The 146th Kentucky Derby may be postponed, but Jenny Pfanenstiel, this year’s official Derby milliner, is still crafting stunning handmade hats for all seasons and occasions with her business, Formé Millinery Co.

Jenny’s hats are unique and carefully crafted to perfection using a 100-year-old technique called “blocking,” which involves molding millinery material over forms to create each hat. She also uses a braid machine from the 19th century, a technique that allows her to stay in touch with authentic millinery methods. “I enjoy using traditional techniques to create my work, because I believe the people who made the forms, or the people who once made a hat on the forms, speak through the making of each hat,” Jenny says.

The careful technique and high quality materials Jenny uses to perfect her handmade hats are what keep her customers coming back, year after year. “Thank you, thank you, thank you for making my haute couture dreams come true," one customer wrote on Formé’s website.

It’s also easy to see the other reason Jenny’s customers fall in love with Formé: the relationships she forms with her customers. The testimonials on the Formé website echo an appreciation for Jenny that goes beyond her hat-making abilities. “I wanted to thank you so much for the beautiful fascinator you made for me for the Oaks,” wrote Erica from Louisville. “My absolute favorite part was the addition of my grandmother's jewelry.”

That personal touch is unique to small businesses like Jenny’s, as well as the other locally-owned shops spread around NuLu. When you purchase handcrafted goods from a local business like Formé, you’re supporting a local artisan whose priority is to make sure you’re completely in love with your purchase. You’re also supporting someone who has turned their passion into a career, just like Jenny did. “I started my hat business in my basement in Chicago as a hobby,” Jenny says. “I used to showcase my hats at fine art shows across the country and people really seemed to like them. I quit my corporate job and started to make hats full time.”

Though you’ll now have to wait until September for Derby season, that just means you have more time to order your own unique and memorable hat from Formé! The millinery is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are also available for appointments and online consultations.