by Jason Kenny
In the bustling Neukölln area of Berlin, about a block down from a stretch of small bars on Weserstrasse, milliner Mimosa Pale creates irreverent hats in her small studio and shop, Himo. The name of the store comes from the Finnish word for lust or passion, and describes the wares precisely.
"I'm a hat lover from my childhood," Pale explains. "My dream was to be the saleswoman in a hat shop. I decided that after 29 years I wanted to fulfill my childhood professional dream. I don't know why. I know that where my grandma lived in that same house there was a hat shop downstairs." About a year after moving from Helsinki to the much larger city of Berlin, Pale decided she needed to carve her own place in the German capital.
"It somehow came from that feeling of losing oneself in a big city," she says. "Establishing the shop was a very concrete way to invade a space in the city for myself. That goes very easily when you rent a public space like this. It has been interesting for me not to work at somewhere closed off from the outside world but somewhere more open."
With a background in sculpture and performance art Pale can often be found in Berlin playing her saw with a violin bow with piano accompaniment. Some of the hats, particularly a towering hat created from plastic wine glasses, have found their place in her performances.
Pale's sculpting background comes through in other designs that stretch high above the wearer's head. Behind the counter is one hat with a ship on a turbulent sea. Another sits in the corner of the front window, with feathers winding two feet high. In fall of 2012, Himo had a show of "dangerous hats", capped off with three models' hats being set alight in the street.
For Pale, sculpture and hats aren't separate, and they're not one and the same thing. "I see them blending in the best case. But then when I've been doing these hats I realize the customers might not always like the sculpture ideas so much, so I also make more traditional hats now," she says. "I'm hoping that at some point the sculpture hats are as comfortable as the traditional hats. Because that's a difficult part of it, the balance, the materials and what is on your head should be very light. But on the other hand I think it's interesting how it influences the way you're moving."
Along with "dangerous hats" and a series of "cunt caps" are turbans, bonnets, bucket hats and a growing collection of felt styles as Pale learns more about traditional methods of hat-making. "The thing for me, coming from a fine arts background," she says, "there are no rules, or right or wrong, and no absolute things. But in hat-making there are traditions hundreds of years old that have proven themselves very right or very good."
Pale continues to grow her work one head at a time, with plans to move to a larger studio and store later this year, as well as designing headgear for an upcoming theater production. For more information and to see galleries of her designs, check out the Himo website.
Images courtesy of Himo