Garland company helps dress up the Kentucky Derby

Find out how the Milano Hat Company in Garland became an essential part of the Kentucky Derby.

GARLAND, Texas — At the Kentucky Derby, known as sports’ fastest two minutes, what you wear is as important as your wager.

Milano Hat Company President Scott Starnes puts it like this, “Like I’ve always said, the Kentucky Derby’s just another horse race without the hats.”

In fact, the Derby wouldn’t be the same without what goes on inside the walls as Milano’s manufacturing facility. For 35 years here, they’ve worked meticulously to get ahead by crafting what goes on your head.

“If you’re  going to make a good hat you’ve got to do it the old school way,” said Starnes, emphasizing two essential factors, “custom, and by hand.”

Sewing the seeds of great hat-making dependent on some machines dating back to the early 1900’s. There are sewing machines that appear to be Singer originals. The factory features are all kinds of steam-spewing contraptions that help shape their hand-crafted masterpieces.

“It’s meticulous,” says Starnes.

About a hundred people work at Milano. On average, each hat takes about eight weeks to make. That hand-crafted care made a big impact at the gift shops at the derby.

“They did so well that,” said Starnes,  “Churchill Downs actually came to us and wanted to do a partnership with us.”

And now Milano’s Biltmore collection is the official hat of the Kentucky Derby, made right here in Garland. According to Starnes,  “It’s the one weekend of the year if you’re in the hat business you’re a rock star.”

Speaking of, Bruno Mars, Kenny Chesney, Toby Kieth, and Lady Gaga all wear Milano hats; as does fictional character Indiana Jones.

Even the Duchess of Sussex, Meagan Markle, says she rarely leaves home without her Biltmore Panama straw hat.

And Starnes passes on one other bit of Derby advice, “watching the sport of kings, don’t forget your crown.”

Especially if it’s made in Garland. 

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