for you at Pratt? Or beyond Pratt? And why?

Mentorship plays the biggest part in becoming a master of any craft. I was lucky enough to work at Arnold Levine’s theatrical millinery shop [in New York City’s Garment District] after graduating from Pratt, where I had the opportunity to build for Broadway, Disney, and other wonderful productions. Arnold’s head milliner, Cigmond Meachen, became my mentor, and I am beyond grateful for that experience. 

Cigmond has been the most influential figure in my millinery career—and she is actually a Pratt graduate from 1981! I had previous millinery training from Jacqueline Lamont [Adjunct Professor (CCE) of Fashion Design], who taught a millinery course at Pratt, Anya Calideno, and Ani Townsend. Anya is a well-known milliner in New York who also teaches an intensive millinery class. Ani is a milliner in Bristol, known for making the sorting hat in Harry Potter!

You’ve spoken about your pivot into millinery taking place through a number of experiences, including Burning Man. How did mentorship play a role along the way?

I joined the Milliner’s Guild when I first started my millinery journey. There, I met some wonderful milliners, one of whom, Anne DePasquale, directed me toward Arnold Levine’s millinery shop. I was also very involved in the Burning Man community and the creatives there were very supportive. I did a lot of vending in my early career at markets in the Burner community, which introduced me to a ton of amazing craftspeople and artisans.   

A person with long hair in a multicolored button-up shirt and a matching wide-rimmed hat.
Sarah Sokol ’11

What advice do you have for young designers? 

I have three words of advice for up-and-coming creatives: Find a mentor. 

Millinery specifically is such a small field that it’s important to really find someone you admire and learn from them. In the broader sense, I recommend attending artists markets, creating indexes of your favorite designers and stylists. Stylists are a key factor in creating a celebrity’s look.  

More broadly, you must be fully dedicated to not only becoming an expert in your craft but building a wide network and creating personal connections. For me, this also meant going out and networking in the nightlife community. There are some extremely talented people in the LGBTQ, drag, burlesque, and Burner communities. Being in a space where people are expressing themselves so fully was very inspiring to me and I was able to build many professional relationships and friendships. The most valuable thing you can do is show up!

Read more mentorship stories from the Spring 2024 special section.