Rustic corrugated iron sheds and pearlescent pink sunsets form the usual backdrop for Broome based milliner Felicity Brown's photoshoots. Late last year Felicity swapped the sand and sunsets for the bright lights of the NY Fashion Week where she presented her collection of 20 pieces to the World Fashion Stage. Read on to see what Felicity has to say about her rise to fashion glory from the earthy Kimberley region where she call's home.
Interview by: Sophie Allport
The biggest positive for my business is the invitation back to NYFW this year (2015) for my own exclusive Hats by Felicity show. It has increased social media following and my millinery business. Plus the extra attention and interest encourages the Hats by Felicity story to grow.
Tell us about your trip what was the highlight for you?
I was so overwhelmed that I don’t remember my NYFW runway appearance and being backstage, I didn’t get to see and enjoy the show. My personal highlight was after the event, when I woke the next morning, picked up my phone and found an influx of messages from Australia directing me to my Facebook where a friend and avid Hats by Felicity supporter from a remote cattle station in Western Australia had discovered and uploaded an album from the internet, of my show. I was lying in my bed, in my New York City apartment, filled with emotion as I scrolled through the album and saw for the first time what the guests had that evening before, enjoyed. I was so proud. It felt unreal that I was looking at my very own work on the runway of NYFW. My friends who had travelled with me and I excitedly relived the event through the photos and their individual experiences as my VIP front row guests. This was my highlight of the NYFW experience.
As for the highlight of my trip, well besides the obvious, being the show, I will say that a few days afterwards I shouted myself to the Luke Bryan concert at Maddison Square Gardens which was a pretty damn good highlight too. I’m a big Luke and country music fan. And that’s a whole other story …
Presenting on the world stage has given me the confidence and permission to create the more artistic pieces that I love to design - to throw the creativity seatbelt off and go for it! I have always felt my millinery is more about art. I have creations sitting in frames and hanging on my lounge room wall that move from worn art to wall art. And of course, they can come out of those frames to be worn art again. I love to just let the creative juices flow and see where a creation ends up.
Tell us a little about your collection, what was your inspiration for the 20 pieces that you presented?
The inspiration for the collection came from the frontier Kimberley and soothing sands of Broome. I am surrounded by endless inspiration with the remote coastline of Western Australia, the township of Broome and the ancient waterfalls and rock formation that fills our region that is the Kimberley; the plants, seeds, shells, coral, even the hermie crab sand balls on the beach. Everywhere I look is filled with colour, texture and grandeur. It’s an artist’s delight whatever you are creating.
Is it true your community hosted an event to help send you to NY? What a fantastic opportunity that must have been for you to showcase Australian talent! How did your community respond to the collection you showed over there?
How privileged am I to be part of the amazing community of Broome. It was the generosity of Broome that got me to NYC; the gala fundraising event and the crowd funding site my friends established raised half of what I needed to be a part of the NYFW show. The Community is such a part of the story – Hats by Felicity is the community’s story too. Each piece in the NYFW was named to honor those involved in organising the gala fundraising event in Broome. The community is proud. People always ask about the show and many get goosebumps when I tell them I’ve been invited back.
Every day is inspiration. I live and work in a remote pocket of Australia. My day job has me working with remote businesses and aboriginal communities in the Kimberley which itself, is an endless source of inspiration. Outback Australia is where most of my inspiration arrives.
You have been invited to NYFW again this September, what are the challenges this time? Is this more nerve wracking than last time?
The biggest challenge is financing the opportunity. You scream yes and accept the invitation because it’s such an honour to be invited. You just have to accept and would be a fool not to. Then you work out the budget and lose a few breaths. I don’t want to burden my community with a second fundraising ask, what they did to launch me into last year’s NYFW was truly enough. This time I am attempting to find sponsorship but … well … asking for money is not one of my best skills but I’m working on it.
I feel smarter and more prepared this second time round; a little more confident but also scared, given the solo show scenario. I really want to enjoy the experience this time round and not be so overwhelmed. I want to remember my runway bow – for all the right reasons of course. Hahaha I have started waking in the night with little panics, though, thinking of all the jobs I have to do.
The Milliner On The Move was born from necessity and from living remotely on cattle and sheep stations. In outback Australia the country races are the highlight of the social calendar for the year. Women love to dress up for the races, but always find themselves working on the property till the last moment, leaving little or no time to get glamoured for the day. We didn’t have the internet (and it’s not all that long ago) so I used to alter everyone’s existing hat. We all have one of some description. When I left station life and moved to Broome women were still contacting me to alter their hat for the races. This is when I realised the need is still there, even to this day. So Milliner on the move was born. I create a collection, pack up the car and drive hundreds of kms to the station for an evening for the ladies. They try on hats, sip bubbles, laugh and enjoy the evening. If a hat doesn’t find them I am always so happy to design a bespoke piece with them for me to create and send back in the mail.
You have built a fabulous business in the bush and delighted the NY fashion Week runways with your headwear, what is planned next for Hats By Felicity?
Stay tuned … the ideas never stop!
Finally any advice for other milliners hoping to make their mark like you?
Be yourself. Be confident in your ability, sprinkle kindness and adore each day and creation that you make. When you discover your point of difference know this is your opportunity. Grab the opportunity and love every minute of the story and the ride!
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