Milliner Maria Curcic shows off one of her handmade hats in her workshop/studio. Don Denton photography

Milliner Maria Curcic shows off one of her handmade hats in her workshop/studio. Don Denton photography

Handmade Hats From Designer Maria Curcic

High end millinery for individuals, fashion designers and film and tv

  • Nov. 1, 2018 8:30 a.m.

Story by Chelsea Forman

Story courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication

Like Boulevard Magazine on Facebook and follow them on Instagram

Maria Curcic is assertive and confident, delivering the story of her life with candor and a charming touch of humour.

She is a unique blend triple threat: painter, hat designer and DJ. Maria has turned her passion for the arts into a successful career and her ever-evolving collection of handmade hats has gained a cult following.

Maria was born in Paris, France, where she spent the first eight years of her life. Paris, she says, was influential in developing her appreciation for arts and culture.

“Growing up in France, I took ballet and did art. I was very immersed in the Parisian culture and my mom always pushed me to be creative,” she explains.

Maria and her mom would spend days in Paris shopping and exploring. Fashion was a considerable part of their day-to-day lives; they were surrounded by it on the Parisian streets.

“My mother always had me in hats and little outfits and we’d go shopping at the markets. She was a seamstress so she was very fashionable herself. She wore lots of accessories — a hat or scarf or very cool purse. She believed in a good accessory to finish off a look,” says Maria.

At the age of eight, Maria and her mom moved to Calgary. Maria began to learn English and Serbian and adjust to life in Canada, while continuing to focus on art. Her mother taught her how to sew and design clothing, and on a trip back to Paris one year, Maria learned how to make hats, setting her passion for the craft in motion.

“We went back to Paris in the late ‘70s and a friend of my mom’s made clothing and accessories, so she taught me the basics of hat-making,” Maria.

Hat designer Mara Curcic, wears one of her own handmade hats in her studio. Don Denton photography

Upon graduating high school, Maria attended the Alberta College of Art and Design, majoring in drawing, and after that she continued studies at Mount Royal University, where she majored in interior design. Her education led to a job in architectural rendering for design firms.

“While I was working at various architectural firms, I always remained creative. I modelled for hair and fashion, and produced fashion shows. I was always part of Calgary’s arts and culture scene. I actually made my first [hat] fascinator in the ‘80s for a fashion show,” Maria explains.

In 1994, Maria decided to take a leap of faith and quit her job at the architectural firm to open her own hat store. She called it Le Chapeau Rouge, which translates to The Red Hat. The name was an homage to the roots of her creativity: those childhood days in Paris exploring the great city of arts and culture, wearing a little red hat, given to her by her mom.

Maria’s store carried an exquisite collection of high-end hats sourced from around the world and also her own designs. Her collection of sophisticated, fascinator-inspired hats quickly gained a following.

“I have always made all of my hats from the design to the end product. I make my own patterns and everything by hand. I go crazy with material. I get it from Toronto, Montreal, Italy, France and England. That’s it. For me it’s about loving the process and seeing the end result.”

Eventually, Maria made the decision to freelance her hats and she began wholesaling them to stores across Canada and the United States. As she became increasingly busy, she made the difficult decision to focus on the freelance component of her business.

“I decided in 1997 to close my store and start producing my own hat shows. I would produce hat events in the form of fundraisers for different organizations in Calgary. I did that for over 10 years. I didn’t want to mass produce; I felt that I would lose quality and design control. Then the internet came about and I started an online store. I still produce my own shows twice a year and use my internet shop,” she says.

Maria has designed hats for science fiction television shows and made hats for CBC Television on season one of Frankie Drake Mysteries. She also collaborates with Toronto’s modern fashion designer, Zoran Dobric.

“I can go from ‘40s- or ‘50s-inspired headpieces to something very avant-garde. You can give me a paper bag and I could make you something from it. I have always been able to do that with my endeavours, whether it be the hats, painting or music – it’s all art creativity and a form of expression.”

Hat designed and handmade by Maria Curcic. Photo courtesy Maria Curcic.

Upon the successful launch of her freelance company, Maria began to DJ at clubs and lounges in the evenings and was able to develop both her knowledge of music and her reputation as a personality in Calgary. She was eventually offered her own radio show, Mary’s Web at www.radioradio.ca, which she continues to produce 35 years later.

When Maria’s mom passed away, she decided it was time for a significant lifestyle change.

“I’m a water person. I had visited Victoria and I loved how relaxed I felt there. It has a great vibe so I made the decision to move. I’m getting too old to not make decisions. It was the best decision of my life,” Maria explains.

Maria has immersed herself in the arts culture of Victoria and the West Shore, where she has now lived in Colwood for four years. Her renowned abstract paintings are currently on display in Victoria’s new wine bar, The Collective. She also continues to design hats and sell them to an international clientele. As she continues the newest chapter of her life in Victoria, Maria shows no sign of losing momentum as her creativity continues to fuel her genius and passion for design.

Visit Maria’s millinery website and see more of her hats, check out her paintings here and listen to her here as DJ Mary Flavors.

artistDesignDJDJ Mary FlavorsFascinatorhandmadeHat DesignerHat MakerHatsMaria CurcicMillinerPainter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Millstone River in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Regional district looks at value of Nanaimo’s natural assets

Report focused on the Millstone River could inform future decisions on corporate asset management

Protesters gather along the Pearson Bridge on Terminal Avenue in downtown Nanaimo last month as part of an event called Worth More Standing. (News Bulletin file photo)
LETTER TO THE EDITOR: B.C. hasn’t managed forests properly

Protesters opposing logging in Fairy Creek speak for many British Columbians, say letter writers

Nanaimo singer Victoria Vaughn recently released an EP with local producer Austin Penner. (Photo courtesy Taylor Murray)
Nanaimo singer and recent VIU grad releases EP about becoming an adult

Victoria Vaughn’s ‘Growing Pains’ recorded with local producer Austin Penner

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has listed Harbour Air and Air Canada flights to and from Nanaimo, from April 3, 4 and 12, on its list of flights with COVID-19. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported for Air Canada, Harbour Air flights, says disease control centre

Nanaimo flights for April 3, 4 and 12 listed on BCCDC’s list of flights with COVID-19

Rebates through Clean B.C.’s Better Homes New Construction program are available, says the City of Nanaimo. (Vancouver Island University photo)
Energy-efficient home builds in Nanaimo eligible for up to $15K in rebates

All building permits issued on, or after, April 1, 2020 eligible, says City of Nanaimo

Pat Kauwell, a semi-retired construction manager, lives in his fifth-wheel trailer on Maxey Road because that’s what he can afford on his pension, but a Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw prohibits using RVs as permanent dwellings, leaving Kauwell and others like him with few affordable housing options. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Housing crunch or not, it’s illegal to live in an RV in Nanaimo

Regional District of Nanaimo bylaw forcing pensioner to move RV he calls home off private farm land

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Noel Brown, Snuneymuxw First Nation carver, observes the house post he carved, which now is situated in front of the Kw’umut Lelum centre on Centre Street in Nanaimo. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
House post representative of work of Kw’umut Lelum in Nanaimo

Snuneymuxw First Nation artist Noel Brown’s carved red cedar house post unveiled Friday, April 16

(Black Press file photo).
UPDATED: Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Most Read