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The Australian Milliners Who Are Styling Heads This Season

australian milliners

Spring is well and truly in the air and the countdown to one of Melbourne’s most prestigious events has begun. For most women, that also means it is fashion crunch time as far as hats and fascinators go. woman with drive chats to Australia’s top four  milliners on trend spotting, their signature pieces and wearing a statement headpiece with panache during this year’s Spring Racing Carnival.

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Natalie Bikicki

natalie bikicki
From left: Orange Metal, Swan & Leather Crown

Natalie Bikicki is best known as the Melbourne designer and creator of “The World’s Most Expensive Hat” in collaboration with Australia/London based Calleija Jewellers. She has turned her knowledge of period costumes, fine art and fashion drawing into bespoke designer headpieces that are consistent showstoppers.

Where are you drawing inspiration from this year?
Mainly from all the gold and metallic, especially the rose gold in architecture, art and design. A signature crown that I created this year is dipped entirely in rose gold. I have also used bold primary colours like electric blue and red for the statement pieces and have been doing some really beautiful work with Swarovski crystals. When embedded in the designs, the crystals give the pieces a lovely sense of movement. They are definitely showstoppers.

Tell us about the hat you are working on while we are having this conversation.
It is called Origami Crown. It has two beautiful leather leaf horns coming out of origami flowers and a leather base covered with mesh lace. It is dramatic and quite a statement piece so the person who wears it has to be very confident!

What big trends can we expect to see this year?
A lot of boater hats. And crowns that are still incredibly popular among the younger girls because they are so versatile.

Your top tip(s) for choosing the right head piece and wearing it well.
The only way you are going to see what suits you is to be zealous and try on many pieces, even those that you do not think would suit.


Louise Macdonald

louise macdonald miliner
From left: Odessa, Birdie Beret & Blue and Natural Candace Urban

Two decades on and Melbourne milliner, Louise Macdonald, continues to thrill with creations that throw convention to the wind. Flow, movement and elegant quirkiness remain at the heart of her signature styles.

Where are you drawing inspiration from this year?
I get inspiration from the fabrics I use. I am always on the look out for different materials. 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 complement these trends in terms of style and colour.

How many styles have you created this season and is there a favourite?
I have over 40 different styles in a variety of different colours and textures. Trying to choose a favourite is difficult! But today my choice is the Odessa, which I love for its unique architectural shape and clean lines.

What big trends can we expect to see this year?
The boater is a BIG trend for this season. Yes, hats with brims are back! Lace and leaf halos are a continuing trend from last season. Turbans are also on trend as well as more lustrous pieces in silk abaca.

What hairstyles would best complement your designs?
Arranging your hair back off your face in a low bun or ponytail is best when sporting a spectacular hat. It elongates the neck and makes for a very chic look. I say a low bun as hats and headpieces often rely on the elastic at the back of your head to remain secure. If your bun or ponytail is high the elastic will ride up the back of your head.

Your top tip(s) for choosing the right head piece and wearing it well.
Go to a professional milliner so you can get advice on what suits you and more importantly, how to wear the hat. If you cannot see a milliner, make sure you try lots of different styles and tilt them at different angles on your head. A headpiece worn straight on the top of your head may look ridiculous, but a little tilt forward and to one side can make you shine! Also, take your dress or a photo of you in it when you go shopping for a hat. This really helps with colour and style choices.


Suzy O’Rourke

suzy orourke
From left: Butterfly Twist Band, Ambrosina and Fishnet Ruffle Boater

Suzy O’Rourke has fashioned a name for herself in one of a kind and limited edition hats and headpieces, all hand crafted in her Sydney studio. Each piece is a showcase of sculptural elegance, beauty and luxury.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your designs this year.
The theme of my spring collection is Garden Couture, which takes inspiration from handmade gardens with beautiful flowers. We have gorgeous pieces that feature branches with rosebud tips, satin butterflies and also some over-embellished headbands.

What is the hero piece in the collection?
The Ambrosina. It has gold branches that reach above the head, beautiful rosebuds on its tips and a wisp of a veil. We have done two versions in black and pink.

What big trends can we expect to see this year?
Definitely the classic black and white. Also metallic which is a great neutral that can be worn with many different styles and colours. Boaters are still popular and we have done a slightly different version called the Fishnet Ruffle Boater. It has a ruffled rim to add a bit of movement. There will be a lot of crowns and smaller headpieces and headbands, which are easy to wear and travel with, especially if you are heading in from Sydney.

Your top tip(s) for choosing the right head piece and wearing it well.
Number one, you have to be attracted to the piece. Number two, try on as many styles as possible. Number three, pick something you can have fun in because racing is all about having a great day out.


Danica Erard

danica erard
From left: Sita Devi Crown, Zara Head Piece & Sofia Crown

North Queenslander, Danica Erard, has gone from craft markets to designing headpieces for A-listers like Rebecca Judd, Zara Phillips and Lady Gaga. One decade on and she still continues pushing the boundaries of millinery design.

Tell us about the inspiration behind your designs this year.
My inspiration comes from months of sourcing pictures of luxury interiors, historic architecture and art, and trawling through amazing vintage paintings and sculptural pictures from around the globe. This year I found vintage tiles very inspiring. And I am trying to name all my millinery after princesses around the world.

What big trends can we expect to see at the races this year?
There will be a shift towards more traditional hats. The trending colours will be metals, brass, gold and silver combined with black, red and merlot tones. Also the softer pale blue, pink and yellow, which will work well with the current lace trend we are seeing on runways. The gold in millinery can look divine with the current heavy botanical prints.

Your top tip(s) for choosing the right head piece and wearing it well.
There always needs to be a balance of height, hat and size ratio. A tall woman, for example, would not need a sky-high sweeping brim and quills. Beautiful sweeping structural designs meanwhile would work well for shorter women.


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