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 your career?
I have been working as a milliner since 1990. I celebrated 20 years of millinery in 2011 with a retrospective exhibition. My first job as a milliner in 1990 was with a period costume company in London. I made hats for film and TV productions, including BBC dramas [Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and The House of Eliott] and Merchant Ivory films [Howards End, The Remains of the Day and Jefferson in Paris].
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 or TV program.
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 costume millinery company?
I worked with this company for 5 years before returning in 1995 to Australia, where I set up my millinery business in Melbourne. I now work from my studio in the Nicholas Building.
Where can we see your millinery designs?
I display my creations on this website and, since 2006, I've designed hats to go with the Hugo Boss women's wear. In 2019 they were available from BOSS Store Southbank and BOSS Store Chadstone in Melbourne in the lead up to the Spring Racing Carnival. 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 the 200 years of Australian Fashion exhibition. I was thrilled to be a part of this historic fashion event!
What influences your designs? Where do you get your inspiration?
I get inspiration from the fabrics I use. I'm always on the look out for different materials to design hats and fascinators. I might discover new ones and get inspired by the way they can be manipulated or draped.
Clothing fashion trends are a big consideration, as my designs need to compliment these trends in terms of style and colour. Each season there are exciting new shapes, styles, colours and materials around [more in Trends and tips].
When do you start preparing/planning for the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival?
February is the time when I start researching clothing styles and colours for the coming season. From there I source materials and progress to creating my millinery collection. By June I am in full swing, producing the designs for my shop and Hugo Boss woman's wear range.
I am often involved in Melbourne Spring Fashion Week in September. The days getting warmer and longer, people feeling excited about different events for the Summer, the city is alive... I can see it all from my window at the Nicholas Building, where my studio is located. It's buzzing on the streets, it's buzzing in my studio. I love it!
What are your recent projects?
My focus has been teaching millinery, having recently presented courses in Ireland, The Netherlands and the USA, with plans to continue sharing my skills in Australia and internationally in the next few years. In 2018 I launched my first online workshop with Hat Academy, Contemporary Sinamay Deluxe Course, for milliners and hat enthusiasts all around the world. This was followed by Classic Buntal Brims Deluxe Course, Saucer Buntal Hats Deluxe Course and Buntal Trims Deluxe Course in 2020, and Sinamay Brim Extensions Deluxe Course and Contemporary Cockades Deluxe Course in 2021.
As part of the 2019 Melbourne Fashion Week, I presented a demonstration on how to resurrect a vintage or tired hat. It was such fun! We enjoyed viewing the various vintage and contemporary treasures that participants brought along and I'm keen to support and promote sustainable fashion.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, I have enjoyed connecting with millinery students around the world through my Live Streaming Millinery Courses, delivered online using the Zoom platform. From the comfort and safety of their homes, students can learn great techniques to lift their millinery game!
As always I enjoy working with Hugo Boss to create designs for their Spring Racing range, and the partnership continued in 2019.
For the last 20 years I have been an active member of The Millinery Association of Australia (MAA). In 2008 I was the coordinator for the Hats Off To Melbourne Millinery Convention and, more recently, I have been their Education Consultant, organising professional development and international workshops for the members. I was part of their committee from 2015 to 2017, in addition to coordinating the annual MAA Design Award for two years. I am now retired from the committee but remain an active MAA supporter.
Do you have a ready-to-wear range?
Yes, I do. Every year I have a new range of designer hats and headpieces. Customers can come into the studio and buy from existing stock already made up, or order online.
How would you describe your style of hats?
Elegant and quirky that relate well to the head! I guess my signature style is having flow and movement in my headpieces [more in Trends and tips].
Latest designer hats and headpieces
Trends and tips: find the perfect hat for you
Made to measure: a hat designed just for you
Louise's newsletters: all about her fashion collections (and millinery courses)
Enquiries – Contact Louise Macdonald Milliner
share this content: