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For Margo Bar­ton, hats will al­ways be in fash­ion.

North & South - - In This Issue -

Dunedin’s fash­ion­able Margo Bar­ton has a PHD in millinery.

Ma­chine man­u­fac­tur­ing and chang­ing fash­ions have made milliners an en­dan­gered species. But rather than be­ing left be­hind by tech­nol­ogy, Dr Margo Bar­ton – one of the few people in the world with a PHD in millinery – has adapted with the times by spe­cial­is­ing in 3D com­puter tech­nolo­gies. In other words, mak­ing vir­tual hats.

“As a craftsper­son – a maker – com­puter mak­ing is a re­ally sus­tain­able prac­tice,” says Bar­ton, who be­gan de­sign­ing adorn­ments for the head in the mid-80s for mag­a­zines such as Vogue Aus­tralia and Harper’s Bazaar to ac­ces­sorise their fash­ion shoots.

And while millinery has be­come a less pop­u­lar ca­reer call­ing, in part due to the mech­a­ni­sa­tion of the block­ing and fin­ish­ing process, she sees po­ten­tial for a sus­tain­able niche mar­ket for hand­made hats, along­side be­spoke shoes and tailor­ing. “More hat wear­ers would make more op­por­tu­ni­ties for milliners to do their milliner-ing,” she says, “which would make me very happy in­deed.”

The aca­demic leader for fash­ion at Otago Polytech­nic, Bar­ton is cre­ative di­rec­tor of id Dunedin Fash­ion Week, which will be held from May 1-6 (id­fash­ion.co.nz). This year, the In­ter­na­tional Emerg­ing De­sign­ers Awards – a high­light event – have at­tracted a record num­ber of en­tries, with nearly 200 sub­mis­sions from 22 coun­tries and 56 fash­ion schools. Bar­ton says that shows how highly the in­dus­try re­gards id.

“De­sign­ers bring their friends and fam­i­lies, a del­e­ga­tion, to a town that’s buzzing with people, to see what’s push­ing the bound­aries of fash­ion. They make con­nec­tions and col­lab­o­rate. Some even make hats!”

In the 90s, Bar­ton launched her own de­sign la­bel in New Zealand and had a swimwear range, too – “hats and togs go­ing to­gether well”. Now, she says, “most of my hat de­sign­ing and mak­ing is linked to my re­search, fash­ion shows and spe­cial projects for friends”.

In this small but im­pec­ca­bly­turned- out town, fash­ion pieces by Dunedin de­sign­ers are con­stantly cir­cu­lat­ing via a thriv­ing sec­ond­hand trade, a con­stant source of temp­ta­tion if – like Bar­ton – you’re on the hoarder spec­trum. “I’m not very good at throw­ing things out. Find­ing some­thing I’m plan­ning to biff, I’ll end up wear­ing it to work, and re­alise it still needs me,” she laughs. “As Marc Ja­cobs said, ‘Clothes mean noth­ing un­til some­one lives in them.’”

That’s some­thing she en­cour­ages her own stu­dents to be con­scious of. Clothes have per­son­al­i­ties of their own: a saucy cock­tail out­fit or a floaty Carl­son dress can change your mood, let you shed your skin at whim.

“I’m a bit of a mag­pie,” says Bar­ton, who con­fesses to a par­tic­u­lar weak­ness for 70s fash­ion. “If it fits and it’s made of Lurex, chances are I’ll buy it.” LISA SCOTT

Margo Bar­ton, milliner and former model (pic­tured be­low in 1967 on the cover of a knit­ting-pat­tern book). Left: An en­sem­ble de­signed by Bar­ton that fea­tured in a re­cent fash­ion ex­hi­bi­tion.

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