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Hats for the Spring Carnival

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Textiles student Alex Faulkiner, who works part-time with Sydney designer Axel Mano, can appreciate the cost of hat making. In her role, she helps shape future fashions, literally.
"Part of my job is to mould, stiffen and sew the hat itself. Antique straw is big at the moment, which we get pre-woven. Then we'll mould it around a block so it kind of looks like a saggy bucket," she explains. Each piece is finished by an expert milliner who adds decorative final touches.
"It's a pretty physical job," she says. Even a simple straw hat can take hours to put together. Her hot tip for breaking into the industry? Socialising, of course. "I met a girl at a party one night, around the time I was studying costume design. I ended up getting a job through that."

THE PUNTER

"Normally in terms of hats, I'm a firm believer in ‘less is more'. When it comes to Carnival racing hats however, I backflip and advocate a ‘more is more' approach."
Michelle Carlton knows a good hat. Having grown up in a racing family, she was cheering trackside dressed to the nines while other girls her age were dressing Barbie. "I would have played with her but she only came with cheap caps and visors, never great headwear."
When it comes to racing chic, Carlton's philosophy is reflected in her eclectic collection of hats. From fine feathers and delicate nettings through to fascinating fascinators, Carlton is well-schooled in the art of acquiring a fine hat. "You may well find an ornate hair comb, decorative hair band or fascinator between $100 and $350, and hats can range from $150 to $1,500. It all depends on how passionate you are about it".
However, Carlton doesn't always recommend top shelf price tags. "It is not necessary to spend a lot of money, you just need to shop around and love the piece, not simply like it."

THE PRO

With a background in the film industry, it's not surprising Philadelphia Philpot owner Wendi Nutt's pieces are dramatic and flamboyant.
"I've designed hats for everyone - from ladies going to the races, through to unique bridal pieces and even the Mardi Gras," she says.
The Balmain-based designer has been creating hats for Sydneysiders for over 16 years.
"Because I hand-stitch everything, all the trimming can be taken off and the whole hat can be revamped for next season," she adds.
This spring, you can bet on brighter colours and statement styles. "Headpieces are definitely on the way out," she says. "Small, jaunty little hats worn towards the front of your head will be this season's next hit."

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