Chito Mark is a leading Milliner in Nigeria. She is also one of the pioneers in the industry. She started making hits 40 years ago in Enugu. Today, GRACES HATS has become a global brand. She recently spoke to City People Magazine Publisher SEYE KEHINDE about Hats, Turbans & Fascinators and why stylish ladies will continue to go for Hats.
How have you coped all these years? Are you not afraid that Hats will go out of fashion?
No, because people will always wear hats. People will always cover their heads, not only in Hats. It was not easy. After 15 years, I couldn’t hide anymore, especially when Auntie Abba supported and encouraged me and people started to see that all the who-is-who were wearing my Hat. I was exhibitions abroad, in many states in the US. Like Kentucky in 2003 or 2004. My Hat won the 1st, 2nd and 3rd position. I have had so many TV appearances abroad. Our people appreciate you more when they value you outside there.
Let’s talk about Hats now. At what stage is the Hat business?
Hats have evolved over time. When I started they were like Pill Boxes. I then started making Hats that look like Turbans that you can wrap. From there, these fascinators came back. But then it was called Pill Box. Now it is called Turbanators, which is the Turban and the fascinator rose on top of it.
These are the few things that are in vogue. But some people still like to cover all their heads. They love the Western Hat. A lot of people like fascinators.
With the Turbanators, it is like a combination of a Pill Box and the Turban. That is what a lot of people like now. They want to cover their hair and still look very fanciful.
Like I said, Hats come in different designs now, like the real Church Hats, the brim wide Hat. People still wear them. It can never go out of fashion. There are women who still believe in those very wide brim Hat I have them. When they come they pick it up. There are people who just want the simple Turban, something to cover their heads. I have them in different types. It can be a long wrap or something that has already been put together, modelled into a Hat that you wear. And the fascinators come in different variations and designs. They are all different things. At times, you will see somebody that likes this and doesn’t like that. Or she wants this and doesn’t want that. So, I create a situation that whenever you come in, you must see what you like.
At what stage is your business now. At 40 years, what is the next stage?
The next stage of Graces Hats depends on what God says. All my life I have depended on God for direction. The next stage about Graces Hats now is still to continue to interpret what is in the Heart of people what they intend to look at when they come out. That is the Grace that I have. God shows me designs of Hats ahead of time.
Different things that are in the hearts of people, the way they want to look like, the way they want to feel, it comes to me as a design. I work according to the precepts of God. As he gives me the interpretation. I do it. And I hear a lot of these women come in and say hey, this is what I have been looking for. The Americans will say: This one has got my name on it. It’s like, I interpret how they want to look and what they want to become when they go out for functions. That helps me to bring out unique & different styles. Where I am getting it from is not running dry, which is from God. And when God is with you, it is just the beginning. I believe Graces Hat has just started. People have not seen anything yet. With all these 40 years, I am yet to start.
How did you coin the name Graces Hats?
My name is Grace. My mum’s name is Grace. Out of 8 of us, of 4 girls, she gave me her name. Grace means Unmerited Favour. That was how I coined the name Graces Hat.