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In the Studio with Louise Macdonald Millinery...

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Our next milliner is a new one to The Eternal Headonist for 2015 and we're really excited to have her exquisite work in our store. Louise Macdonald is one of Australia's best loved milliners, and has been turning heads with her immaculate and dramatic work for the last 25 years, creating eye-catching millinery for the stage, screen and racetrack alike. 

When we visited her beautiful Nicholas Building studio last month (check out the incredible view in the last picture!) it was abuzz with activity and creativity; hats and headpieces everywhere were being blocked, stitched and trimmed by Louise and her team in a hive of pre-Spring production. 

In between this mass of activity we managed to get some time with Louise for a chat about her career, collection and millinery highlights. Read on to find out more about this iconic Melbourne milliner...  

TEH - Welcome to The Eternal Headonist Louise, we're so pleased to have you with us. Tell us about the inspiration and technique behind your collection for us...  

LM - Thanks, I'm really excited about the season and really love the  Artemis leather halos I've made which are inspired by the Greek goddess of wildlife! Made from the softest luxe leather, these hand cut and individually styled pieces are not just race wear, but party wear and trans seasonal. They are very easy and comfortable to wear.

Free form sculpting and draping is something I do best! I love exploring the weave of the material I am using, and work with it to best enhance the movement of the piece. This is what I have done with the  pale blue and navy pieces I have made for The Eternal Headonist. The Birdcage veils also have that signature Louise Macdonald flourish that I love to do. The sinamay straw form gives the appearance it is just floating off the side of the veil, but in fact have been delicately sculpted to flatter the wears face and provide the perfect accent to this little piece of mystery, the birdcage veil!

A new extension of the cap, for this season is the  fedora cap accented with a cute leather peak. Perfect for the races, polo or everyday wear. 

TEH - So much love for those Artemis Halos, they're really on trend for this season! I'm intrigued by the Louise Macdonald flourish and style you mention, your hats are always so distinguishable as your style, but how would describe it?

LM - I like to think my pieces always have movement and a flow. Simply embellished, I like to rely on the line of the piece and combinations of texture and colour to make the statement. 

TEH - What/who have been your major style or millinery influences?

LM - Starting off my millinery career in a London Costume house for 5 years, with historical research an important part of making hats for period productions ....I can't deny the vintage influence!

Working with other fashion designers is always a fun thing to do and can take you in a direction you may not have thought of, and I love collaborating with some of my more daring customers who are prepared to try something new. Working with others always adds a new perspective to your work. 

TEH - So what inspired you to become a milliner, was it a love of theatrics and costume? 

LM - Well I'd always loved fashion and textiles, but when leaving school I couldn't quite fathom how I could make a career of it. I took up millinery in evening classes while living in London and at the time became interested in costume, it was then I really thought about changing my career in Local Government... and I haven't looked back since! When I returned to college I used the hats I'd made in evening classes as my portfolio and was lucky enough to get into Wimbledon school of art, and it's now been my full time career for the past 25 years!

Of course the most enjoyable part is coming up with new and original designs that my clients love to wear, but that's only about 20% of the job! Bookwork, marketing, admin, teaching, sourcing materials consulting with clients takes up the rest of my time...

TEH - In such a long and impressive career there must have been some real achievements, what has made you most proud? 

LM - Ok, honestly, it's been managing to make a living from millinery! This is not a hobby for me, although I love it. It's more than just sitting down and playing with pretty things and was especially difficult for the first 10 years. However, there have been some plenty of individual highlights and proud moments along the way...

In the earlier years, although I didn't realise at the time of making the hats how successful the TV series were going to be, but the BBCs House of Elliot and Pride and Prejudice have been shown worldwide and received much praise for the costumes. I'm proud to say I made many hats for both these productions.

I've been very proud of the successful relationships I had with various local and international brands over the years. Earlier in in my millinery career, Victoria Loftes was a label that I collaborated with for several seasons and produced some great looks for hats and outfits. And for the last 8 or 9 years I have worked very successfully with Hugo Boss Australia, to produce a range of hats to go with the womenswear each Spring.

I was flattered to have the National Gallery of Victoria purchase some of my hats for their fashion and textiles collection in 2008 and I guess it's always fun when you get a celebrity wearing your creations and hopefully giving you some exposure, Melissa George, Shelly Craft, Zara Phillips are a few I can name.

Most years I have been a finalist in the professional millinery award on Oaks Day, receiving second runner up on two occasions. 

TEH - We're quite unique in Melbourne even globally with our Spring racing season, what do you love most about the craziness of it?

The footy is over, the Melbourne festival is on, it's getting warmer, the whole crescendo and build up to it through the city and everyone is excited about it! There's a real sense of achievement as we manage all the customers coming through the door and having delighted customers coming to collect their hats.

TEH -  What millinery trends do you think we'll see at the races this year?

LM - Plenty of halos, tiaras, birdcage veils, pom poms, and of course fedora caps!

TEH - What’s your top tip for choosing the perfect hat for your racewear look?

LM - Take your dress with you when going to choose your hat! It really helps when you can see the 2 together, then there is no guessing of colours!.

Then...accessories!! Not just the hat, think about the earrings, the necklace, the bag, and how you will style your hair. Experiment with the best way to wear your hat and your hair. 

TEH - Ok now for the fun question we're asking all our milliners - What would be your perfect millinery ménage a trois? I.e. If you made the hat, who would have designed the outfit, and who would be wearing it?

LM - Well it would have to be style icon Carrie Bradshaw in Stella jean and of course wearing Louise Macdonald!

TEH -  Finally, what’s playing in your studio as you get your groove on making hats?

I have to confess that Im on a bit of a podcast craze at the moment and I love This American Life and the stories they offer up. Here is some stories off their “favourites” list! http://www.thisamericanlife.org/favorites

And then if I don’t have any staff in, I may have my choir practice cd on - I sing in a community choir and have new songs to learn occasionally

But otherwise I really love Duffy - Mercy

TEH - Oh I'm so totally with you on This American Life - many a day working at Headonist HQ is accompanied by their wonderful stories, and Duffy is a bit of a favourite too! Thank you so much for your time Louise, we're all really excited to have you on board The Eternal Headonist this season, you're such a wonderful addition to our range of milliners. 

You can buy Louise Macdonald millinery from our store here


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