The story began in England in the late 1980s. I was living in London at the time and working in a completely different profession when I started doing an evening class in millinery. My day job did not require much creative expression so I was keen to unleash that through hats! I had always been interested in fashion and textiles.
Where did you learn millinery?
At evening classes with Rose Cory (who created hats for the Queen Mother) in London; at Wimbledon School of Art, also in London, where I studied costume and specialised in costume millinery.
How long have you been a milliner? Where did you start?
I got my first job as a milliner in 1990, with a period costume company in London. I made hats for different film and television productions: BBC dramas (“Pride and Prejudice”, “Persuasion” and “The House of Eliott”), Merchant Ivory films (“Howards End”, “The Remains of the Day” and “Jefferson in Paris”), etc. I worked with costume designers, interpreting their designs. The actors came in to be fitted for the costumes including the hats. I learnt a lot about the history of hats, as I would research the millinery fashions of the period before I started making hats for each film. In 1995 I returned to Melbourne and started my studio in The Nicholas Building. My focus is now on formal occasion hats, the races, and special events. Occasionally I have some historical or costume commissions, which I enjoy. I have taught at several tertiary institutions over the years; Kangan Tafe, Swinburne University, Council of Adult Education, Central Gippsland Tafe and Artist in Residence at Box Hill Senior Secondary College. Focus my teaching to classes in my wonderful studio in the heart of Melbourne.
Having worked in film, can you mention some of the actors who have worn your millinery creations?
Tom Cruise in the movie “Far and Away”, Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham Carter in “Howards End”, Minnie Driver (“Mr. Wroe’s Virgins”), Nick Nolte (“Jefferson in Paris”) and Jennifer Ehle in “Pride andPrejudice”.
Where do you get inspiration for your designs?
I get inspiration from the fabrics I use. I’m always on the look out for different materials to design hats and fascinators. Garage sales and hardware stores can reveal some interesting treasures. I also draw inspiration from historical work I’ve done.
Who are your customers?
The Melbourne Cup punctuates my year with regular race goers, women working in the racing industry and people heading off to the event for the first time – all coming to me for hats and fascinators. However, the racing season does not stop there. Australia hosts racing carnivals around the year; the Cairns Amateurs, the Darwin Cup, Broom Cup, the Magic Millions, all bring
women to my millinery studio, in person or through this website. Weddings are also another event that can require a beautiful hat. Brides and mothers of brides and grooms come to me for a bespoke hat for their special occasion.
For the last 10 years I have partnered with Hugo Boss Australia and designed contemporary on off millinery to be worn with their women’s wear Spring range – you can view these ranges on my website.
What are your recent projects?
In 2008 the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) purchased Miss Moneypenny and Bibi Cap for its collection! In 2016 the gallery featured these hats in their 200 Years of Australian Fashion exhibition. I am thrilled to be a part of this historic event!
What have you done internationally in recent years?
Since 2006 I have worked in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, exhibiting and selling hats in the lead up to the Dubai World Cup. The event has the world’s biggest prize money to the winning horse! The fashions on track are an eclectic mix, reflecting styles and trends from around the world at this international event. I went there again in 2008 and exhibited my hats at the BurJuman Center.
In 2014 I exhibited and demonstrated some of my work at the Caussade International Hat Festival in the south of France.
I have had many pieces commissioned to be worn at Royal Ascot, England.
I have been proud to be featured several times in the international “The Hat Magazine”. This year I was given a 6 page spread featuring one of my workroom techniques in issue 68 of the magazine.
For the last 20 years I have been an active member of The Millinery Association of Australia. In 2008 I was coordinator for the “Hats Off To Melbourne” Millinery Convention. In more recent years I have been their Education Consultant, organising professional development and international workshops for the members. This year, 2016 I am a member of their committee, organising monthly speakers at meetings and a millinery competition for members.
Do you teach millinery?
I have taught at several tertiary institutions over the years; Kangan Tafe, Swinburne University, Council of Adult Education, Central Gippsland Tafe and Artist in Residence at BoxHill Senior Secondary College. Now focus on my teaching to classes in my wonderful studio in the heart of Melbourne. I run weekend and 5 day millinery intensives along with some occasional shorter evening courses with milliners Love Lotus and Lauren Ritchie. We release the the classes regularly on my website.
This is another rewarding part of my work – sharing skills and inspiring students to express their creativity.