The glitz and glamor often seen in Louisville on the first weekend of May for the Kentucky Derby has found its way to Paducah.
As Kentuckians prepare to celebrate the annual Run for the Roses and restaurants and bars perfect their Mint Julep recipes, many dress for the occasion emulating the styles and fashions often seen every year at Churchill Downs, including the famous Derby hat and fascinator.
Kenn Gray, owner of HOME at 216 Broadway St. at Paducah, has designed hundreds of Derby hats and charms for various clients throughout his career.
According to Gray, who has been knighted by the royal family of Schaumburg-Lippe, the Derby hat is an opportunity for people to step out of their comfort zone, try something new and have a little fun with their fashion.
“The Derby hat moment is sort of the perfect outlet for my own creativity,” says Gray. “I think, in a lot of ways, it’s kind of an excuse or excuse for people who are normally uncomfortable, let’s say, being a little out of the way to do it.”
When designing Derby hats for his clients, Gray looks for inspiration from what his clients plan to wear with the hats to make sure the hats and outfits match, and make sure they match the client’s personality.
Size matters: the bigger the hat, the better, says Gray. Accessories often feature some sparkle, and Gray says the Derby isn’t complete without some of the feathers featured in the hat and fascinator.
“You will always see feathers at Derby. It was just a given,” said Gray.
One of the hats Gray made recently features a bright red hat with roses, paying homage to the Kentucky Derby rose connection, and white feathers shaped on the sides of the hat.
A fascinator is a good choice for someone looking for a simpler couture look, says Gray. The fascinator he created can still bring out some shine, feathers and gems while keeping the look simple, says Gray.
Alexis Jones is the owner of Jaded Layne Boutique, which has locations in Paducah on Olivet Church Road and in Draffenville. Jones noticed that many customers were looking for the right Derby accessory a few years ago, with some western Kentuckians going to Derby parties or even heading to Louisville to watch the “fastest two minutes in sport” live.
“We look forward to this time of year, helping our customers find the perfect outfit, along with their Derby hat and fascinator. Interest seems to be growing every year, with more people attending the Derby and even more hosting parties,” said Jones.
Beyond the hats and fascinators that are often the staples of Derby wear, Gray also shares some fashion advice for those looking to emulate Louisville’s style. Gray says outfits at the Kentucky Derby often resemble what’s trending in the couture fashion world, but add a bit of Kentucky flair.
Usually, men incorporate pastel colors into their Derby outfits. As for women’s fashion, Gray says some of the popular colors featured in dresses and outfits include shades of red, to pair with rose red, and other earthy gem colors.
Jaded Layne Boutique still has some Derby hats and charmers available for people who are looking for the perfect outfit to wear with their Derby outfit.
HOME, Gray’s store, is also sponsoring a Derby hat contest at 3pm Saturday at the store’s downtown location, as part of the first-ever Water of Life festival celebrating Kentucky culture, where contestants can see how their fancy accessories compare to other contestants. The winner will receive a $100 HOME shopping prize.
Gray says people can also call HOME at 270-442-4463 for help with Derby hats and accessories.