Boxing phenom Muhammad Ali, Trapsoul innovator Bryson Tiller, and Power’s Michael Rainey Jr. All of these cultural figures were born and bred in the Bluegrass state. Beyond being the birthplace of quite a few notable figures within the Black lexicon, though, Kentucky is also responsible for one of the most prestigious sporting events in the world: the Kentucky Derby. This horse race is the longest-running sporting event in the United States and even if you don’t know a horse’s hoof from its tale, you are likely still familiar with the sartorial hoopla surrounding the event. The celebrated equestrian endeavor is a preppy-forward breeding ground for seersucker prints and khaki suits. The womenfolk lean toward floral enmeshments and patterned dresses akin to the garbs you’d see on a sunny Easter Sunday. Perhaps the most central item to the wardrobes of derby attendees, however, are the fascinators. These often vision-obstructing, lace, and satin-adorned hats are the cornerstone of derby couture and a staple of the southern aesthetic that has become synonymous with the event. For some, these hats represent a one-off event, likely to be returned to their storage containers or vinted off to the nearest consignment shop once the season ends.

But for those of us who grew up in the Black church sector, these grandiose headtoppers are as common a sight as seeing a horse with a luscious mane. In Black spaces, these hats are more than sadity accessories; they’re a bastion of culture and a symbol of triumph.

So, in honor of derby season, fanciful hats and Black celebration, we have compiled a list of 4 Black-owned millineries in Louisville that will get you right for any event, equine-related or otherwise.

Crown by Standard

Dedicated to supplying their customers with “luxurious, fashionable, high-quality hats,” Crown by Standard is a shoppable wonderland of extravagant head toppers. Founded by Louisville native Patricia Standard, the brand fuses Standard’s textile expertise and hat-making skills.

Prices range from $180-$340.

Ashley Russell Millinery

Another fixture of the milliner sphere in Louisville is Ashley Russell’s millinery. Founded by Ashley Russell, their official Instagram page is equal parts visual homage to the intricacies of the fascinators she creates and a digital shrine to the Black women who sport her designs. More than the craftsmanship, which is present in every meticulously crafted hat, the community insulated by these hats is a palpable driving force of Russell’s millinery.


Traditionally, derbies and similar events are marked by affluence, status, and tradition (many of which are rooted in some form of anti-Blackness). So, it is quite a sight to see Black women occupy these spaces in a manner that is both creatively and economically advantageous.

The ​​surrealness of this intersection, especially when it is well received, has been an inspiring force for Diana Marie— the founder of Derby Dianas—who has designed custom milliners for Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member and Olympic-world champion Sanya Richards-Ross.

Tony Leon Designs

Image: courtesy of Tony Leon Designs

Founded by Kentucky native Tony Wilson-Browder, Tony Leon Designs is the home of “classy, stylish” hats and headpieces that have been worn by cultural forces like Angela Basset and a number of NFL and NBA WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends.) As a young child, Wilson-Browder would deconstruct and resemble his mother’s hats. This habit grew into quite the passion for millinery in 2010, and his ability to “blend femininity with wearability” has made him a crowd favorite within the milliner circle.