Every Milliner dreams about seeing their hats and headpieces gracing the fashion runway locally or internationally. Such a great goal to work towards considering the exposure it brings to your label and branding. Discover the preparations and work needed as Milliner, Caren Lee shares her journey to runway prominence in 2022.

Why did you decide to venture into showcasing your millinery on runways?
I decided to showcase my millinery on fashion show runways primarily to increase my audience, as engaging with new potential customers was difficult at first but runway shows opened up a whole new world for me, and suddenly people were falling in love with millinery again! I strive to choose as many pieces as possible to show my repertoire of designs.

Are these the first shows you have been involved with?
My first show was the Sunshine Coast Fashion Festival 2015 at the Caloundra Entertainment Centre. It was so nerve wracking having to walk down the catwalk with the models, and I was shaking with nervous excitement. I had great support from Director Jacinta Richmond and Hat Academy founder Elaine Mergard who helped me along the way being a beginner to the fashion scene.

How did you manage to prepare for runway shows?
Life after COVID is pretty amazing with events galore and everyone wanting to be seen in their beautiful outfits everywhere and anywhere! I decided to do Designer Q 2022. In 2020 we managed a show with chairs 1.5 metres apart and we wore masks and I even I made an outfit complete with matching mask which everybody loved. While I was preparing for that show, I was asked to go in two more shows and, loving the challenge, I decided to say yes.

For the Brisbane Fashion Festival your hats adorned models wearing nine different designer outfits. Did the Designer approach you or vice versa?
The Brisbane Fashion Festival was an incredible experience with Gina Reinhart and our Lady Mayoress attending. When Sofia of Moreno Marcos approached me with her ideas there was no way I was going to say no, it was a dream come true for me! My favourite outfits from the show were my two headpieces for a mauve dress with a large tulle brim and a last minute wired crinoline crown, along with a beautiful lilac Dior brim hat with silk abaca trim, to go with a very opulent ball gown in hot pink, orange and lilac. Both outfits were simply stunning.

Was it easy to collaborate with the Designer?
My collaboration with Moreno Marcos came about after she saw my work on Facebook. She had some very definite requests, one being for a black "lampshade" hat with deep tulle edging, having no hat block for the top part, I went hunting in my local thrift store and used a glass angled bowl and blocked the crown using paper clips. It was a great challenge working to her requirements and I added some of my own personality into it creating some wired tulle visors, all new things I hadn't done before.

"Ravishing Fashionistas" exists to help all women to embrace themselves confidently. How were you involved with this showing at Old Government House in Brisbane?
With Ravishing Fashionistas I had been in their show at the Sofitel in 2019 and Upma Kite asked me to make just one outfit for the show opening. Old Government House in Brisbane was a stunning venue and the models walked inside and outside just like in a Chanel show!

On the DesignerQ runway you had the opportunity to display not just your hats but also your fashion clothing designs. How did you co-ordinate the garments with the hats?
My designs for Designer Q were planned when I went fabric hunting. I had my lilac Dior brim hat and fell in love with an indigenous print I saw at Spotlight and knew it would be perfect. I also fell in love with a very pale blue tweed and wanted to make a little jacket and straight skirt and matching pillbox aka "Jackie O style" the hat and suit are completely hand stitched with beautiful pearl detail buttons. I decided very last minute to add a hand stitched satin camisole. Luckily, everyone loved it too.

What is the greatest lesson you have learnt?
The greatest lesson I've learned from being in runway shows is that new customers are literally everywhere, everyone watches everything you do in fashion, and that it's an incredible experience getting accolades for all your hard work.

What is ahead for 'Caren Lee Millinery’ for 2023?
Ahead for Caren Lee Millinery in 2023 is more hard work and new designs doing what I love. It's not work, it's my passion. Thank you so much to Elaine and Hat Academy, you have literally changed my life! - Caren

» More from Caren Lee Millinery | @carenleemillinery

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Tags: #2022, #millineryinterview

Blessing Chidimma

I am truly inspired 

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