Do you think it’s harder to find a races outfit or hat?
For me, it is almost always the hat. An outfit I can generally pull out of my closet, but it is the issue of not having a hat that often stops me from going to some race events. And this makes me sad.
Not too long ago, I was struggling to find the right hat amongst my (now rather large) hat collection. I’d left it to the last minute (of course) and the pressure was mounting. I felt frustrated and panicky, feelings I experience all too often when preparing for a race event.
But it was precisely this struggle, that prompted me to think up a way to make it easier for women to find a race day hat.
Millinery Market. An online marketplace that connects women who are looking to rent or buy a hat, with talented milliners and other race enthusiasts from all over Australia.
So, this is the tale of how a frustrating search for the perfect hat led me to the creation of an online millinery marketplace.
The Struggle is Real – Finding the Right Hat
It was the morning of Sunday June 4th, just a week out from Stradbroke Cup. This was the biggest event of the Brisbane Winter Racing Carnival and the one I was looking forward to the most.
My favourite theme is ‘black, white and a touch of red’ and I had such fun memories from the previous year where I was lucky enough to take home the winning sash.
Having just attended the Doomben 10,000 Race Day and Ladies Oaks Day, I was already in a bit of (what I like to call), ‘races debt’. I had to find an outfit from my existing wardrobe.
I pulled a selection of potential clothing options out of my (9-door) closet and experimented with different dress, skirt, top and belt combinations.
Eventually I settled on a hounds-tooth print pencil skirt with a black, ruffle sleeve Maticevski top.
Next, the trickiest part – finding the right hat. It’s such an important step. You can have all the right elements in your outfit, but if your millinery isn’t right, the whole look won’t work.
I’ve built up quite a collection of hats over the years, so I was able to pull a few suitable options for the black and white theme.
Feeling hopeful, I tried them all on.
Hat Option 1: My Favourite Go-to Hat
I have worn this hat SO many times and the thought of wearing it again made me feel a little too much like a serial repeater. How many wears is too many wears?
Hat Option 2: Repeat of Last Year
This is the hat I won in at last year’s Stradbroke Cup, which (to me) is an automatic dismissal. I think if you’ve won an event once, you shouldn’t show up to the same event the following year wearing elements of that outfit.
Hat Option 3: Cream Swirl Bun
I would love to wear this hat one day – I’m just yet to find the right outfit to suit it. It is too cream for this outfit and would need a bit of embellishing.
Hat Option 4: Felt Flower Crown
I love this headband!! I haven’t worn a relaxed style like this before but I purchased it for Doomben 10,000 day and was lucky enough to win Best Dressed. That was just two weeks prior, so this hat was a pass. Also I think the millinery needs a bit more of a kick to it to balance out the print and textures of the outfit.
Hat Option 5: Wide Brim Boater
This hat wasn’t really an option as it is made from sinamay, a fabric which is not appropriate for winter racing. I just had to see how a boater would look, if I could find one in felt or leather.
After trying on all five hats, I decided I couldn’t wear any of them.
A little disheartened, I sat there looking at my entire collection of hats. 10 of them in total, all laid out in front of me. And I couldn’t wear a single one!
It wasn’t the first time this had happened either.
It actually happens quite often, usually because the hat doesn’t suit the outfit or theme, or because I’ve worn it so many times that I cringe a little at the thought of wearing it again.
With only a few days left until the big day and a bank balance on empty (story of my life), I wondered if I could hire a hat.
I posted in a few Facebook groups, asking if anyone was willing to rent me their black hat. I got a few replies from ladies with some gorgeous hats, but still none of them were quite right for my outfit.
Almost ready to throw in the towel, the lovely Lisa messaged me after seeing my posts and offered to loan me some of her hats.
I drove around to her house to look at her collection – beautiful! I wanted to wear them all! She told me how they just sit, tucked away in her closet. And she was more than happy for me to borrow them!
The Thought Process
After my somewhat stressful last minute ordeal trying to find the right hat, it got me thinking… questions started to run through my head.
‘How many other ladies have a collection of hats just sitting in their closet collecting dust?’
‘Do other women find it hard to repeatedly wear their existing hats?’
‘Is there a way to streamline the process of renting a hat from someone?’
I wondered if there was a better way to rent a hat than posting on Facebook and crossing your fingers.
What if there was a central place where everyone could list their hats? It’d be like having thousands of women’s (hat) closets at your disposal!
And what about a central place to buy hats too?
