The Myer Millinery Award is one of the most prestigious millinery competitions a milliner can enter. It is held in Melbourne, Australia during Melbourne Cup week.
Each year milliners are invited to partake in the millinery award to showcase their design flair and skill by creating a millinery piece to show off on stage and be judged by a panel of industry experts. Milliners don’t hold back, spending months planning, sketching and designing to create the most extravagant, unique, structural masterpieces to compete for the title. One of the highlights of Melbourne cup week is definitely watching the millinery award competition.
This year with Covid restrictions, the competition was run a little differently to usual, taking on a digital format.
Milliners were asked to create and construct a millinery piece, provide a video diary outlining the creative process, photograph the completed piece on a model or a mannequin and finally submit a portfolio featuring an overview of their millinery brand, a lookbook of images showcasing past work and any media coverage.
They were asked to keep a diary during the whole creative process, as the top ten milliners selected in the competition would have the opportunity to show their video to be judged on, in the running to win the highly coveted winning title. The finalists and their videos can be seen here.
The winners for the 2020 Myer Millinery Award were Stephanie Spencer first place, Angie Jackman 1st runner up and Belinda Osborne 2nd runner up. In this post we hear from Belinda Osborne from Peacock Millinery, but be sure to keep an eye out for future blog posts featuring Angie and Stephanie…
Belinda’s award winning entry was made from just two materials to highlight there can be a complexity in simplicity, exploring style and shape to create a piece that provides a 360 degree experience for onlookers as well as an immersive experience for the wearer- without a doubt one of the most spectacular hats I’ve ever seen!! Read about Belinda’s story below.
Interview with Belinda Osborne from Peacock Millinery
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where you live and your signature style.
I’m Belinda, an Australian Headwear Designer and the milliner behind the label Peacock Millinery. I live in Darwin, Northern Territory. A born and raised Territory girl, much of the inspiration for my designs comes from my life in the Top End, its unique flora and fauna and sensational landscapes.
My signature style? That’s always a hard one for me, as to me my designs are all so different it’s hard to lock in a particular signature style. I would say my design style is modern, innovative and embodies a structural beauty. If I had to give it a name, I’d say ‘contemporary elegance’. Elegance requires refinement and cleanliness. A design of mine could be edgy, feminine, playful, or classic in style, but it will always have clean, contemporary lines and awareness of space.
How long have you been a milliner for and where did you learn, or are you self-taught?
I made my first hat in 1999 for myself for the Darwin Cup. Around 2006 I started making pieces for friends and family. My mother was a milliner in the 50s and 60s, and I learnt a lot of skills from her. When she passed away in 2009 I realised I wanted to keep learning and I attended my first Millinery Convention and did a week of workshops in 2010. I purchased my first set of hat blocks at the convention and set off with a whole new outlook towards millinery and experimenting with my new skills. Apart from a few workshops here and there over the years, I am predominantly self-taught.
How many times have you entered the Myer National Millinery Competition and have you placed before?
It was my 7th time entering the competition this year. My first being 2014. I have been a finalist and placed three times in the seven years. 3rd in 2015, 2nd in 2019 and 3rd this year.
Describe your winning piece and where you got your idea / inspiration?
My piece was inspired by the contrast between light and dark, and shadow art. It showcases traditional wirework techniques and multi-layered reverse stenciling. I chose to work with only two materials (millinery wire and tulle) to highlight there can be a complexity in simplicity.
I had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve. I wanted to explore style and shape, and make a piece that provides a 360 degree experience for onlookers as well as an immersive experience for the wearer.
The main part of the design is the four feminine faces. Each face is made up from multiple intricately cut reverse stencils. Each specially designed stencil had to be cut from tulle, then placed on top of its corresponding layer to create the multi-layered reverse stencils. The end result is an image of a face that almost looks like a black and white photograph, except it allows light to pass through. The denser the layers, the deeper the black colour and the less light can pass through.
Did you face any challenges when creating your piece or have to learn a new skill?
There’s always challenges when creating something new. I actually had the concept idea last year for the Millinery Association of Australia’s 2019 Design Award which had a theme of “Chiaroscuro” (an effect of contrasted light and shade). I was too busy to make it though, so thought I would use the idea for the 2019 Myer Millinery Award.
I made one of the faces, but then scrapped the idea as I thought the design concept of the tulle layers just wouldn’t be fully appreciated when viewed from the distance that the judges are required to sit from the runway. It needed the right competition, so I shelved the idea. When VRC announced the 2020 Millinery Award would be virtual, I knew it was the right competition.
The multi-layering stencil technique is something I haven’t done since my high school art classes, but that was with screen printing, not reverse stencils.
I wanted to use tulle. Getting the right depth of contrast in the tulle was difficult. Also, the cutting out of intricate areas using tulle and then trying to line up the layers proved to be a bit of a nightmare.
How many hours did it take to make and what will you do with your hat now?
Many hours. I didn’t actually keep a record of exactly how many hours, but I’d say somewhere in the vicinity of 30-40 hours for making and many thinking and designing hours.
I have kept all my Myer Millinery Award entries. I love them all. It will go into storage with the others. I’d love to have an exhibition of all my pieces and their stories one day.
What did you think of the competition being held via a fully virtual format this year?
The virtual competition was interesting to say the least. There were two parts to the competition. One, the first round was to submit a series of photos, and two, if awarded a place in the Top 10, a video diary detailing the design, its techniques and your inspiration was required for judging.
It changed the competition in a good way by allowing those in the top 10 to have a voice and provide further details on their design. Something that has never been done previously. I often hear after the Millinery Awards from participating entrants that they wished the judges could have viewed their entry close up. Or, that they wished they could have provided more detail to the judges about the techniques they used. I felt it was a wonderful opportunity to be able to do this, and it was so interesting watching the video diaries of all the finalists.
I really do hope that we will all be able to show off our 2021 entries on the stage at Flemington next year. But I also think having the video diary included somehow would be lovely so as to feature all the hard work put in by the entrants.
Thank you so much to Belinda for taking part in this interview and sharing a little bit about herself and her spectacular creations.
Keep an eye out for the next interview with 1st runner up winner Angie Jackman. By the way, if you’re interesting in seeing the millinery award winners from previous years, check out this post.