Meet lo­cal milliner El­iz­a­beth Ed­wards

When award-win­ning lo­cal fash­ion de­signer El­iz­a­beth Ed­wards dis­cov­ered millinery five years ago she knew she’d found her call­ing. Kate O’neill re­cently vis­ited her colour­ful river­side shop in Cherry Street, Bal­lina to find out more.

Northern Rivers Style - - CONTENTS -

When did you first be­come in­ter­ested in hat de­sign, did you al­ways want to be a milliner?

I think I first fell in love with fab­rics and fash­ion as a child lis­ten­ing to my Mum talk about whip­ping up a dress for the Satur­day night dances and I was en­thralled about sto­ries of the Syd­ney milliner who in a flurry could cre­ate a hat with feath­ers and straw to match your dress. I’ve al­ways been drawn to the millinery sec­tion in a depart­ment store, be­com­ing a milliner seems to have been a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion.

What do you love about hats ?

It’s hard not to smile when your wear­ing a hat. I see cus­tomers try on a hat and you see the trans­for­ma­tion, the joy on their face. Hats can be fun, make you feel beau­ti­ful, set off an out­fit and com­ple­ment your per­sonal style.

What was the path­way to own­ing your own busi­ness, and where are you now ?

I first started sewing classes in the tiny vil­lage of Fed­eral at Ru­ral Youth, I im­me­di­ately felt com­fort­able with the art of needle­work I be­came the state dress­mak­ing cham­pion at 16. After

fin­ish­ing a Di­ploma in Fash­ion teach­ing and de­sign through Lis­more and New­cas­tle TAFE I be­came a fash­ion teacher and de­vel­oped my own la­bel O’posso chil­dren’s wear, taking out North Coast De­signer of the Year 1991. I bought River­side Cloth­ing Al­ter­ations five years ago and ex­panded the busi­ness to in­clude dress­mak­ing. I started at­tend­ing USQ to study millinery after a rep men­tioned they hold in­ten­sive millinery classes, I met some won­der­ful millinery teach­ers and I fell in love with the art. I have since at­tended many millinery cour­ses. I now stock

El­iz­a­beth Louise Millinery with ready to wear and made to mea­sure.

What is the process when de­sign­ing a hat?

I love col­lab­o­rat­ing with a client to cus­tomise a piece of millinery that re­flects their own per­sonal style. I’ll start with talk­ing about the colours, fab­rics, sil­hou­ette and line of the head­piece. I work with the client’s out­fit, many times I have al­tered the gar­ment and have the off cuts to work with which I can in­cor­po­rate into the head­piece.we will dis­cuss the oc­ca­sion or event. A be­spoke millinery piece takes three weeks to com­plete. I’ll work with a wooden millinery block or I’ll free sculpt a piece de­pend­ing on the style and feel of the head­piece.

How does a hand crafted hat dif­fer from a mass pro­duced hat you pick up off the rack?

A hand­crafted hat is just that, it’s unique and hand­made, it has at­ten­tion to de­tail with beau­ti­ful qual­ity fab­rics and crafts­man­ship. A hand­crafted hat is some­thing you’ll trea­sure and will be­come a sta­ple in your wardrobe. Its taken time to cre­ate and is a small work of art.

Is the rac­ing sea­son your busiest time, what other oc­ca­sions do peo­ple buy hats for?

The rac­ing sea­son is a busy time for milliners. I’m cur­rently work­ing on or­ders for Mel­bourne Cup and the Dar­win Cup. The Royal Fam­ily is good for milliners. I make hats and head­pieces for wed­dings, fes­ti­vals and ev­ery­day wear.

What do you en­joy most about your work?

I thrive on cre­ativ­ity, millinery ticks all the boxes. It’s a chal­leng­ing art form and in­cor­po­rates all my ac­quired sewing and de­sign skills. A head­piece is sculp­tural and has to look beau­ti­ful and bal­anced from ev­ery an­gle. It has move­ment and di­rec­tion, it’s a 3D re­al­ity. While I’m work­ing on a hat I get lost in the beau­ti­ful process of craft­ing a hand­made piece, it be­comes med­i­ta­tive and sat­is­fy­ing. I re­cently at­tended Hat Week Aus­tralia and was priv­i­leged to learn new tech­niques, be in­spired and net­work with in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised Aus­tralian milliners — what’s not to en­joy.

Tips for wear­ing a hat?

Your fa­cial fea­tures and over­all shape are im­por­tant fac­tors for choos­ing the right hat or head­piece. The place­ment of the hat is im­por­tant, a piece might work best by tilt­ing it, or wear­ing it slightly back or for­ward. Wear­ing your hair up might be the an­swer for a cer­tain shape. Try lots of dif­fer­ent shapes to ex­per­i­ment to find your best style. I think ev­ery­one can wear a hat, I say smaller the lady big­ger the hat.

PHOTO: KATE O'NEILL

El­iz­a­beth de­signs and cre­ates her hats in her stu­dio, El­iz­a­beth Louise De­signs, in Cherry St Bal­lina.

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