Celebrities are not only musicians, actors, and politicians… hat makers can be legit stars too. The name that has been appearing in the spotlight of the fashion industry for more than seven years is Ruslan Baginskiy. This talented Ukrainian became a favorite milliner of such show business stars as Miley Cyrus, Kourtney Kardashian, Bella Hadid, Izabel Goulart, Paris Hilton, and even Madonna. The latter one celebrated the beginning of the New Year 2022 in crystals-adorned balaclava made by the designer from Lviv.
Behind the Name: Who is Ruslan Baginskiy?
Ruslan is a founder of the eponymous Baginskiy brand. He was born in the Ukrainian “cultural capital” Lviv on September 5, 1989. Surprisingly, his education has nothing to do with fashion industry – he graduated from Ivan Franko National University with a qualification of a geographer. Yet, there is a symbolic coincidence with his current profession – as he strived to study the world and became world-famous. Also, when being a student, he started working as a stylist for photo sessions and shows of various Ukrainian designers. Gradually, when experimenting with his visions of the models’ stylish looks, he created his first hat. It is known that in 2011 the young man had a pioneering photo shoot where models wore his own headpiece. After that, his fascination with hats was only growing, and he decided to improve his skills by studying the art of headgear at local ateliers.
His passion for hats was inspired by his family who were ardent headgear wearers. That is why Ruslan quite often mentions in his interviews that Baginskiy hats embody both traditions and modern touches. When he reviews photos in family albums, he often notices his relatives wearing versatile hats. Thus, he once assumed that he inherited the love for hats at a subconscious level. Can it even be genetic?
In interviews for trendy fashion magazines, Ruslan said he did not have enough money to study somewhere in world fashion schools, such as Istituto Marangoni or Central Saint Martins. Unfortunately, there are no state-of-the-art fashion schools in Ukraine. Thus, when he was 18, the local hat-making studio in Lviv became his educator. What is interesting, when he was searching for the best milliners in the city, he found only two women who could properly teach him. Yet, they were reluctant to share their knowledge at first. Maybe they sensed that the young man was not only their future competitor, but a genuine fashion star? Ruslan was persuasive enough and one milliner taught him everything she knew about felt. Afterwards, he immersed in never-ending books and video tutorials about all the possible hat shapes and materials a high-quality headgear can be made from.
What is more favorable about the Ukrainian milliner is his attitude to clients. Baginskiy claims that his hats can suit any personality and any pocket. Hence, he does not have a particular hero or heroine of the brand. His customers can be celebrities, including the British Queen, as well as ordinary people without thousands of Instagram followers. As Ruslan said in the interview for Forbes, “I do not like all these abstract descriptions of a “hero” of the brand, because I see our customers every day. They tag the brand on Instagram, I meet them at the Saint Honoré, we dine at the same restaurants and go to the same parties in Paris and Kyiv. There is a variety of them – adults and young people, classy and fashionistas, celebrities, even friends of my mother, but they all value hats. They can fit everyone; you just need to find your perfect match.”
Girls around the world adore hats made by Ruslan Baginskiy. Famous models, singers, actresses fall in love with his modernized designs of the traditional hats. When the designer is asked about the most special clients, he only smiles and says that there is a variety of cool women who wear his stylish head pieces. He also mentioned that the best feeling in the world for him is when a girl thought her whole life that hats do not suit her, but after trying a Baginskiy hat, she finally sees that it perfectly suits her. So, it is not only about the beautiful headgear, but about the acceptance of own appearance. Ruslan also wishes hats were as essential for daily wear as they used to be in the nineteenth century. His global dream is to make a hat for every girl on the planet
Design Process and Couture
The process of designing hats is time-consuming and it demands constant inspiration. The milliner says that he finds inspiration in both vintage and modern fashion magazines, as well as in the streets of Ukrainian and foreign cities. A particular thing about Baginskiy is that he does not usually make sketches. His way of keeping the ideas in place is making up mood boards. After his mood boards are created, Ruslan and his team start searching for the necessary materials and the most suitable accessories for the intended headgear. They dedicate long hours to mere experiments with the style, patterns, and colors. The hat makers always prepare more samples than they finally produce. For instance, they can make 100 samples, but only 50 of them will go through the final manufacturing process.
Baginsky’s brand is also about the artisanal approach where handmade details play a quintessential role. The designer prefers embroidery, as it reflects Ukrainian traditional culture and it is satiated with an esthetic value. A signature feature of Baginskiy hats is the RB embroidery that can be found on every baker boy cap. Despite the absence of cutting-edge fashion schools in Ukraine, self-trained people and folk craftsmen are prodigies who know lots of unique hat-making techniques, and Ruslan has been always inspired by the talented Ukrainians.
Besides making “hats for every girl’s head”, the brand also works on couture collections, which are the most challenging. Every couture item requires deep research and long experiments. As Ruslan says, fashion is art, and he especially feels being an artist when he creates pieces for high fashion shows. Every art hat he creates carries a unique story within itself. The milliner often collaborates with other artists and even IT specialists to make the couture-designing process as inventive as possible. Besides local technologies, they use 3D printing to make those seamless hats. Some decorations even allude to Ukrainian nature and landscapes.
