With a foundation of quality materials, a wealth of knowledge and a thirst for creating truely stunning, timeless pieces, New Zealand milliner Monica Neuhauser has found her passion. Originally from Austria, she is forging her way in the millinery industry with a reputation of quality and style. Monica's work is easily recognised as standout spectacles among the crowd at any raceday, wedding or horse show. Read on to find out more about this talented milliner.

What do you love most about Millinery?
I love that millinery incorporates quite a few skills all wrapped up in one, e.g sewing, sculpting, 'flower arrangement', and so on... and I love how millinery instantly takes an outfit to a whole new level.

How did you get into Millinery?
By 'accident' or maybe serendipity, after being asked to go to the races and not finding anything in the shops I liked, I got some things from Spotlight and 'put something together'. Surprisingly I got quite a few compliments on the day. This led onto the next piece... and the next. Haven't stopped since.

Tell us how you would describe your designs.
90% of my work is made to order, so there is a certain 'given' in the design. My pieces due to outfits and materials are a very eclectic mix of styles, from race wear to weddings to horse event headwear or even themed costume dos. As an autodidact in my millinery early years I fairly soon wanted to do it 'right', do it the millinery way, so to speak - so it is very important to me to produce quality pieces and if that comes through in my work, I have achieved an important part of my design aesthetics. In a nutshell: well made, elegant yet modern. And not trying to be all too trendy. Trendy can be very short lived.

What is your ideal customer?
My ideal customer comes to the studio with all the outfit components, has a good idea of who she is and what she wants or is open minded. I prefer to meet clients in person to get a feel for what they really like and where I can take them.

What inspires you?
First and foremost it's materials. A print, the texture... Even a hat block looked at from a different angle can trigger an idea. My way of working is quite organic, it happens in the process of creating. I love the magic that can happen while playing with materials. And of course I am inspired by people, milliners or artists and their work.

If you could invite any milliner to tea who would it be and why?
I would love to invite Louise McDonald for tea. I admire her work which is quite often so unpredictable - colour combinations, shapes... I have not seen a piece I didn't like and they just ooze craftsmanship.

What is your favourite material to work with?
Oh dear.... so many. But I will say, quality materials give a good start to making something beautiful. Recently I made a couple of pieces with a linen weave straw capelines I bought a few years back in Wagga Wagga at the forum. I did not fully appreciate what I bought back then and luckily didn't touch them for quite some time. I wished I had a box full of them left.

Whats your best millinery tip?
Aimed at milliners? Education and ongoing learning. 

Aimed at clients: Find yourself a milliner who understands you and who you can have an ongoing relationship with. It makes it so much easier for both.

What has been the largest challenge you face in millinery and how do you overcome it?
Being in NZ, education and training has been the biggest challenge. Initially starting with books and online resources - then taking online millinery classes with Hat Academy... Millinery Forum in Wagga Wagga has been a life changer in that I met Waltraud Reiner. She has become my mentor and indeed dear friend. I travel to Melbourne regularly for millinery school at her studio. Her views on craftsmanship and quality millinery resonate with me... maybe because we share the same background - both Austrians - same generation. Her generous teaching style, wealth of knowledge and willingness to share have made all the difference to my work. 

Famous words to live by.
"When we engage in what we are naturally suited to do our work takes on the quality of play and it is play that stimulates creativity." Linda Naiman.

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