The mysterious world of hat-making is not an easy one to break into. Just ask milliner CHRISTIE STOKES. When she first entered the trade she found it fiercly guarded by those in the industry. “It is such an exclusive, niche market that you have to work very hard to make it your full-time profession,” says the designer.
That was until a chance meeting sealed her fate. “I was posting a hat at my local post office, when the lady at the counter asked me what I was sending,” says the Burleigh-based local, “When I told her it was a hat, she told me her mother was a milliner on the Gold Coast”. Eight-two year old Shirley Luke become Christie’s mentor, teaching her everything she had learned in her 60-odd year career. “It’s great to have such a wonderful, professional mentor. She told me that she’s made at least one hat every week of her life since she started her trade at 14″.
A few years later, Christie’s star is on the rise. Her beautiful hats and headpieces are being stocked at exclusive ROBINA TOWN CENTRE store, DESIGNER FORUM and being seen on racetracks around the country.
Christie, tell me a bit about yourself.
I grew up in Townsville, North Queensland. I initially came down to the Gold Coast to study Physiotherapy at Griffith University and spent about 6 years here.  Since graduating  I’ve been globe-trotting with my profession, but have always had this urge to pursue Millinery.  So in 2011, newly engaged, I moved back to Australia to Melbourne to study Millinery (whilst leaving my other half up in QLD!)

How did you get into millinery?
I can’t explain it but I’ve always had this desire to make hats. They just… get me. It’s this complete innate passion that I find hard to explain.  I’m sure that watching ‘ My Fair Lady’ as a child probably had something to do with it too!

What interests you about making hats and headpieces?
I really enjoy the construction process – it’s actually extremely technical.  More than anything, I love matching colours and textures to work with an outfit.   It’s amazing to see an outfit come to life once a headpiece is added (not to mention the client!)

What is the best part of your job?
I love working with people.  Millinery also allows me to be extremely balanced.  The technical side of it satisfies my left brain, whilst the colour combinations and design aspect allows for that much needed right sided input!

How do you get inspiration for your designs? Is it hard to keep coming up with new ideas?
For bespoke pieces, my inspiration is always drawn from the textures and the lines of the outfit.  For my ready-to-wear range, I look at current fashion trends in addition to drawing inspiration from nature.  I grew up exploring the outdoors and there are some amazing colour combinations out there!  b)  The ideas thing is the one thing I find utterly effortless.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t go off and research and build on my ideas.  But I often know exactly what I want to do the moment I see an outfit.

What is the most interesting headpiece you’ve made?
I’m about to start work on a large, diamond-studded star headpiece which should be fun! What trends are you seeing coming through in terms of millinery this season?

Millinery follows many of the current racing fashion trends.  Gold and emerald/peacock hues are big, along with floral pieces and graphic prints. These can be taken in to the straws/ sinamays and flower colours in your headpiece.

How would you describe your style?
Chic,classic, feminine

What is your favourite item in your wardrobe?
I love my Gorman handstand linen dress which has these great prints and looks even better with a citrus leather belt.

What does your favourite headpiece look like?
I love this gorgeous houndstooth pillbox from my 2012 Winter collection. It has mustard and houndstooth carnations and vintage veiling.  (see attached pic!)

Do you have a wardrobe full of headpieces?
Not as many as you might think! I guess I have around 20 but am constantly pulling them apart to make new things! My studio is just a big playground for me!

Where do you see yourself being in 5 years…in 10 years? Where do you hope your business will go?
In 5 years I hope to have formed a successful collaboration with a number of reputable Australian Designers and have a strong place within the Australian market. In 10 years I hope to have a strong international presence, and be working alongside international labels to develop high end pieces in addition to having a ready-to-wear line so that everyone can enjoy my designs.

Tel: 0407 528 689
Twitter: #CMDMillinery

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