Living in an isolated small outback town in Queensland, Australia has not deterred Milliner Sherilee Honnery from forging ahead to create her own millinery design label. The pandemic certainly has not made it any easier but Sherilee has pursued her passion and love for leather to create stunning headwear. 

How did you come into Millinery?
I have a small head size so whenever I brought a hat I had to sew elastic into it to get it to fit. So I started doing Millinery at a workshop held in Hughenden called Outback Arts, Patti Carter was the tutor and I was pretty much hooked from then on.

What inspires you? 
Everything inspires me, flowers in my garden, colour mixes in fabrics, old movies like “My Fair Lady” but most of all my millinery family and friends. Style rule for me is mainly comfort… but balance is very important.

Who is your ideal customer?
Now that’s a hard one, ideal customer is one who trusts my recommendations and does not want me to copy someone else’s work, as I refuse to do so.

What has been the highlight of your Millinery career?
I probably should say a win with of my hats which was a highlight and yes it was at Charters Towers Amateurs a couple of years ago, but attending my first International Milliners forum in Wagga Wagga is pretty high.
So many materials, blocks, trims I was like a kid in a lolly shop with eyes a wide as they could go. I had never actually been in a millinery supply shop before so it was a very big highlight to be able to touch and feel … rather than look on the internet.

What has been the greatest challenge to establish a millinery business in the outback of Australia?
Access… not only to lessons which makes online millinery lessons essential, but materials. I don’t have a shop down the road, I need to be quite prepared and hold a lot of materials in stock, when you live 400klm inland you cannot just pop down to buy some fabrics or feathers.

How have you been able to maintain hat sales during COVID?
It has been very hard through covid, in our region of Outback Queensland all of our small race meets did not run, they were all transferred to a larger centre and the virtual fashions did not really do much in the Outback. However, it did give me time to experiment and find something new, and also gave me a year off from volunteering as the President of our own local race club. I truly feel for all of the major milliners in Australia, this last year must have been hard.

What has been the largest challenge you have faced in millinery?
Travel to attend workshops, I have a 4 hour drive before I get on a plane so pretty much it is a full day travel for me to get to the southern states, and then a full day home. Never really over come that, just had to do it. But it is always worth it in the end. But at the end of this year I am moving to Townsville on the coast, so that will cut out a lot of challenges for me in many areas.

What is your favourite material to work with?
Kangaroo Leather is my absolute favourite, we had local tannery in Hughenden and I was taught to make leather flowers by Cherryl McIntyre, when she came to stay. We often experimented with the leather and how we could use it in millinery. The local leather gave my pieces more than just the Australian made tick as it was also very local. I used to take out paint colour cards and give them to the tanner, he was amazing and would match perfectly for what I wanted. Unfortunately that closed a few years ago… but I do have a special stash I keep for special pieces.

What's your best millinery tip?
Be patient and plan… take your time. As I work full time as well as do my millinery I am often short on free time so I used to rush a lot. Many times I have been in a rush and wasted more time and materials than I care to admit. They tell me patience is a virtue… with me some days it used to be a miracle. 

If you could invite any milliner to tea?
I would love to meet Rachel Trevor-Morgan as I am such a fan of her pieces they are so classic and have a touch of vintage. Her styling in large hats inspires me so much.

Words to live by…
Be confident in yourself… after turning 52 this year and being blessed with 32 years of marriage and 3 beautiful children, now grown up. I had spent many years doubting myself and my work whilst living up to others expectations and opinions. I am about to semi retire on the coast… closer to an airport and have finally grown confident in who I am and what I do, so always be who you want to be and make yourself happy, after all isn’t that what life is all about.

» Explore more from Sherilee Honnery | @outbackmilliner482

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Tags: #2021, #millineryinterview, Sherilee Honnery

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