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How to Completely Change Your Outfit with Headwear 

October 23, 2016
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Chantelle Ford has no idea what she’s wearing this racing season. Can you believe that? The Melbourne milliner is too busy making statement headpieces for clients to spare a minute and sort her own outfit out. “Luckily I have an abundance of hats to choose from,” she says.

And it’s not just any ol’ collection of headwear she has up her sleeve.  Ford designs with the ethos of “knocking ‘em dead,” as opposed to simply “dressing to impress,” which is why her architecturally-inspired creations have become a favourite of fashionable Aussie’s seeking a memorable finish to their look.

We chat to Chantelle Ford of Ford Millinery about spring racing trends and having fun with headwear.

“Headwear is a statement of confidence. It “ups” any outfit instantly, and adds a touch of elegance, mystery and intrigue that no other accessory seems capable of.”

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What are the rules when it comes to pairing a beautiful headpiece with an outfit?

Rule number one: check your insecurities at the door! A headpiece will only ever look good if the wearer has the confidence to wear the right headwear for the right outfit (and vice versa). Anything short of that would be an injustice to the overall look, and probably isn’t worth your time or money.

If an outfit requires a bold statement headpiece (picture Jackie O in her wonderful upturned wide-brims and tailored dresses), chickening out with a token tiny crown is a wasted opportunity of showing off an incredible outfit. Similarly, if the outfit requires something understated, don’t go all out for the sake of making a statement, as you will run the risk of looking like a kindergarten child playing dress-ups!

Boys in hats – yay or nay?

Double heck yes! It’s sexy, sophisticated, confident, and shows they made an effort, took fashion and styling to the next level, and essentially, they have the makings of a gentlemen (or at least they have made the steps to convince us they are!). That said, execution is key. Wearing any hat for the sake of wearing a hat does not tickle my fancy. As my Dad always says (and he always wears a fabulous hat), “If it’s not worth doing properly, then it’s not worth doing.”

Trending this spring racing season: a continuation of block colours, and a lot of teaming of blush pinks, nudes and pastels with either black or metallic.

What can we expect to see trending at this year’s spring carnival?

We can expect to see structure. A continuation of block colours, and a lot of teaming of blush pinks, nudes and pastels with either black or metallic. (One of my favourites this season is a blush pink dress with our Black Swan headpiece. All-white and all-black is still making a strong appearance (especially the former), and a modern twist on the seen-before crown is the safe bet for this year. Wide-brims are also making a comeback, so elegant fashionistas rejoice!

Tell us about the intricate art of millinery. What’s involved with envisioning a design and making it a reality?

The structural engineering required to design and realise a good headpiece is insane. Heads aren’t flat. Wind blows. Heavy things pinned to your head all day hurt. So next time you see gravity-defying headwear that looks seamlessly perched on a head, remember that it is not stapled to that head! A clever milliner not only designed the headpiece aesthetically, they flew to the moon and back to study NASA astronauts to give you with that structural engineering genius!

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What does a typical day during the craziness of spring racing look like for you?

CAFFEINE! In the studio by 7am, leave no earlier than 7pm, seven days a week. My day includes contact with our fabulous stockists Australia wide, hand-making hats to order, working with my amazing staff to ensure every single piece that goes out is precise and delicious, ordering materials, planning for next year, managing PR, styling celebs, working with clients on custom-made headpieces, designing future ranges, sourcing new materials, photographing new designs, trying to squeeze in some fuel and sunshine and exercise at some point (failing recently), making mess, cleaning mess, repeat. EVERYTHING! Lucky I love my job and have a fabulous team.

How would you describe your design aesthetic? What inspires your work

I have a vast array of design styles; however, my signature “architectural” designs are, well – architectural and minimalist; with confident, clean lines; smooth textures; and an understated but punchy attitude. I am inspired by absolutely everything I see and hear (I am a daydreamer and can turn anything into anything in my head, which could be a flower, a beat in a song, an accidental palette discovery in a dropped ice-cream – anything!

All images via Ford Millinery

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