'˜Downton Abbey' effect boosts Worsthorne milliner's US trade

Mel CorbettMel Corbett
Mel Corbett
A talented hat-maker from Worsthorne is seeing her products fly off to America.

Milliner Mel Corbett, who runs Off My Head Hats, said the stateside success of television show “Downton Abbey” is helping in her transatlantic sales of felt hats.

Mel was taught to sew by her mother and used to make clothes and sell them at school.

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The hat business came about by accident while she was working behind a bar in Nottingham.

Some of the regulars were going to Germany and Mel made them each a hat made from tartan picnic blankets. They loved them so much they asked her to make more, which they sold during their travels.

The tartan hats were so popular she received a call from Duffer menswear who placed her first real order.

After the phenomenal rise of snowboarding in the 1990s, Mel sold hats in ski shops across England and Europe and, at its height, employed five machinists.

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She said: “I did the tartan travel mugs for two years. I started using fleeces and fake fur too. I sold thousands and thousands of them.”

Mel, who is also a qualified surveyor, said: “People don’t need winter hats in the summer, so I make the most of my skills.

“I sell quite a lot on Etsy, but around 90% of my customers are in America. I sell lots of the Downton Abbey-style hats.”

All of the hats are individually made by hand from Mel’s workshop at Northbridge House in Burnley.

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Mel added: “I’ve been here for almost three years. It’s brilliant.

“It’s good having a base – it looks a lot more professional when you have visitors - rather than sending them to your garage. People take you more seriously.”