In just three years Gina Mazzotta’s millinery business has proven to be a sensation. (She was all the rave at the Spring Hat Luncheon last week.) Next month, Mazzotta, 29, will begin seeing clients and creating her head-topping masterpieces at a new studio showroom on the fourth floor of the Diamond Building in downtown Pittsburgh. A presence at trunk shows in cities across the country, Mazzotta custom designs everything from wide-brimmed derbies to saucy fascinators for women, men and children. Her new studio, called Gina Mazzotta Millinery, will also offer her original ready-to-wear designs.

How have you been able to scale your business so you can move downtown at your own location?

I started in 2012, but I think the key was starting really small, playing around and figuring out technique and making a collection of hats. Over three years time I’ve really been able to build my clientele and get my name out there. Now I think I am ready to expand. I want to be in a place right now where people know I am there all the time. People will definitely be able to come in, try on the hats, look at the collection, and they can make purchases if they would like to.

Gina Mazzota designed this hat for artist Ashley Cecil for her Derby Party last week.

Do you have a specialty in designing hats? How do you keep your designs fresh?

My background is in visual merchandising. I went to Pitt for communications. When I graduated (in 2007) I was planning on doing public relations and event planning. I landed an internship in New York at Dolce & Gabbana. The same people who were doing the event planning did the floor merchandising, and I had retail experience doing that as a side job in college. I’ve always been a creative person and I love doing the visuals in the stores so they offered me the opportunity to go off with their merchandiser and build my skills. I fell in love with that.

After college I returned to New York and worked for Armani Exchange in their corporate office for two and a half years. We designed the window displays, and we would send directions to all of the stores in the world. It was really window design that was my first love. I returned to Pittsburgh and was doing that for Saks Fifth Avenue at the store level when they closed. That’s when I decided to give this a go, after I designed my first hat.

As far as keeping them fresh, I think that making hats is where fashion and art meet because it’s a lot about sculpting, and it’s not just sewing an article of clothing together. It’s thinking, “What’s the craziest thing I can make a hat out of?” A lot of times that inspiration comes from the clients.

What comes first – the hat or the dress?

Well that depends. I think it is better when the dress comes first. That’s funny because that was the big question at the (Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s) hat luncheon. I prefer when the dress comes first because for me making a hat to complement the dress is the easy part. Sometimes somebody picks a hat that they won’t be able to find a dress that will fit. My advice is to get your dress first then the hat will be easy.

 What advice would you have for other women designers/makers in business?

Be patient. Don’t give up. Find your passion and go with that. Once you have your product you can figure out your demographic. You’re not always going to please everybody with your style or your price point, but you definitely have to pinpoint the client who is going to like your product. You have to find them and surround yourself with them and find out where they are, what they need and make sure they know that you are there.

What would be an ideal evening for you in Pittsburgh?

I think one of the best things about Pittsburgh is the arts and the culture district. My dad, Dominic Mazzotta, is a musician; my boyfriend, Marco Fiorante, is an opera singer so I love going to the symphony or the opera. I think the ideal evening would be going to the symphony, going out to dinner and enjoying the beautiful city.

Laurie Bailey

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.