While studying art history at the University of Michigan, Zorlu took a course in hat-making, or millinery, that stuck with her. She began making hats for Broadway theater but soon moved to the West Coast for a corporate job with a bigger paycheck. "The problem was, my heart wasn't in it." A vacation to Paris brought her back to her passion. "I was so excited by the city's millinery suppliers that I bought a suitcase's worth of materials." Four years later, her hats were selling at Barneys New York.
Zorlu never knows when inspiration for a new design might strike: "It may be a person wearing a baseball cap sideways or a 1930s film that intrigues me." Typically, she'll sketch a few ideas before choosing a material. "There are so many you can use, like fish leather or Paris cloth, a blend of cotton and banana-plant fibers." Next, Zorlu creates a prototype by folding and draping her material into a boldly sculptured piece. Once it's complete, she wears it to "get instant feedback."
The designer sells her hats at boutiques as well as online at Etsy.com. When she's not handstitching, shopping for new materials, or conducting a fitting, Zorlu teaches millinery at Parsons The New School for Design. "Hats are such a part of me, if I go outside without one, I feel like I went out without my underwear."