Living in a small regional town is not a limitation for Mackay Milliner, Brenda Lui. Asked to compile a collection for the local Artspace Gallery was another chance to present the best of her brand ‘Crazy Teapot.’ The layout and styles will amaze you. We applaud you Brenda! Photo: @wendellt

What do you love most about millinery?
It’s hard to narrow it down but the creative freedom and expression is probably what I love the most.

How did you get into millinery?
My background is fashion and design. I studied fashion design after finishing school and worked in the industry for many years. While working with a bridal designer in Brisbane many years ago I started to play with millinery as I created bridal headpieces for our models to wear at photoshoots. From there I continued to make bridal headpieces for brides which I really enjoyed but it was not until I was on maternity leave with my first baby 8 years ago that I designed my first Racewear Millinery collection. I found myself needing a creative outlet being home with baby and millinery was so easy to pick up and put down as I needed to tend to baby rather than metres of fabric with fashion. I still find this element fabulous today, now with three young children.

How you would describe your designs.
I think my signature style has quite a feminine element to it with even a hint of something quirky or a twist. I am also heavily influenced by both the past with vintage design always inspiring me and on the flip side with contemporary design and innovation for the future, thinking about what could be a new material for millinery application. I’m not one to fit in a box.

Who is your ideal customer?
I really love working with all of my customers and I have a great mix of clients from all over the country and world. It is exciting when they are not afraid to try something a little different.

How did you decide which specific styles to include in your recent collection?
Well for this I am going to talk about the collection I created for Artspace Mackay this year which was a Millinery Exhibition on display from July to mid-October. I was invited by the curator to design a collection which would be supporting an international fashion photography exhibition from the private archives at Conde Naste who are the publishers for iconic magazines such as Vogue and Vanity Fair. The photographic collection was to be a collection over that past century, showcasing fashion photography through the decades.

With this in mind I decided to split my collection into three smaller collections of eight pieces each so that it would be an interesting showcase with some history to it but also looking forward to the future and not just the past. I was very happy with the result.

1. Vintage inspired – looking at key millinery styles over the past century and creating a collection inspired by this. These included the cloche, pillbox, breton, turban, bucket hat, coolie and Dior brim.

2. On trend now – showcasing a collection of my interpretation of eight key Millinery trends in fashion right now. These included the; halo, percher, crowns, modern turban, fedora, curved headpiece and boater hat.

3. Future Innovation – looking forward to my predictions of millinery trends, use of technology and material application. These included; very new sustainable fabric called Pinatex from Spain which is an alternative to leather and completely vegan made from pineapple leaves. New shape for the turban using Jinsin, pushing the crown to the next level with a goddess inspired design, a new feminine take on the classic masculine bowler hat style with EVA foam flowers, fabric manipulation and shape experimentation with felt, use of Perspex plastics and lastly 3D printing for millinery design.

What inspires you?
Many, many things. Some include:
· Nature constantly inspires me with colour and form.
· Fabric and textiles – coming from a fashion background this has always been a source of inspiration for me.
· Technology – looking to the future with design and thinking how this could be used in millinery application.
· Art – in any form is a constant source of inspiration. Paper art is a current favorite.
· Vintage fashion and millinery design – have always been and continue to inspire my work from all different era’s.
· Film, TV and Stories – for example I still find much inspiration from my favourite childhood film Alice in Wonderland.

If you could invite any milliner to tea who would it be and why.
Oh this is hard, there are so many milliners that I would love to meet and talk with as they all have so much knowledge and experience that I can learn from.

Rather than looking afar though I think I would love to start here at home in Australia and would really would love a chat with Phillip Rhodes. When I attended the Hat’s off to Brisbane convention a few years ago he was one of the tutors there and unfortunately I was not able to attend his class but I did listen to his talk and I found it very interesting and inspiring. I also watched him during the tutors challenge and remember thinking he seems great!

What is your favourite material to work with?
Another hard choice. Probably Esparterie or leather, both such beautiful materials to work with and you can do so much with them.

What has been the largest challenge you face in millinery?
Balance and finding enough time to do everything as I’m only one person – everything I make is handmade and requires a lot of time to create. Balancing time between creating pieces and time spent working on my business can be difficult as they both can take up a lot of time, but both require a time commitment so I can continue to build up my business to where I want it to be.

Famous words to live by.
‘Kantok’ which means ‘Never give up.’ It is my husband’s Lui family moto from the Torres Strait Islands. I have found that this has definitely become something I live by.

» Take a tour through Brenda's Artspace Exhibition

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Tags: #millineryinterview, Brenda Lui, millinery

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