There are hundreds of small independent milliners scattered across Australia, many of whom don’t have a website and can’t reach their ideal audience. For everyday race goers who are just getting started, these milliners and their amazing work are out of reach.
What we really need is a platform to help bring everyone together. How can we connect everyday race goers who are looking to rent or buy a hat, with talented milliners and race enthusiasts from all over Australia?
And that’s when I stopped daydreaming, and got to work …
The Creation of Millinery Market
I’m happy to say that it’s no longer just an idea, but a real life, tangible website!
Over the last couple of weeks, since announcing it to the Field Fashion Community, we’ve had over 100 women create their own profile and have 90 hat listings!
I encourage you to check it out and get a feel for how it works – www.millinerymarket.com
These three tips will get you started:
1. Use the Filters to Refine Your Search
Hit the ‘Filter’ button, select your desired filter settings and then click ‘Update view’. You can filter by listing type (rent or buy), price, condition, colour, hat shape, features/ construction and retail value.
2. View a Hat Listing
Next, try clicking on a hat listing to see more details about the hat. You’ll see additional photos, a description of the hat, the owner’s terms of sale/hire and from here you can message the owner or place an order.
3. Change from Grid View to Map View
Try hitting the button with the map symbol. Instead of seeing all the hat listings in a grid format, now you’ll see them as pins on a map. Zoom in and see what happens when you click one of the pins.
I included this map feature so you can see all the hat listings in your local area. It’s for the last minute ladies (like me) who don’t have time to wait for shipping, or for those savvy ladies who want to save money on postage costs.
The Benefits for Race Goers and Milliners
Like other two-sided marketplaces, Millinery Market has two distinct user groups; hat owners (sellers/lenders) and consumers (buyers/renters).
Let’s take a brief look at some of the core benefits offered to each user group.
Benefits for Hat Buyers and Renters
- Variety: Rent a completely different hat for your next race event. Get photographed wearing a new style.
- Wide selection: It’s a lot easier to shop for millinery when the hats are all in one place. Save time by not having to visit dozens of different websites.
- Find something specific: Use filters to quickly find what you’re looking for.
- Guilt-free purchase: Take some of the pressure off buying an expensive hat, knowing you now have the option to rent out or sell the hat if it doesn’t work out.
- Affordable: For those on a budget, you can rent for as little as $30, or buy second hand.
- Last minute: Don’t have time to wait for shipping? Find a hat in your local area and pick it up in person.
- Easy transaction: No awkward conversations about price, clearly defined owner’s terms and a secure payment transaction system.
Benefits for Hat Sellers and Lenders
Millinery Market is not only for people looking to buy or rent hats, but also for milliners looking to sell their new hats, or race enthusiasts looking to lend or sell their used hats.
Race enthusiasts can rent out, which helps fund their future bespoke millinery purchases. It’s also quite rewarding to see your hat making someone’s day at the races rather than sitting in your closet.
Benefits for Milliners
- Reach a large audience: Tap in to a large audience of women looking for millinery. Let Millinery Market worry about marketing and advertising.
- More sales: Getting your hats in front of thousands of race goers every month will help boost sales.
- Free to list: It’s free to list as many hats as you like. You only pay a service fee once you have successfully sold or rented your hat.
- Technical skills not required: Don’t know how to make or maintain an e-commerce website? No worries. Listing your hats is simple, so you can focus on what you’re good at.
- Social media spotlight: Occasionally you may find your hat listings featured on my new @millinerymarket Instagram and other social media accounts.
- Bespoke millinery: It’s easier for race enthusiasts to justify spending money on bespoke millinery if they’ve saved up the money from renting out their existing hats.
- Increased exposure: When people rent a hat you’ve made, your hats are seen at race tracks around the country, giving you increased exposure and social media mentions.
What’s Next for Millinery Market?
Now that the marketplace is up and running, I’m shifting my focus towards growing the community and supporting our existing members. The more people who use this platform, the more valuable it is for everyone.
It will mean more hat listings, more choice, more hats available for pickup in your local area (so great for last minute queens like myself), and more orders for milliners and race enthusiasts.
More transactions help build our individual user review ratings, which is key to building trust between members of an online marketplace.
I’ll also be looking to you for your feedback on how I can make Millinery Market better. Ideas anyone?
Have you experienced similar struggles as me when looking for the right hat? If you like the idea of Millinery Market, I would love for you to tell a friend or share this post on Facebook using the social buttons below.
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