Although the prizes given in Millinery Competitions are always a draw card, the real gain for entering a competition is the challenge to extend your skills to define what you thought you could never achieve. Milliner Chris Mullane rose to this challenge for the Millinery Award 2021 taking inspiration from a recent holiday.
In these pandemic times a holiday on a pristine beach is everyone’s dream. Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays, Qld was your choice. How did this location inspired you to create this beautiful hat for the 2021 Millinery Award?
At the time I was back in the Melbourne lockdown, I’d lost my mojo and was struggling to come up with any ideas. Someone said, “Surely you have seen something beautiful on your travels for inspiration.” Straight away I thought of Whitehaven Beach. All of the Whitsundays is beautiful but when you arrive on that look out over Whitehaven Beach it literally takes your breath away. The variety of colours created by the “swirling sand’ is breathtaking, so the inspiration was definitely all about the colours.
The birds on this hat appear to be flying in a gentle swoop over a calm sea. What were the challenges to secure them?
Originally I thought I would put sails of some description on the hat but I started running out of time. I had designed the birds for a winning MIMC piece and when I placed a few on the hat, I realised they were perfect. The birds are attached by creating a zigzag shape with the wire and stitching it in place, so I was limited to placing them under the binding of the brim and in the join of the crown and brim.
You have perfectly balanced the use of this Fez style crown in this design, why it was the preferred shape for this hat?
The hat really is all about getting the line and angle of the asymmetrical brim just right. I’ve tried many shapes, curved crowns don’t work at all and boater crowns are too straight, but the angle of a Fez complements the brim perfectly. The custom hat blocks used for this piece were created thanks to Ian Bennett’s Hat Blocks Course.
Do you sketch the design firstly?
As I’m drawn to the shape and line of things, I tend to do very simple, stick like drawings. So I’m not really a sketcher, I do outlines of hats more so I can get the dimensions right.
An online entry has replaced the catwalk competition at Flemington. What are your thoughts on the new format for the Millinery Award competition?
I’m hoping the format reverts back now Melbourne is out of lockdown, I’m not a lover of online millinery awards but I’m glad it went ahead all the same. The online format favours good photographers and graphic statement pieces that photograph well, mind you, I did consider that when I made the Whitehaven Beach piece, I knew it would photograph well. My view is that good millinery is a sculptural art form and needs to seen from all angles.
With your list of successful competition awards why would you suggest to milliners and students to enter the next competition?
I think it’s important to keep developing, learning and growing in all things and that includes millinery. Entering competitions can be scary but I’ve found the benefits of pushing myself outweigh the negatives. If a design idea comes, you just have to trust your gut and then put it out to the universe.
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