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Stick a feather in your cap

This is one of John's fabulous creations. He has been making hats since 1971.

You won’t find any pasta here—candy, fish, cake, yes. I’ve seen squirrels and frogs, too. These are the creations of master fantasy milliner John Koch.

I had the honor of visiting with John last year in his Chicago studio, which is reminiscent of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium—a titillating combination of the strange and wonderful and projects that channel Cecil B. DeMille, Oz, and Pandora all at once. You’ll find more of his creations in upcoming issues of Threads magazine as he shows how to make gloves like you’ve never seen before. Right now, though, he’s giving us a peek at some of his wonderful fantasy hats.

It appears that Chicago society is fond of attending gala charity events decked out in flamboyantly festive fedoras—forgive the alliteration, I just can’t control myself. When I see one of John’s hats, I’m overcome with a lightness of being and joy. My fingers start snapping, my heels start clicking, and I start hearing music when there’s no one there. John lives in a wonderful world where everything is beautiful.

Do you know any creative geniuses?


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  1. sashacatgrl2 | | #1

    These hats definitely have a bit of 18th century influence in them. After all, where else would one see women wearing ships, bird's nests, and other fantastical objects on their heads? John Koch certainly has updated that look with his incredibly crafted and very detailed hats.

  2. CookieVon | | #2

    I have know John and his creations for 3 decades - he is
    a never-ending fountain of creativity - I hope we get to
    see not only his gloves, hats, costumes, but some of his
    jewelry and the boxes he makes for his jewelry - this man
    has used design, color, and texture to create the sublime
    and the ridiculous - in the most fun way - his work is eye
    candy of the big rock candy mountain era. Glad you found
    him and will share him with the rest of us!!!

  3. CookieVon | | #3

    I'd like to correct the spelling of known to known, not know,
    in my previous post
    my bad, and did he mention his kimonos?? Oy!

  4. LionQueen | | #4

    I have known John for years. He is an extremely talented man, a fabulous instructor and a wonderful person to boot. Thank you Judith for exposing him to your readers.

  5. User avater
    Mike32 | | #5

    I love the cover photo! Here in Jordan the American Women had a Crazy hat luncheon, wish they could have seen the ideas here. Maybe next year!

  6. CLD_potter | | #6

    John is a dear friend of mine, and I have the pleasure of owning several of his early hats and also some of his beautiful jewelry and gloves. I'm so glad you are sharing some of his creations. He takes everything he does to the nth degree, producing art for us to wear. His work always inspires me, and when I wear something he has made, I feel beautiful.

  7. Guidegirl | | #7

    LOVE the John's hats!! Just fantastic. I have been lucky to attend the Parkways event for years as a guest. There is nothing like seeing 700 women in hats at lunch, the best.
    Another talented find in Chicago is a new designer Elizabeth M at 100 East Walton. Her creations are so beautifully sewn, you could wear them inside out .
    Just love her sense of mixing fabric textures. I was drawn to her place after seeing her window in the Ritz, couldn't resist a peek in her boutique.

  8. decoratrice | | #8

    Wow! John's creations just opened up a new world for me! Now I can't wait to try out a jacket with an angel on one shoulder, devil on the other...jacket covered in peppermint candies..things climbing out of pockets..oooh! Thank you, Judith!

  9. User avater
    Sewdreamy | | #9

    I love these hats! I think I'm going to have to make a few creations of my own and wear them just for fun. Cheers.

  10. annseven | | #10

    I would love to know more about John Koch's hats - does he have a website?

  11. KharminJ | | #11

    What trippy designs ~ perfecly complimented by his gloves!

    Here's Mr. Koch's website - posted in the "gloves patterns" column here:


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