(updated in June 2013)
How did you become interested in millinery?
The story began in England in the late 1980s. I was living in London 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?
In London, at evening classes with Rose Cory (who created hats for the Queen Mother) and at Wimbledon School of Art, 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.
Can you mention some 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 and Prejudice. More recently Melissa George [photo] wore one of my headpieces on a Derby Day in Melbourne.
How long did you stay with this company?
I worked with this company for 5 years before returning in 1995 to Australia, where I set up my millinery business. I work from my studio in the Nicholas Building in Melbourne. I sell hats through this website and welcome clients at my studio where they can order unique hats. Since 2006 I've designed hats to go with the Hugo Boss women's wear, with hats available at its Collins Street and Chadstone stores, for the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival. This partnership was extended in 2013, when new exclusive designs also became available at Hugo Boss Sydney CBD and Hugo Boss Bondi Junction, prior to the Autumn Racing Carnival, and at Hugo Boss Brisbane in the lead up to its Winter Racing Carnival.
From 1995 to 2010, I taught at various tertiary educational institutions, Kangan Institute, Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE, Council for Adult Education (CAE) and Swinburne TAFE. Now I run my own workshops from my studio.
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 now?
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 a unique hat or fascinators. However, the racing season does not stop there. Australia hosts racing carnivals around the year; the Cairns Amateurs, the Darwin Cup, Broome Cup, the Magic Millions, all bring women to my millinery studio, in person or through this website.
What are your recent projects?
A lot has happened in the past few years! In 2008 I was featured on I Just Love That Hat, by Robyn Johnson. She put together a beautiful book on hats, and several of my fashion hats were featured there [view a few pages]. In the same year the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) purchased Miss Moneypenny and Bibi Cap for its collection!
I was delighted to be awarded 3rd prize in the Professional Millinery competition at Melbourne's Spring Racing Carnival 2008 [view awarded hat]. I was also a finalist in 2009 [view hat] and won 3rd prize in 2011 [view hat]. I was a finalist again in 2012.
In 2009 I created a Facebook page to gather my millinery students (group page; login required). My Facebook page for hat wearers was created in 2012.
In 2010 I made designs for the 150th edition of Melbourne Cup! Also, I was featured in The Hat Magazine. This English publication is distributed internationally, and I felt honoured to be included in such a well respected magazine. The editor, Carol Denford, wrote: "Everything in the studio is made by hand, the finished work is exquisite, it is feminine and light, personal to the wearer, detailed and has a kind of movement particular to her label." [view details]
2011 marked my 20th year as a milliner. To celebrate I had a retrospective exhibition of my work! It was at Stephen McLaughlan Gallery (at the Nicholas Building, where my studio is located).
I started 2012 by teaching at the International Millinery Forum in Wagga Wagga (NSW). It was also a great opportunity for me to network with milliners from United States and Europe. I also had many commissions by clients travelling to England to see Black Caviar running at The Royal Ascot.
The Spring Racing Carnival keeps me exceptionally busy for 6 months of the year and I always enjoy participating in events organised by the Melbourne and Victorian Racing Clubs. Last August I presented to 500 women at one of the racing clubs on the art of millinery, and a couple of private corporate functions on how to choose a hat. It's always good fun and a great way for women to get some one on one advice from a professional milliner on what suits them.
Do you have a ready-to-wear range?
Yes, I do, for hats and headpieces. Every year I design a new range of fashion hats and headpieces. Customers can come into the studio and buy from existing stock already made up, or look at this website and order hats from current or past collections [availability to be confirmed].
What have you done internationally in recent years?
I recently travelled to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, exhibiting and selling fashion hats in the lead up to the Dubai World Cup. The fashions on track are an eclectic mix, reflecting styles and trends from around the world [view Louise Macdonald's hats in Dubai 2010]. Now I find the internet has allowed me to make hats for people all over the world. I am often sending hats to Europe, the United States and New Zealand.
Do you teach millinery?
This is another rewarding part of my work – sharing skills and inspiring students to express their creativity. One of the students said: "I was so inspired by your teaching... I think I may have found something in millinery that gives me enormous satisfaction. I cannot believe I have spent so much of my life NOT involved in this fascinating field."
I recently have expanded the workshop schedule. With the expertise of well respected millinery tutors, Lynn Lim and Georgina Conheady, I am able to offer an extensive variety of topics. The workshops are immensely popular.
How would you describe your style of hats?
Elegant and quirky that relate well to the head!
(updated in June 2013)
Enquiries – For more information, please contact Louise Macdonald Milliner in Melbourne.