Johnny Weir’s Derby Hat Designer Dishes on His Mint Julep and Rose Headpiece

Johnny Weir wears a rose and mint julep-adorned Derby hat (Photo: Getty Images)

You may not recall which horse won last year’s Kentucky Derby race, but you probably remember commentator Johnny Weir’s extravagant Pegasus hat. We’ve been wondering how the figure-skater-turned-TV personality would outdo last year’s feathered creation, but we were blown away with his mohawk-shaped, rose garland-inspired Derby hat — adorned with a mint julep! — for today’s race at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Unsurprisingly, the same designer was at the helm this year: Kerin Rose Gold, whose outside-the-box A-Morir eyewear you’ve likely seen on everyone from Beyonce to Lady Gaga to Paris Hilton. We caught up with the designer to get the full scoop on the extravagant headpiece.

Yahoo Beauty: How did you come up with this design?

Kerin Rose Gold: Last year we were very literal with the concept of the horse. We toyed with a number of horse ideas and then decided we wanted to do something different. Johnny had mentioned that the winner of Derby gets this giant blanket of red roses. I basically recreated that blanket. Then we wanted to spice it up more. He brought up the mint julep and I was like, “Why don’t we just put the mint julep on the hat?” He named the hat “To the victor, the spoils,” and the hat is literally the spoils of winning—it’s a giant wreath and an actual breakable tumbler glass on this hat. I painted the inside of the glass so the “liquid” is on an angle and filled the glass with fake ice cubes that I drained the re-freezable liquid out of.

What is the most important thing when making a headpiece like this?

You really run the risk of making it look campy and costume-y, so it’s important to make sure that everything that I source looks really elegant and beautiful. For as much fun and flair Johnny takes with his fashion, it’s always done in a very classy and sophisticated and high-end way.


Victor Espinoza and California Chrome #5 wearing the winning rose garland at last year’s Derby race. (Photo: Getty Images)

What did you think of the huge reaction to last year’s hat?

I never really expect that kind of reaction for any of my work, but I didn’t expect the reaction to be so positive. With fashion—especially American fashion—pushing boundaries can often be seen as a negative. The Kentucky Derby as far as hats go is a very liberal affair, but the hats themselves are still fairly conservative, and we were dying to find a way to tastefully push that.

Does that put more pressure on you to step it up this time?

Yeah! Johnny and I started talking about the hat right after Super Bowl, and we’ve been throwing ideas back and forth since then…Finally we caught up and hung out and threw out a bunch of ideas and it took maybe 15 to 20 minutes to come up with something that would be really special and fun.

How long did the new hat take to make and did you run into any issues?

I did it over a few days. One of the techniques I use to build volume while keeping the hat light is I use Styrofoam balls that I’ll cut into various shapes. Using hot glue is the best technique because it melts away a bit of the Styrofoam and makes bond really strong. I had to stop working one night because I burnt underneath my fingernail. It was the most brutal pain I felt in a really long time. But you know, beauty is pain.


Johnny Weir wore a pegasus Derby hat designed by Kerin Rose Gold to last year’s race. (Photo: Getty Images)

Did you show him pics along the way to check in and get him excited?

Oh yeah, for sure. It’s really is a collaborative project. I’m the one who’s making it but it’s our brainchild. He is very creative and smart and rightfully so likes to be involved in what he’s wearing. Johnny’s my friend, but he’s also my client and it’s the most important thing for me that he’s excited about it and feels good in it.

Could you tell you nailed it?

He is pretty psyched on it, and I’m pretty psyched on it, too. It’s always interesting when you have an idea in your head versus how it comes out in reality. I’ve been very lucky that for both hats they’ve come out better than I saw them in my head.

Did overnighting the hat to Johnny worry you? What was the worst case scenario if something went wrong?

I freak myself out with stuff like that all the time. If heaven forbid it got run over by the shipping truck or if it was 5pm and he was like “the hat’s lost,” I’ve done more things with less time. If I needed to I could make something else in six hours.

What else have you made for Johnny?

Actually, Planters and Mr. Peanut hit me up to make Johnny a bedazzled monocle to give him as a gift for the Derby. They didn’t even realize I was the person that made his hat last year until I told them!

For more on Kerin Rose Gold, head over to to see her special commissioned costume projects and for her eyewear collection.


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