'Ana Bella Millinery' is now a well recognized brand globally, with a defining signature styling that readily catches the eye of judges and the media. Discover Ana Pribylova's millinery journey from small beginnings in Australia to featured in the Royal Ascott Style Guide.
What do you love most about Millinery?
I love that there are so many different facets of being a milliner and running my own business. It can be very isolating working in my studio making and dying hats, but I often love being on my own, or I can be travelling internationally to Dubai or Australia, judging style awards or attending Racing Carnivals. There is always something changing in our industry, whether its a new technique, or opportunity to attend a different part of the world to see some amazing hats.
How did you come into Millinery?
When I lived in Australia, Far North Queensland, I was invited to go to the races in Cairns. Ladies have to wear a fancy hat styled with an outfi and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to make my own. When I left high school, I studied Visual Arts, and sculpture was my favourite subject. I just thought I would try my hand at making my own hat for this event. Not having much money on hand as a social worker or really wanting to invest in a hat block, I used a coffee cup lid as a hat block using felt, and moulded and curled some feathers…. it was a very basic small hat, but this inspired me to continue to look into the world of Millinery… After that point things snowballed as I got hooked, hiding bundles of feathers under my bed, I was asked to make a few small fascinators for my friends and found Hat Academy online which helped me get my fundamental millinery skills and learn more techniques while living in Far North Queensland. I travelled to Melbourne seeing family and did a few courses with other Milliners, Louise Mcdonald and Brett Morley, then moving to London and learning traditional Millinery skills at the London College of Fashion with Chloe Schrivener, Philip Treacys workroom hands, then interning with renowned milliners Noel Stewart and Edwina Ibbotson.
How would you describe your designs?
Repetitive sculptural patterns, simple, elegant yet eye catching.
What is your ideal customer?
A client who has seen my designs, knows my millinery style, and can show me what they like and don’t like….. I also like if they have an outfit already or can show me a photo of what style they are going for, such as vintage or modern, that helps me with my millinery vision to complete the outfit.
What inspires you?
I love to sit and play with materials and see how I can make them work, but I also have my favourite designers that create magic on the runways, like Balenciaga. A couch Pinterest session is also a good way to get inspired!
What an honour to have your headpiece included in Royal Ascot Video this year. Did you design this piece especially for the campaign?
Yes it was designed especially for Royal Ascot, the Royal Enclosure which has a dress code for hats to be four inches wide. I made my own block for the headband, which is four inches wide, normally my bands which I have made in the past are just a smaller headband, this is different and has a fully covered sloping back, and rounded front. My signature style mirror work has been seen since I entered the Millinery Award with the larger waterfall piece design in 2015, but it seems to be a favourite of my clients, and I never seem to tire of seeing it sparkle.
What has been the largest challenge you face in millinery?
Moving overseas to the UK, I lost all of my clients in Australia due to the postage, and customs charges becoming too expensive from London, so I began building a client base in the UK - where the culture and fashion is much more traditional, so I also had to tone down my designs. I’ve been able to persevere through the hard times of my business, (currently we face Corona Virus), by just keeping on with it, and savings from racing seasons in my bank account like a little hamster! Also, I have to say my fiancé has always been so supportive and has never let me give up, believing in me when I have set backs as we both run our own businesses.
If you could invite any milliner to tea?
I’d love to invite Philip Treacy to tea, I have always wanted his advice on how he deals with the sad part of others copying his designs, and how he tries to move on, and keep making new designs when you get that sinking feeling someone is making money from your ideas.
What is your favourite material to work with and why?
I love working with fur felt, it's so soft and supple while blocking. I don’t often get to use it, as most of my collections and hats are for Spring racing.
What's your best millinery tip?
In the beginning of learning Hat Making, it is important to learn the basics, intern a lot, learn from other milliners, but always make it your own style, be original, that way you will be remembered and also admired by others in your industry. This is very important in the long term, as we are such a small industry all trying to make our own way, and also support ourselves, our families through our designs. I have found support from fellow Milliners in the long run priceless, it will benefit you when you are weathering a storm such as Corona Virus and mass cancellations of Spring Racing events, as we gather together to share the hardships we go through of running a small creative business.
Friendships in the Millinery business is what can keep you going in the hard times.
Words to live by.
Finding Nemo- Dori- “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming!!! ”
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