Winnipeg designer helps customers keep their heads up during pandemic

A Winnipeg headband designer is turning the pandemic blues into beautiful, hand-made headpieces that are spreading on social media and taking off worldwide.

The disconnection and fatigue of the pandemic sparked the design of each bold headband

Miriam Delos Santos, owner of Hello Darling Co., says Instagram and her imagination inspired some bold designs in the past couple of years. (Jaison Empson/CBC)

A Winnipeg headband designer is turning the pandemic blues into beautiful, hand-made headpieces that are spreading across social media and taking off worldwide.

For Hello Darling Co. creator Miriam Delos Santos, inspiration for her colourful, whimsical, fashionable and flashy accessories was born of necessity, from her home, during the loneliness of lockdowns.

"These are not the headbands for the timid. These are very … they're kind of an extension of me and my personality. I do make some smaller pieces but really my esthetic is to be seen and to be joyful and present, and they are like conversation pieces almost. They are very bold and they're intentionally bold," she said. 

Some pieces are covered in pompoms or rhinestones, others bear a satin or metallic sheen, some are ruffled, linen or neon and nearly all, fanciful and bright. When Delos Santos posts them on social media, they invite comment, and she responds — it's part of the process.

"A whole lot of imagination, dreaminess, escapism really. We've all been kind of stuck and isolated and I went into my mind and you can find the funniest things when you go through a lot of pain and disconnection," she said. 

"I think making really bright, colourful, exciting things and then sharing them on a social media platform helped others connect with joyful visual things and it kind of motivated me to keep going."

WATCH | How a small accessory makes women feel empowered:

Hello Darling! Winnipeg designer helps customers keep their heads up during pandemic

2 months ago
Winnipeg headband designer, Miriam Delos Santos, is turning the pandemic blues into beautiful, hand-made headpieces that are spreading across social media and taking off worldwide. 2:12

The self-taught sewer hand stitches, hand cuts and assembles the made-to-order headbands and scrunchies, shipping out between 20 to 50 orders a week. She started by making child-friendly, fun pieces for her daughter and her friends; in the past couple of years, she began creating more for herself and other women.
Using materials sourced from the Philippines and her own travels living abroad, as well as accumulated fabrics and textiles from Canadian companies, Delos Santos works mainly with dead stock and remnant fabric.

"I take something that's forgotten and not much attention on it, and create something that's beautiful," she said.

And then she uses Instagram and TikTok to model the creations herself in vivid, shareable photos and videos, which have been known to explode among her thousands of followers.

"Then it would become a thing. You'd wanna put a pompom headband on. You'd want to have the makeup and the look and be ready for that Zoom meeting that you were dreading," she laughs. 

"And then people would take pictures and selfies of themselves and share them online on Instagram, and I would reshare and it just became this kind of movement almost of women who were at home but you still wanted to be seen."

Delos Santos says her headbands are 'not for the timid.' (Jaison Empson/CBC)

'Forward-thinking fashion, forward-thinking ideas'

Delos Santos says while her core supporters have always been in Winnipeg, she now sells in boutiques across Canada and the United States, wholesale in the United States and has shipped her pieces worldwide as far as Iceland and the Netherlands.

"Thinking about all these women around the world who are wearing these amazing colourful pieces, it's just such a warm feeling. We all want to have fun," she said.

She's also been featured in the Globe and Mail and Vanity Fair, but from her sunny North Point Douglas studio space,  mainly wants to share the spotlight.

"Winnipeg has so much talent and Winnipeg has so many women in it who deserve to be seen and we're not just this small prairie town. There's a lot of forward-thinking fashion and forward-thinking ideas, and new ideas at that too," she said. 

Delos Santos credits her parents, as first-generation immigrants from the Philippines who started Spice World in Winnipeg, for giving her the confidence and work ethic she needed to start her own business. 

"I was born here. I was so lucky to be Canadian ... but also [to] have these attributes from my family members from the Philippines who are like, 'You can work hard and you can do all these things. You can be whoever you want in this country. You have a chance," she said. 

It's something she proudly exemplifies to her own six-year-old daughter.

"As a single parent, I find it is very important for me now to role model for her all the possibilities in her life mirrored through me. She can choose to be whoever she wants," she said. 

Delos Santos says her advice to other female entrepreneurs is to show up, get on social media and simply start in any way, small or big. Her participation in the Mothership pop-up shop in 2019, where she teamed up with five other mothers to display products in a shared space, kick-started her own career's momentum. 

The disconnection and fatigue of the pandemic has been hard, but she's grateful for what she was able to make and share.

"A lot of this comes from pain but you can kind of have a catalyst into creating something so beautiful from that," she said. 

"I think that's a lesson you can apply to not just art, but life and relationships too. Take something that could really hurt you and reflect on it and see how you can make it into something that shows you your value even more."


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