The Myer Millinery Awards, held on Crown Oaks Day during Spring Carnival, is undoubtedly the most prestigious millinery competition in Australia. It is an invite only competition (although you can submit an application to be considered) that was introduced by the Victorian Racing Club in 2005.

Each year upwards of 50 milliners are invited to enter the competition and showcase one piece worn by a model. The competition is always a highlight to see, there are so many stunning pieces on show with ideas and designs that the world has never seen before.

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2015 Myer Millinery Award winner Cynthia Jones-Bryson.

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2014 Myer Millinery Award winner Jill Humphries.

The milliners entering the competition have planned and spent months crafting their signature piece in hopes of being named the National Millinery Award Winner.

In this post, I interview two of the 2016 Millinery Award winners and ask them to share their millinery journey thus far and details about their winning piece.

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2016 Myer Millinery Award winners

Justine Gillingham Millinery – 1st Runner Up

justine gillingham award winning milliner

Website: www.justinegillingham.com
Instagram: @j_g_millinery

justine gillingham millinery

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live and your signature style.

I am a mother of two pre schoolers, a smallholder/ hobby farmer and a milliner. Our family moved to the Mornington Peninsula 4 years ago where my husband and I manage an 8 acre property growing organic fruit and vegetables.

justines house

We purchased the property with a dilapidated 1920’s worker’s cottage that I have lovingly rebuilt as my studio.

fascinator workshop

My signature style is heavily influenced by my garden. My 2016 collection featured heavily in hand painted butterflies, dragonflies and flowers, accented with curled quills to give the impression of flight.

2) How long have you been a milliner for and where did you learn, or are you self-taught?

I fell in love with millinery 5 years ago after attending my first short course whilst on maternity leave. 2 years and 2 children later I completed a TAFE Certificate II and launched my first range working with winter felts, naturally dyed with local eucalypts.

After completing my Cert II, I continued to study under Rose Hudson who has been an incredible teacher. I was able to fine tune traditional techniques whilst developing my own unique style.

cathedral window glass hat

3) Describe your winning piece and where you got your idea / inspiration?

My award winning piece was inspired by cathedral windows whilst travelling through Europe, particularly through Italy. I also love visiting the National Gallery of Victoria and admire the Leonard French stained glass ceiling in the great hall. I love the way light streams through glass casting colour across the walls and floors.

I had a very strong vision of what I wanted to achieve. I worked through various materials with a lot of trial and error to bring that vision to life. I wanted to create the illusion of a woman standing in front of a grand stained glass window and I achieved that with the use of transparent plastics, hand painted with stained glass paint.

The height was strengthened with millinery wire, and the crown softened with breathable straw and satin materials for comfort.

winning hat spring carnival glass

buy rent hat fascinator millinery headpiece

 

4) How did it feel to place? What was the atmosphere like up on stage?

The atmosphere was fun and exciting. It was my first time entering the MYER Millinery award, so I did not go in with huge expectations. I was busy meeting and chatting to so many milliners for the first time. It was a fantastic day.

Being awarded the sash for second place was a magical experience and incredibly satisfying.
It was such an honor to share the stage with so many accomplished milliners. The sash now hangs proudly in my cottage, where I am starting work on this year’s entry.

5) Did you face any challenges when creating your piece or have to learn a new skill?

I had a very clear visual image of what I wanted to create. I worked through a lot of materials to find the right finish. The award-winning piece was painstakingly made, and remade at least 3 times to perfect my vision.

The layers of clear thermoplastic were blocked by hand, then cut and wired in to shape.
The most time consuming element was the outlining and hand painting of each piece. The detailing is quite intricate.

The paint needs time to dry, then second and sometimes third coats were applied to create various depths of transparency. I would hang the pieces on the window in the afternoon sun and continue painting until I achieved the perfect finish.

6) How many hours did it take to make and what will you do with your hat now?

I cannot guess the number of hours invested in this piece. Concept to completion spanned 4 months working intermittently between orders. The hat has been used a number of times now by stylists, including during the Australian Open. It now sits in a window of my studio.

7) Have you noticed an increase in the demand for your hats from customers?

Certainly. My social media activity and customer enquiries have increased which has been wonderful. I work now creating bespoke pieces for customers. My work has since been featured in the online and UK Hat Magazines, featured in the VAMFF launch at the Australian Open, and worn on the red carpet at the Australian Fashion Film awards.

This last year has been filled with a lot of milestones for my business and I am looking forward to creating something new for the 2017 Spring Carnival.

Australian fashion film awards

8) What advice would you give to other aspiring milliners who dream of one day winning the national millinery award?

Invest in great teachers who are generous with their knowledge and be adventurous with your materials and style.

