This time of year, hats are a practical affair, but that doesn't mean they can't also be stylish. The Albertus Swanepoel for Target collection will keep your head warm and chic.

The critically acclaimed milliner started his career as a fashion designer in his native South Africa. After coming to the United States, he worked as a glove designer and attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Now his custom collaborations are showing up on the runways of Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler and Tommy Hilfiger.

A far more accessible collection featuring Swanepoel's signature flair is in Target stores, priced at $20.

"They're just so visually appealing and wearable," said Trish Adams, Target's senior vice president of apparel and accessories, citing the faux furs and colors. "It's an opportunity to buy an accessory that makes an outfit current."

Swanepoel spoke to us from his studio in New York.

Q What was the inspiration behind this collection?

A Being from South Africa, I try to keep some of my heritage alive with some leopard-print hats, oversized flowers and feathers. There's a hat for every girl to wear, so there's a broad spectrum: fedoras, cloches and floppys.

Q I loved to see the attention to detail, like the linings.

A When you turn the hat over, you have this fun sort of thing inside. I like the unexpectedness of a hat. I like overapplying things to it, to make it more individual. It's one of my trademarks.

Q What's your style?

A For me, it's really important that hats are recognizable in shape. When you look at a hat, it has to remind you of something your father or mother wore. What I did for Target was take shapes people can relate to, update them and make them more modern. People must be stricken by a hat. It's personal because it's so close to your face. It's like a perfume a little bit -- you really have to bond with your hat.

Q What are current trends?

A I think there's definitely a trend toward a slightly wider brim. There's a '70s feel. In the Target collection, there are a few hats with slightly wider brims, so there's more to cover up; it keeps you warm. I feel that there's a thing coming next year with the [Elsa] Schiaparelli exhibit [at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute] with surrealistic hats, influenced by Salvador Dali.

Q Have you been to Minnesota?

A Yes! I went to Minneapolis a few times during my collaboration with Target. I didn't see major snow, but because I'm from South Africa and even though I've been here 22 years, I get super excited about snow.

Q What are your tips for finding the perfect hat?

A For me personally, it's a law of contrasts. Say you have a rounder face, I feel you're better off with a squarish shape. If you have an upturned nose, you should wear a downward brim. The hat should cancel out your features. You should wear a hat with a carelessness in a way. You should wear it in the house and wear it to the deli. Then, if you feel more comfortable, wear it out. Hats are so great because you hide behind them, but they're also a conversation piece.

Q Any tips on matching them to outerwear?

A For me, these hats go with everything. I say this all the time: Christian LaCroix is one of my favorite designers, and he said, "A hat is a dot on an 'I.'" It's an exclamation mark that finishes off an outfit.


H&M's Dragon Tattoo collection

Fans of Lisbeth Salander's tough chic aesthetic can pick up items designed by the movie's costume designer, Trish Summerville. While Minnesota stores have only a few of the collection's T-shirts, including one with the Swedish proverb "What Is Hidden in Snow Comes Forth in the Thaw," you can channel the character's goth tendencies by wearing them with jeans or anything leather.


Sara Glassman • • Twitter: @sararglassman.