Congratulations to Milliner, Souri Sengdara of 'Velvet & Tonic Millinery’, on receiving the top honour of First Place in the recent Millinery Design Award at the Melbourne Cup 2022. Souri's love affair with headwear all started when she attended a race meeting 20 years ago and then dared herself to enter Fashions on the Field wearing her own creation. Each piece she fashions is a work of art, sculptural and dramatic as we see in this masterpiece. Enjoy her passion for Millinery.

What was the inspiration behind the design?
My design is called 'Flow'. It was inspired by Flemington VRC's bid to increase exposure and inclusivity within the Fashions On The Field competition. I knew exactly what I wanted to design and that I had to have a beautiful man to model it.

Has sculptural free form design always been your signature styling?
While I do love traditional hats, I always want to create sculptural free-form designs. This way, I'm always creating something new and unique. I'm not restricted by the traditional forms.

Your choice of model came together perfectly. 
It was fate that it all came together so well. I advertised for a male model with a "Harry Styles" aesthetic and Brodie applied for the job. Even his hair was two-toned like my hat! He hadn't even seen my hat when he applied. He was just perfect.

You have really mastered working with Jinsin. What is it about Jinsin that makes you want to continue to work with this millinery component?
Jinsin allows me to manipulate it into flowing, sculptural designs. I love the rigidity of it. Its ability to maintain shape is fabulous! My winning design got a little wet on Melbourne Cup Day but it held its shape!

The fluid movement of the design was so balanced. Milliners around the world are wondering how did you maintain stability in your design?
That's a great question! Jinsin is a heavier medium and it helped to keep the hat from blowing away on Melbourne Cup Day this year! My own hat was blowing off constantly! My model has short hair so it was a challenge at first! Lots of hairspray was applied and a little tuft of hair was tied up to anchor the hair comb into. He wore it comfortably all day long.

Bringing the bulk of the jinsin together at the tip with brass clasps seems to be no easy task. How did you manage to accomplish this?
Oh my! There was a lot of careful cutting and hand-stiching of the jinsin required to achieve this! Yes, I had to reduce the bulk at the tips. I had to reduce it little by little. Cut too much off and I would have had to re-start the design! Luckily it worked out!

Are there any challenges when dyeing this straw material?
Well, I'll like to say that it was a tough challenge to dye the Jinsin! Fortunately, Jinsin is sold in two-toned varieties.

What does this First place win in the prestigious Milliner Design Award 2022 mean for your brand “Velvet & Tonic”?
Winning this award has given me clarity in what I want to do with my brand. I want to keep creating pieces which have a 'WOW' factor rather than going mainstream. I have so many exciting ideas going around in my head. I can't wait to share them with you all!

What did you enjoy most about creating this masterpiece?
Putting my design 'Flow' on my model's head gave me so much happiness. Seeing him wear it for our photo shoot made me so proud of what I had created. Then, it was all the amazing positive response I had about it. It was overwhelming. Winning the award was a fabulous bonus and the highlight of my millinery career so far.

Famous words to live by…
Design from the heart and make it with love.

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Tags: #2022, #behindthehat

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