Adorning with integrity: Brooke Barrett talks design, hats, and eucalyptus fibre

Brooke Barrett

New Plymouth designer Brooke Barrett

Designer Brooke Barrett is bona fide cool. She’s that alluring mix of rock edginess, understated elegance, and a dedication to her own uncompromising aesthetic.

While primarily renowned for her limited-edition collection of bridal and occasion dresses, her latest obsession sparks from a fascination with the quintessential woollen felt fedora.

In true form, Brooke has created her own take on the fedora. The result is an intoxicating collection of wool felt unisex hats, designed to share on desert adventures and high station wanderings (how’s that for inspo for planning your next travel trip?), through to being equally at home at the most desirable tuxedo-clad gatherings or just lounging under the shade of a tree. In warming, desert-like tones such as ‘desert bloom’, ‘clay’, ‘sand’, ‘ivory’ and ‘cactus’, her new Eucalyptus collection delivers seasonless additions to every wardrobe.

Working from her New Plymouth studio, Brooke shapes her creations from her underlying ethos of reducing waste and keeping production ethical and sustainable. Each piece in her collection is carefully handmade by Brooke herself, from start to finish.

What inspired you to design a collection of hats?

Something about the desert, the vast open land, and the ‘Cowboy’ lifestyle brings sound to my soul. I spent my early 20s wandering between New Zealand, California, Arizona, and Mexico and what drew me to these places the most were the dusky desert sunsets and the unknown. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but there’s something about the solitude and possibility that makes those places feel like home. Is it some form of nostalgia? Longing for change? Or perhaps the simplicity of it all.

I dream a lot about those places. Many of my creative projects are formed within a dream or poetry I’ve written from a memory or a feeling, so perhaps nostalgia drew me to create these. All I know is that my purpose was to create a feeling for others to connect to – to hold memory and encapsulate that within an attainable item that can be worn with ease and provide a daily ritual. A simple way of finding comfort amongst the madness.

I find a hat completes a look; for everyone, this is different, but a hat is a great way to balance proportions, keep a uniform look, stay warm and dry and sheltered from the elements, but also, for some, a way to feel safe and supported. The ‘Wanderer’ and The ‘Romantic’ aren’t just hats; they’re a feeling – celebrating the simplicity of light, movement, and daily rituals.

Brooke Barrett

What aspect of the entire journey did you enjoy most?

With any project, the journey as a whole draws me into creating. I love seeing the growth of an idea or feeling and how that can evolve into something physical to enjoy and others become part of. I find creating as a purpose for connection. I’ve heard many times before that music is a form of language; it’s something an entire room of strangers can be part of and feel connected by. And I find creating a visual representation of a feeling is just the same. An identity or memory that peace can be found within. A connection.

What is special about eucalyptus fibre?

I initially produced the samples from a standard Tencel, which felt very similar but wasn’t traceable. Working with a standard fibre also just didn’t excite me. I create with reason – to embody a feeling – so in my research, I came across this beautiful, certified Lenzing Tencel, manufactured from the wood and cellulose of sustainably harvested Eucalyptus trees. And I thought, ‘oh my goodness – this is it!’

This adaptable fibre is known for its exceptional softness and high breathability while remaining skin-friendly, so it became a must-have for this collection. The softness is so beautiful, and it wears so incredibly well. I’ve trialled and tested this for many months, washing, wearing, and including these garments in my daily activities. The relationship we’ve developed is so special. It’s stood the test of time and brings so much value to the integrity of what I want to provide for anyone who chooses to invite these into their daily practice or wardrobe too. Adorning with integrity.

Can you share some more info around Savannah Blouse and Sienna Dress designs?

Both the Sienna dress and Savannah blouse offer ultimate elegance, simplicity, and comfort – elegance of the relaxed kind. Both styles are completely reversible with the necktie to frame the face and create directional movement, while gathered elasticated sleeves and draped neckties provide versatility to suit your environment. Versatility is important to me, as I believe a garment should be malleable, a blank canvas in ways to develop into something of our own.

Brooke Barrett

Where your campaign was shot?

The visual campaign was built around this poem I wrote, sitting in the last of the summer sun while development was in fruition:

“Sun flares through a vintage lens.
As we run wild through the overgrown fields.
The savour of sweet musky hay and warm leather,
As the sultry breeze sweeps our hair across our sunkissed cheeks.
Laying in that same dusty grass,
While the sun sets and the crickets sing.”

My first home was in a small rural township on the coast of South Taranaki, right under the mountain. We moved from there when I was four years old, but the memories I hold from that place are what keep me grounded even still now, nearly 30 years on. I loved running down the hills to the end of the garden and seeing so much possibility out there across the fields. There’s always been special energy I’ve felt from that mountain.

My family returned to life on the farm when I was about eight years old with a different view of the mountain, and it was then my parents found my three sisters and me at the time a pony, but this pony wasn’t like any other. He was so calm, you could sit a toddler on his back, and he would just follow you around the paddock with his eyes closed; he was the sweetest thing.

My mum taught us to ride in this great big garden she had converted from three acres of open land before taking us to lessons at Clearwater Riding School, so it only felt right to have our campaign filmed and photographed up there. Intentional connection.

My childhood felt like scenes of the Secret Garden, only over time, in ways I became Colin, and the memories became Mary. Searching for them, and the more I write this, I discover how much my collections embody my own representation of nostalgia.

Where is your favourite spot to be inspired?

My morning walks at dawn, as the sun rises and I feel the warmth kiss my skin, I say a little thanks and pretend the sun is rising for me… Sitting in the long grass with the sun setting on the mountain, there is a clear line with no houses all the way up to the mountain and peak. I cherish these moments as I know in years to come, this open space will be speckled with new homes, so for now, I’m most inspired when I’m in a moment of calmness, in the open air when I imagine the sun is just for me. It’s these moments and rituals of gratitude that ground me to my core and allow me to be inspired by those feelings. Brooke Barrett is designed to celebrate the simplicity of daily rituals.

Brooke Barrett

What’s your favourite hat from the new collection?

At the moment, my favourite hat is The Desert Bloom Wanderer. The Wanderer is our take on the most beloved hat of past times; the woollen felt fedora. The name itself brings so much warmth and purpose, even on the coldest days. I celebrate the smallest things in daily practice and choose to call these a ritual. Life is so valuable, and it’s these simple moments I’m discovering more and more that are worth acknowledging to create a memory. I say ‘desert bloom’ in my mind as I place it on, and I know that taking this opportunity of gratitude, I am choosing to be present. Choosing to celebrate simplicity as a ritual.

The Wanderer is stiffened for ultimate durability with reinforced brim edging to last the days most wandered. Our hats are unisex, and each style has an internal adjustable band to fit even the smallest sizes, ensuring the wearer feels secure. Eternal belongings for your forever wardrobe.

Images supplied