Congratulations to Araks Nazarian as the recipient of First Prize Award in the 2023 Millinery Australia Student Design Award competition. Take a look behind the hat to discover Araks' inspiration and creativity.

What is the significance in your choice of a flowering Gum Nut to depict the theme “ALIVE” ?
As of late, I have been drawn to the vibrancy and delicate nature of the flowering gum. The colours and structure of the blossom is mesmerising to me. Australian Native flowers are incredibly beautiful, and as they tend to begin blooming earlier than "Western" spring flowers, we are blessed with a pallet of bright colours all year round. The resilience of our native flora is also something to be admired. The way they push up through fire ravaged bush to recreate life is something I feel not only I can relate to as an Armenian and a descendant of a Genocide Survivor, but also embrace within the Indigenous Cultures of Australia. This country has a dark past, but we can allow it to bloom and create beauty in our lives from here on.

The petals are aglow and alive in colour. How you dyed these in shades of yellow to crimson red? 
Thank you! As a student member of Millinery Australia, I was assigned a mentor to help me with the design and creation process. I sent through to her multiple options, including peacock hurls and fringing, however we found that the look of the incredibly narrow crinoline tubing (4mm) had the best movement given the size of the piece and also in assisted with the overall silhouette. I originally had my heart set on just red, but unfortunately, the only supplier of red crin tube in Australia, House of Adorn, had a small amount, and they suggested to me to spray white tubing with Florist Spray to achieve the colour I wanted. I started playing around with this idea and came up with the ombre you see on the fringing on the hat. Needless to say I was quite surprised at myself for coming up with that, and of course very excited!

I'd like to note, that pulling the thread out of the tubing was a crucial detail I wanted to make sure I paid attention to. This changed the length of the tubing, so it took me some time to figure out exactly how long to cut each piece before I pulled the two threads out of each piece one by one with tweezers. This alone was over 9 hours of work! I attached them using a feather flower technique, with different layers of sinamay between, and made sure I had some of the "wild" pieces curl up all over the place, and of course out of the eyes of the wearer.

To form the nut shape did you have a block in that shape?
As I was using some very old vintage braid, I needed to allow the braid to tell me how large to make the piece. I did play around with alot of stainless steel bowls, and some blocks thatI have at home, but found the shape of my Kitchenaid bowl was the perfect look. As I couldn't block a base properly around it because of the handle, I used foss shape for the first time and tried a little mould of it, before using it to guide the braid. The point is freeform, the top little "bulb" is shaped around a stainless steel semi sphere mould I use for pastry work, and the base just became a natural form, sometimes tidying it up with the use of steam and different size bowls, and sometimes altering the way I stretched the braid to help create the shape.

The nut shape has no base, however the "skull cap" is yellow raffia fabric, as I wanted that grassy nature of the scrubland in the Australian bush, covered with black sinamay so you could not see it from the top if any natural imperfections from the braid allowed you to see through.

Share how supportive Supplier House of Adorn has been in your millinery journey?
Even though I signed up to the competition right away, I missed the email that stated it was going to be held the same time as the Associate Design Award! As I was busy on my first solo food styling gig for an upcoming Stan show, my focus was all on that. While waiting on set between takes, I messaged my mentor and apologised that I hadn't been in contact with her. This is when she reminded me that the hat was due in Melbourne Friday Week!

Thankfully I had the braid at home already, and some work went into getting it back to a good workable state, but the crin tube was somewhat a bit of a challenge! The ladies down at House of Adorn went out of their way to package my tubing immediately and have it ready for me to organise fed ex to pick it up that afternoon. Unfortunately, I didn't realise you had to not only pay for the pickup but then ring up and book it also, and when the driver had not arrived by 5, they called me to make sure I had it under control, which is when I learned how the fed ex system works. When I didn't have enough, as I said before, they have me a suggestion which I mentioned above, and then they measured every single bit of white and natural tubing they had, even their offcuts, and had it ready for me the next day for a now much better organised Fed ex pick up! I will forever be grateful for their help.

I also need to mention the now two prize packs I have received from them. Not only have I gotten a $50 gift voucher, to purchase whatever I wanted, but also they have sent me a $50 prize pack, both times asking me what I may be interested in experimenting with and what colours I am loving right now.

What do you enjoy most about millinery?
Millinery has been a way of me quirking up my wardrobe for almost two decades now. I have loved putting together pieces which not only complimented by outfit, but sometimes also the event I was at. Spray painting mini kitchen utensils gold and hiding them in a eucalypt and natural coloured headband, or having a squishy croissant hidden under a wave of curled feathers are just an example of what I have created in the past. During covid, I found myself with no creative outlet, working in a fish shop as a pastry chef was taking its toll, so I signed up to Certificate 3 in Millinery at Ultimo Tafe, and it all went wild from there.

Do you have any tips for millinery novices considering entering the Design Award?
Sign up as a member and take advantage of the mentoring! The two hours you receive, which usually ends up being just a whatever you need scenario, is some of the best support I have had throughout any of my creative careers. The associates volunteer for this, so they are already emotionally invested in making sure whoever they are helping does their absolute best. I have also created a great bond with both my mentors. Georgia Skelton last year and Jo Peterson in 2023 and have been there to help me in many ways after the competition ended when I had questions about other millinery related issues. We have a saying in our Armenian scouts "lift, elevate". Lift yourself and then elevate others with you. These two wonderful ladies have most definitely encompassed this meaning, and are role models I look up to every day while I continue in my journey.

Also, think of your piece as a whole. It is a design award, so don't just create a "hat", but wearability and comfort are VERY important. Alot of my winning points not only lay with the visual impact, but also the wearability of the piece. If you can't put it on and wiggle to your favourite tune, then its not made well enough.

What does this win mean to you personally?
The win itself was not as incredible as the amazing support I have received from everyone for creating my hat. The social media response was really unexpected given the timeframe in which I managed to finish this piece, and of course the wonderful words and congratulations at the Gala by Milliners I admire was something I will cherish for a very long time. The placing was merely a bonus for me, I got what my heart truly needed from the support at the Gala, and beyond.

It reassured me, that even though I may have some self doubts in my ability to be as good as I would like (standard creative) that there is a lot of support out there, watching my every move and looking forward to what my next steps are in my Millinery career. Everything I have done in my creative past, from Art Department on films, to Sugar showpieces and 3D animation and special effects, has merged into allow me to think outside the box and make pieces that I hope not only myself or milliners will enjoy, but customers aswell as I dive into unknown territory for me in creating my brand.

We love your passion Araks! Enjoy your prize, annual subscription to Studio+
Follow @araks_nazarian

» More award winners: Behind The Hat

Image Credits:
Model: @scarlett.mayer_
Makeup: @amykennymakeup
Photographer: @richshawphoto
Photography Producer: @lisawattproductions
Event host: @millineryaustralia

Views: 310

Tags: #behindthehat

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