The Story of the Awesome Gem Hat for Old Friends

For the ninth consecutive year MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® and Old Friends have teamed up for a unique online shopping experience called “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby”!

This year our unique Derby hat fundraiser began on January 1st and continues all the way to the Derby. An annual event, it  features one-of-a-kind couture Derby hats created by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® to benefit the retired racehorses of Old Friends.  All proceeds from the sale of the hats go to Old Friends.

This one-of-a-kind Derby hat honors Kentucky-bred Awesome Gem, winner of the 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup posting a stunning victory over Rail Trip who is now Awesome Gem’s farm mate at Old Friends. To learn more about this great champion, please visit the Awesome Gem webpage.

When I asked Beth Shannon, volunteer at Old Friends, her impression of Awesome Gem she responded, “Awesome Gem is an absolute sweetheart. He’s as friendly and as kind as he is beautiful. When he first retired to Old Friends he was so people-oriented that he almost seemed to think he was a ‘people’, and when he’d passed his quarantine period he seemed a little puzzled to be turned out with horses. But that passed and he is now a comfortable and fully accepted member of his herd. Its three other members are Fabulous Strike, Sokitumi Samurai, and Marshall Rooster – all nice horses just as he is.”

Beth continued: ”He combines the physical activeness and spiritedness of a youngish Thoroughbred with benign goodness.”

Clearly, a very special hat was needed to honor this charming new retiree of Old Friends. The resulting hat design showcases Awesome Gem’s bright chestnut coat, his familiar West Point Thoroughbreds racing silk colors of black and yellow, and his kind spirit and athleticism.

To learn more about Awesome Gem’s life and career I went online and watched videos of his wins on the track, and before I knew it I had the background information that I needed.

Next, a sketch of the hat was made, fabrics were chosen and the creative process was underway.

The foundation of the wide flat brim design was created out of deep yellow dupioni silk with a black lace overlay and black taffeta brim edge.

To showcase Awesome Gem’s thrilling 2010 Hollywood Gold Cup win, a single large yellow rose was fashioned out of swirling layers of deep yellow dupioni silk and soft lemon organza and placed along the front crown of the hat.

A bouquet of sparkling chocolate, crystal and platinum beads was created to form a jewel center for the rose.

The rose was then framed with a medley of fiery reddish brown organza loops…

And black silk organza fabric “leaves” were added beneath them.

A large triple bow with tails was fashioned out of sheer black silk organza, top-stitched with chocolate thread and then sculpted to provide a stunning yet delicate “nest” for the bejeweled floral trim.

Next, a pleated sash, created out of black silk organza was made to encircle the crown of the hat.

A large shimmering button, created from the same chocolate, crystal and platinum beads used for the rose center ornament, was added to the back of the hat for the finishing touch.

The lining for the “Awesome Gem” hat was formed from a rich black satin to coordinate with the trims.

As a physical remembrance of Awesome Gem, several strands of his tail hair were braided and woven into the trim of the hat, creating a unique, one-of-a-kind Derby chapeau that captures Awesome Gem not only in spirit but in substance as well.

Once the hat was completed it was on its way to Old Friends for the grand photo shoot with our models.

We want to extend a big thank you to Krystal, Jon and Aubrey Court who were splendid models for the Awesome Gem chapeau as well as to Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos who always work their camera magic for these auctions.

For a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the photo shoot, please enjoy the video provided by EquiSport Photos.

The “Awesome Gem” auction hat is now up for bid on EBay. Bidding ends Thursday, January 11th at 8 PM EST.

Please also enjoy this slideshow of the “Awesome Gem” chapeau and the totally awesome horse who inspired it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For more information about the “Awesome Gem” Chapeau please visit the Awesome Gem hat webpage.

Finally, we’d like to send a great big thank you to all of the “Friends of Old Friends” who are participating and sharing the word about “Hats Off to the Horses” this season through a very special social media campaign. Click on the poster below to learn more this effort that we introduced last season.

Thank you for visiting Hats and Horses, and here’s to our best auction season yet!



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