Talented young milliner, Sophie Allport has based her distinctive styling on her love of using a natural, pliable product with a great variety of colour and texture. Sophie shares her journey with tips on how to develop your unique style of headwear.

What do you love most about Millinery?
I love that since starting millinery I have been able to combine a lot of different aspects of my life and creative interests. I have always been creative and loved painting and making things, I still use these skills when making flowers and hats in general. I have also always loved a day at the races. Now I have even more reason to love the socialisation and inspiration that comes from a day at the track. What a fabulous way to spend day at work with bubbles in hand!

How did you get into Millinery?
In my gap year after school I went to a remote area of rural Australia to be a governess on a cattle station. It was so remote that the very few social occasions throughout the year all revolved around races and horse sports. There were very few options at the larger town centres for shopping for millinery and a dress and the few options were very ordinary and terrible quality. I thought to myself… surely I could do better than this. I looked online and I found Hat Academy and the rest you could say is history.

How you would describe your designs.
I pride myself on quality and finish, for me that is everything. I would describe my designs as classic, elegant and balanced with a modern twist.

What is your ideal customer?
My ideal customer is someone confident in what they want in terms of colour and style but trusting in me to bring all the elements together in a harmonious end design, with a few extra additions to make their piece truly unique. I find this to be the winning combination as millinery is always a collaborative process. The more you work with regular customers the more you can feel their style and the process begins to glide effortlessly.

What inspires you?
I am constantly inspired by the world around me. Travel, play and rest can do wonders for the creative mind. You never know how the leaf, feather, door frame or tile you stumble across on your adventures will inspire you if you take the time to look. I am usually very busy from week to week when in the studio and creativity and inspiration can flow so easily from hat to hat when you get into the creative rhythm. However, from time to time you can get blocked and need to stop completely, have a break and open your eyes to the world around you. I think balance is essential.

If you could invite any milliner to tea who would it be?
Phillip Treacy is my all time inspiration. If I could invite him to tea all of my dreams would have come true. His work is flawless, his hats are magical, fantastical works of art and I would just love to hear his stories. I would also love to see his collection of blocks in the flesh just to be around them would be so inspiring.

What is your favourite material to work with?
Leather is undoubtably my favourite material. It is pliable, workable, and a natural fibre. It comes in every imaginable colour and texture and it doesn’t fray. You can block it or make trims, it truly has endless applications and I am totally in love with it.

Whats your best millinery tip?
My best tip is get the basic skills down pat, Hat Academy is amazing because you can just pick the skills you think you might need to start with and expand one step at a time. Once you have the basics, spend some money on a few specialised skills with milliners that inspire you or do a particular thing you think might suit your skills and then spend every other cent and minute you can spare (doesn’t have to be much at first) on materials and just practice, practice, practice. I taught myself many new skills particularly with leather because people weren’t doing exactly what I wanted and now I feel like my style is my own. Never copy someone else style directly because you will never truly be proud of your own work and if you stay true to you your customers will respect that and come to know your work.

What has been the largest challenge you face in millinery?
Too many ideas, not enough hands! I do both collection for Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer thought out the year as well as custom orders. While I love custom orders they are so much more time and labour intensive than creating collections, finding the balance can be hard. The trade off for the extra time spent on custom orders is that they inspire new designs and push my creative boundaries. I always get new ideas while I am working on custom designs its just a shame I can’t whip up another hat at the same time before the ideas escapes me.

Famous words to live by?
“Turn your flaws into features.” Every mistake, problem or issue can lead to an even better result than you ever planned in the beginning. Use these little “problems” as a nudge in a new direction and trust that the process will always work out.

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