The Chronology of Popularity
The most successful enterprises start with the support of the loved ones. Knowing that Ruslan wanted to start his own headgear company, his grandmother gave him $200 as an initial investment. It could be perceived as a blessing for a smooth beginning, and in , he managed to start his own brand aimed at making miscellaneous hats and fashionable accessories. A pioneering Baginskiy collection was inspired by the popular headgear of the twentieth century. Yet, the designer made them look exquisitely modern.
Only one year passed after the brand’s start-up when the world mass media became interested in the Ukrainian designer. Stories about Baginskiy and the images of his hats could be read in Elle UA, Harper’s Bazaar UA, L’Officiel Homme UA, and others. At that time, he presented his signature piece – Baginskiy’s vision of a baker boy cap, who was instantly loved by such celebs as Kaia Gerber, Chiara Ferragni, Bella and Gigi Hadid, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, etc
In 2017, the milliner opened his own showroom in Kyiv and began conquering hearts of the Ukrainian capital’s fashionistas. That is when his works appeared at Ukrainian Fashion Week for the first time. Subsequent success at the national and international fashion shows made him a recurring designer for haute couture collections. Moreover, strong family ties played their role again when his mother, father, and brother became part of his creative team. Probably, owing to the help of the dearest ones, Baginskiy manages to produce four seasonal collections every year.
2018 brought other shades of success in terms of the signed partnership between Bagisnkiy and the American brand RTA. This very year Ruslan was honored to create an individually tailored fedora hat for the renown diva Madonna. She appeared in that hat on the cover Vogue Italia in August issue.
That photo session for Vogue was entitled “Just One Day Out of Life”. Despite being intended for the Italian magazine, the photos were made in Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. Besides Baginskiy’s hats, Madonna wore Dior, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, and others. In general, the Ukrainian brand produced 12 unique hats for the photo shoot. Madonna was personally in contact with the team to discuss all the particularities of the design. One of the hats was embroidered with hearts and the name of the American star’s song “Beautiful Game”. Even the singer’s adopted daughter Mercy James wore a black canotier hat created by Baginskiy.
Such a starry collaboration could not go any better, as Madonna appreciated the designer’s work so much, having become the brand’s supporter ever since. For instance, she wore different Baginskiy hats during the same summer and the evidence can be found on the pop queen’s Instagram account.
Fascinating Italian collaborations continued in 2019 when Ruslan Baginskiy signed a contract for an exceptional product creation for the distinguished Italian retailer Luisaviaroma. This very year, the celebrated milliner made his couture collection with the Ukrainian name “Stozhary”. The presentation, which took place in Paris at Hôtel de Crillon, was complemented by art pieces of the Ukrainian sculpturer Maria Kulikovska.
In 2020, another prominent woman became a client of Baginskiy – namely Ukraine's first lady Olena Zelenska. She wore a bow hairband hat when attending an audience with Pope Francis. The second haute couture collection “TSVIT” was presented the same year online because of the increasing corona virus pandemics.
2021 was successful abroad, as the RB company managed to open a pop-up store in Paris. Besides, one of the members of the famous South Korean pop band BTS wore Baginskiy’s straw boater hat for the video “Butter”.
2022 has been a difficult year for the brand because of the Russian invasion in the territory of Ukraine. Despite the ongoing war, the company does its best to continue making hats mostly for the sake of donating to the army. Although the Instagram feed of the famous brand is focused on promotion, they vividly support Ukraine during war times, emphasizing their belonging to Ukrainian traditions.
Some of the company’s co-founders fled to other countries, while around 100 employees remained in Ukraine. They moved to the city of Ruslan Baginskiy’s origin – Lviv. Nowadays, their workspace is at the local school’s classrooms. Their amazing team remains motivated to continue working and supporting their motherland. They have not lost their foreign partners, who collaborate with the brand at diverse charity events.
Hat for the Queen Elizbeth II who Supported Ukraine
After satisfying capricious demands of the pop queen, it was finally the time to create something special for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. And who loved hats more than the British monarch? Her collection of hats is beyond impressive.
Thus, the talented team worked hard to create a special hat for the Queen. They made a light blue felt hat adorned with a darker blue bow and a bouquet of colorful flowers like violets. The dominant colors were blue and yellow, which resembled Ukrainian flag.
They made this gift in honor of the Independence Day of Ukraine and as a sign of gratitude for the United Kingdom’s steadfast support of Ukraine, especially during the horrible times of war. The hat was supposed to become a part of the Queen’s collection
The UK Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons successfully brought the present to the royal family. It is not known whether the 96-year-old monarch managed to wear the headgear of the brand, as she passed away on September 8, 2022.
However, a month later, Deputy Private Secretary to the King, David Hogan-Hern, wrote a letter to Mr. Baginskiy. In the official letter from Buckingham Palace, it was stated that the Queen saw that wonderful gift when she gratefully received it at Balmoral Castle in August. Her Majesty was deeply touched by such a gesture of the Ukrainian hat maker.
Who knows, maybe Baginskiy’s royal stories have just started.