 

racing fashion facebook group

 

Lisa Leverington – 2nd Runner Up

milliners logo

Lady of Leisure Millinery: http://ladyofleisuremillinery.com
Instagram: @ladyofleisuremillinery

millinery award 2nd runner up 2016

Lisa pictured right

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live and your signature style.

I’m Lisa, creative director behind Lady of Leisure Millinery, currently based in Chadstone, Melbourne.

My signature style is best described as how I approach hat-making: how can I make this look modern, how can I use these traditional millinery materials in an innovative way? So probably, fashion forward.

As I am always looking out for new materials in my travels to use to give my headpieces an edge, a new statement in the fashion scene.

2) How long have you been a milliner for and where did you learn, or are you self-taught?

I founded Lady of Leisure Millinery in 2011 and previously to that I have had many mentors as there’s such a wide variety of skills a master milliner must possess!

My tutors include Waltraud Reiner, Louise MacDonald, Richard Nylon, Lynette Lim, Georgina Conheady and international milliners Eugenie Van Oirschot and Lina Stein. This year I have a master class with Ian Bennett which I am so excited about!!

gold metallic headpiece

3) Describe your winning piece and where you got your idea / inspiration?

My creation for the Millinery Award was made out of raw copper rods over 200 pieces (I lost count after that many) in various lengths linked together in a Himmeli shape, inspired by the Christmas wreaths in Finland.

When I found these delicate copper rods I started practising with cut straws and mainly made small Himmeli shapes sloping on the side of the headband.

They were the styles I released as part of my “Madness in Marrakesh” collection, and I simply just kept linking these repetitive geometric shapes in a circle to create a huge circular structure.

Then to balance it on the head I experimented with different lengths of copper and built a halo that allowed the main circular wreath sit to upwards as if it was floating in air. I was really happy that I had architecturally designed the final headpiece to become wearable.

geometric shape copper rod headpiece

Photo supplied by Lisa, shot by Richard Shaw.

geometric halo structure

4) How did it feel to place? What was the atmosphere like up on stage?

I was really ecstatic with having a headpiece I felt worthy of the most prestigious and recognised Millinery Award, until I arrived on Oaks Day and saw the other hundreds of amazing creations!

The atmosphere on Oaks Day around the Fashions precinct is phenomenal, every person who is interested in fashion should attend, the calibre of millinery is out of this world with such contrasting designs.

To have made the final 10 top milliners was insane, I remember thinking, WOW I can’t believe I have to go on stage with my model and my family will see me and be so proud! That was enough for me. To be announced I had a place in the top three – I had to hold back tears.

Suddenly the sleepless nights, the bleeding fingers and all those unpaid hours I spent locked away in a dark work room ‘creating’ were finally worth it. I had something to show for my hard work.

5) Did you face any challenges when creating your piece or have to learn a new skill?

Being a designer and innovator, you’re always learning new skills, because your mind dreams up something extravagant yet your hands can only do so much so it is a lot of problem solving to make it work, to make it wearable or acceptable fashion.

Quite often I have bought crazy cool things from my travels and envisioned the design in my head but after months of manual labour – it just doesn’t work. And then it is back to the drawing board, well forget what I originally wanted to do and how can I use this laser-cut metal plate from Morocco in traditional millinery.

So it can get depressing after a while when your dreams never come to fruition, but when a piece does work, then life is amazing again!

6) How many hours did it take to make and what will you do with your hat now?

I spent countless hours experimenting here and there over a few months, but when I found the correct formula using plastic straws, the actual construction of the final headpiece took me about 50 hours. There was a lot of trial and error with wiring and thickness and strength.

Unfortunately, my workroom is filled with excess hats, fascinators and raw materials I love hoarding, so my winning headpiece is just sitting inside a box.

But I have ambitions of framing a huge photo of my model wearing the piece and it will take prime position in my (future much bigger and clean) studio. I am too scared to display it in case my very active toddler finds it, he loves shiny things.

copper rod experimenting designing

7) Have you noticed an increase in the demand for your hats from customers?

That is hard to say, I receive numerous congratulatory messages from previous clients to strangers, to fellow milliners, so that was lovely. After the Millinery Award – Spring carnival is almost over so there’s definitely a decline in sales. I guess only this year will tell!

8) What advice would you give to other aspiring milliners who dream of one day winning the national millinery award?

Honestly I don’t know how I placed, I can only say trust in yourself, and be true to your style. If you make something you love, then that is all that matters. And hopefully one day the judges agree!

 

And there you have it. Two winning pieces inspired by the cathedral windows of Italy and the Christmas wreaths of Finland. So creative!

What are some of your all time favourite millinery pieces? Let us know by posting a photo of the headpiece in the comments below!