Louise Macdonald's millinery studio is located in the heart of the Melbourne CBD in the iconic Nicholas Building, where she runs classes and consults with her clients
(updated in September 2023)
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 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.
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?
Normally February is the time when I start researching clothing styles and colours for the coming season. From there I source materials and progress to create my millinery collection. By June I am usually in full swing, producing the designs for the season.
What is the latest in your career as a milliner?
My focus has been teaching millinery, having presented courses in Ireland, The Netherlands and the USA, with plans to continue sharing my skills in Australia and internationally. In 2018 my first online workshop with Hat Academy was launched, and there are now multiple courses available on demand. I have offered live streaming workshops since 2020, and continue to do so.
As part of 2023 Melbourne Fashion Week, I am offering 3 events: a workshop on how to make a detachable veil, a talk named Hats Don't Suit Me on how to choose a hat that best suits one's face shape, personality and hairstyle, and another talk, Headwear Alchemy, where participants will be introduced to materials, techniques and tools that are involved in the craft of millinery.
For more than 25 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 retired from the committee, but remain an active MAA supporter. I also initiated a Stitch and Chat group with international milliners to support each other during various lockdowns around the world. In 2021, I was inducted into the Australian Millinery Association's Hall of Fame, in recognition of this contribution to Australian millinery and my volunteer work for the MAA.
Additionally, I was one of the two Australian milliners invited by the British Millinery Association to join its Millinery Education event in 2021. It was a great honour to present to members of the association my signature cockade application to contemporary headwear.
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].
(updated in September 2023)
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
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