How to wear it: Toi Ling

Originally from Hong Kong, hat designer Toi Ling now calls the UK home. After 10 years as a theatre designer, she decided to step out of her comfort zone to begin working on a huge variety of creative projects in film, TV and music videos. Working extensively as a stylist and art director on various concert projects along with the corresponding promotional materials and album artworks, she aligned her creative vision and craft-making skills to her prowess in calligraphy. In 2018 she decided to buy a one-way ticket to London with the aim of studying millinery under the tutorage of a couture milliner. In 2021, she travelled to Florence to attend an intensive hat-making course. It was a life-changing moment which proved invaluable, helping to build her confidence not only as a hat maker and designer but ultimately shaping her career as a new business owner. She talks to Lee Osborne about her passions for all things vintage and travel.

The hat featured is made to measure by Toi Ling. For enquiries, please DM Toi @toil.handcraftedhats

You have a very distinct vintage style. Tell us more about it…

You know we are so lucky to live in a time in which we can express ourselves through style, whether it is modern or vintage. I first fell in love with vintage clothing as a teenager. The epic cuts and the beauty of the fabrics amazed me. The notion of clothing from the past was to be sustainable, a concept that has sadly been lost. Clothing was made to last. Items were not simply discarded, they were handed down almost like family heirlooms. I love the idea of things built to last, especially with clothing. Vintage clothing has a past, a story to tell, and that story never ends. This led me to my love of hats. Headwear being so synonymous with vintage fashion, I loved the idea of creating something new that sits harmoniously with the old. No other item of clothing can transform a person’s entire look and energy like headwear. And I find I can express myself most through my hats.

Can you tell us your favourite second-hand/vintage shops?
I have a great love for vintage stores, charity shops and boot sales. There is something thrilling about digging through racks and discovering unique finds. I also enjoy sourcing my vintage fashion from online marketplaces too. I love vintage markets like Classic Car Boot Sale in Coal Drop Yard at King’s Cross, Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair and Frock Me Vintage Fair in London. I regularly visit Reign Vintage in Berwick Street, Blackout II Vintage Clothing in Endell Street, Sunless Antiques in St Leonards on Sea, Bobby & Dandy Vintage in Old Town Hastings, Ben’s Vintage in Folkestone and Scarlet Rage Vintage (by appointment and online).

What items of clothing will you pack for your next trip to France and Spain?
One thing that never changes for me on my trips is that I always bring a big brim hat and a few baker boy caps. As for clothing, I love my mix-and-match fashion style, so I’ll pack a white shirt with several ties, and a few pairs of high-waisted trousers. Although I am more of a trousers kind of lady, I might also bring a white linen dress just in case. It’s always important to have a couple of nice jackets on hand too, so I’ll pack a smart jacket for a more dressed-up look and a workwear jacket for everyday wear. Shoes are always my weakness, and I would love to bring different pairs for each outfit. However, I always have to make sacrifices in terms of luggage space.

What are your must-haves when you pack?
Wherever my travels take me, a must-have item is a travel hatbox with my beloved collection of hats.

What brand/type of suitcase do you carry?
I absolutely adore my Rimowa Trunk Plus suitcase for long trips. For a shorter trip, I would simply take my vintage leather doctor’s bag.

Where is your dream destination?
While visiting the moon or Mars would be a dream come true, the closest destination I could get to resemble their unique landscapes is Iceland – it’s a place I would like to visit, having been on my bucket list for a while now. 

What’s your secret tip for anyone who has to travel for work constantly?
Just thinking about food is enough to motivate me to start working again. Personally, I love trying different foods from different places. It is definitely a wonderful asset of travel that is so rewarding. Just be sure to maintain a balanced diet.

What’s your jet-lag cure?
I consider myself very lucky, as I seem able to sleep for eight hours on most long-haul flights. A few potential jet-lag cures that have worked for me over the years: getting some sunlight, taking a fragrant hot bath and eating a bowl of noodle soup.

What’s the most fashionable destination you have been to?
Bangkok is a city that is often underestimated by many people. Its fashion culture is certainly known for being progressive and boundary-pushing, with a focus on self-expression and individuality. I appreciate the city’s atmosphere of openness, diversity and creativity, and it’s not uncommon to see locals experimenting with gender-bending fashion. The city’s street style culture is particularly alive with vibrant colours, bold patterns, and statement accessories, blending second-hand clothing, vintage and traditional and modern styles all in one. Bangkok’s fashion scene is a great example of how mixing and matching different styles and cultures can result in innovation and exciting fashion. For me, Thailand is one of the most fashionable places I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.

Who are your style influences?
Cultures: UK/Japan
Women: My mum
Icons: Vivienne Westwood/Alexander McQueen
Media: The Greatest magazine; A Magazine Curated by, The Hat magazine, The Vintage Woman magazine

Who did you inherit your sense of style from?
My mum taught me the importance of elegance, classic style and quality.

Follow Toi Ling’s style journey on Instagram @toilingyu

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