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Anya Caliendo, Couture Milliner: Head-Turning Hats!


Shans portrait

Hi guys! I am positively swooning, madly in love–infatuated!– with Anya Caliendo’s fascinating fascinators! A fascinator, btw, is just a big word for an elaborate headpiece that is decorated with feathers, lace, beading, flowers, and similar elements. And Anya Caliendo is the milliner (that’s just a big word for ‘hat maker’) who makes the most beautiful couture headwear out of her New York atelier. Above, I am wearing her “Blue Lagoon” fascinator at a fancy party I attended Wednesday night in San Francisco, California.

Blue morpho

And…I’ll be wearing this very same hat again tomorrow to an art gallery opening, also in SF. Who knew the Blue Morpho butterfly, above, would be so very practical?!?

This hat was just featured in Vanity Fair Italia’s March 2014 issue, and no wonder! It is such an exquisite piece, and so completely current, considering the butterfly trend initiated by Jean Paul Gaultier at his recent fashion show during Paris Fashion Week. This handmade little work of art features a cyan velvet headband with matching veil of eyelash lace and a flurry of Blue Morpho butterflies that look so realistic one would think that Anya had robbed a lepidopterists (that’s yet another big word for a butterfly collector!)

And the shimmering cobalt creatures float so delicately and realistically that one would assume they were crafted from silk, perhaps, or maybe a metallic velvet. But in fact, they are made from a very, very fine quality metallic paper that is stiff enough to ensure that they won’t droop, yet thin enough to appear completely real. Adorned by hand with sparkling gems and sequins, and sewn onto two long-stemmed reeds, they are positively breathtaking.

The most challenging aspect to creating this fascinator, in my opinion, would be the notion of restraint. As a milliner, surrounded by bolts of beautiful fabrics and tons of tantalizing trim, it must be so tempting to get carried away with the sparkling details, but Anya’s gift is revealed when you contemplate her lovely pieces, which include an intangible element of restraint. She intuitively knows when to stop, and that is one of the characteristics that separates great design from average design, and sophisticated art from mediocrity.

In addition to its paranormal beauty, my Blue Lagoon hat is constructed via relaxed band. “Usually, when you place band-based hats on your head you feel pressure,” stated Anya’s atelier manager Beatricce Morturano. “Anya designs in such a way that the pressure is not there at all, preventing the inevitable headache caused by pressure on your skull. It is super comfortable and has a tiny hat comb underneath the front to make sure it stays in place,” she added.

And now, I’d like to introduce you to some more of my favorite pieces by my muse–and master milliner–Anya Caliendo, who, I might add, is a most gracious and humble woman.


“Shocking,” above, is aptly named. I love the swirling satin and the brilliant fuchsia color. A giant bow ties around the neck for an Audrey Hepburn-esque effect. So, so classy.

Renata how i fell in love

“How I Fell in Love” is part of Anya’s Russia Divine 2010 collection, but it looks just as on-trend today as it did four years ago. That’s because it’s couture, and true couture is timeless. The dramatic scale is absolutely elegant, and get this: the hat was created out of 280 yards of pure silk hand-dyed ribbon! Just look at those roses!

Miss b

“Miss. BourjouiX” is from Anya’s 2014 Confessions Collection and was crafted to perfection out of a yard and a half of luxurious double-faced Italian silk satin.

“It is everything I would want a hat to be,” Anya stated. Detailed with exquisite accents such as French veiling, silk flowers and velvet ribbons, this hat was one of the most requested hats by stylists at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York this year.

“I don’t use any sewing machines anywhere in production ever and so every stitch is done by hand, with not a single one of them out of place.”


“I always wanted to experiment with half-over-the-face shapes,” Anya said, and so, “Incognito” was born.

“Incognito” carries the side attachment filled with violet and black silk ruched flowers, made out of six yards of silk. “This is one of my most challenging designs in terms of construction and I have to say, one of the darker pieces I have ever worked on.”

Imperial egg

The “Imperial Egg” is a headpiece on a much grander scale. In luscious hot pink with gold lamé details, the workmanship is unbelievable. Anya pays tribute to her homeland, Russia, with this divine, giant Fabergé egg.

The thief ruby hunter

Oh, my. “The Thief: Ruby Hunter 2014″ is a thief indeed…Because this one has stolen my heart! I love the dangling red tassel of jewels and the dramatic presentation of the black bird against the scarlet feathers! I want this! It would look so dramatic with black velvet and a crimson manicure. Siren!

Tribute to moscow 2

Every queen must have her crown. That’s why I’m obsessed with “Tribute to Moscow.” Anya has cleverly reimagined the crown, and fashioned it from pink silk!

Tribute to moscow

The detail work on this particular hat is incredible. I adore the elements of netting, flowers and ruched trim. Perfection. Who would think to design a hat like this? Genius!


I love “Provocateur!” It’s a confection of baby pink ostrich feathers with a giant white satin bow and a touch of black netting–just enough to be scandalous! I would wear this one on Valentine’s Day with my fuzzy, pink, vintage Lilli Ann coat. It’s the exact color of the feathers. With a pile of pearls? Absolutely!


“Petergof,” above, is a nod to Carmen Miranda, in the most sophisticated of senses. Positively gorgeous!


I love the way that “Florentine” wraps around your neck, rendering conventional jewelry unnecessary. The asymmetry makes it a fascinating piece that would work well with an off-shoulder garment, such as a fancy gown. Wow.…just, wow.

Objet dart tribute to stephen jones

“Objet d’Art: Tribute to Stephen Jones” is the perfect accessory for the artiste! I just may order this one for myself…It’s ideal for gallery openings and the like–a playful piece that would look great at the MOMA.

Anna pavlova

“Anna Pavlova” possesses exaggerated proportions and a nuanced coloring that is so very elegant, just like the ballerina it was named after. What an Easter hat! Wrapped in white tulle with giant taupe satin roses, it’s breathtaking.


Hello, “Bonjour…” This is the perfect bucket hat–but a glamorous one. Don’t peacock feathers render just about everything high fashion? I think so, yes!

Sweet memories

“Sweet Memories” is one of my favorites, due to its sentimental value. Bursting with ripe cherries and finished with a scarlet satin bow, this is another whimsical hat that reminds me of a very special friend, and my sweet memories of that person. And isn’t that what life is really all about?

Peace. Love. Beauty.

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