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Interview: Milliner Piers Atkinson


Interview: Milliner Piers Atkinson
Piers Atkinson has worn nearly as many hats as he’s made. We chat to the artist, illustrator, milliner, costume designer, party organiser, fashion editor and DJ in the lead-up to the Crown Golden Ale Caulfield Cup Carnival.

You’ve had quite a varied background. How did your career as a milliner come about?

It basically started as a way to ‘let off steam’ after I’d worked on a particularly frenetic publishing project; I’d set up a daily live newspaper at London Fashion Week with my friend Jenny Dyson and it nearly killed us!

The hats and headpieces were meant to be a nice arty project and were never considered (by myself) as something that could grow into a business.

Your creations have been snapped up by some of the world’s most out-there celebrities. Is there one person you’d really like to make a hat for and what would it be?

It would be fabulous to make a crown for a king or queen – any king or queen really; perhaps a less famous one from a pacific island paradise. It would be a good place to go for fittings!


What’s a headpiece no-no?

Oh! I think too many trims is a mistake – you don’t need feathers, flowers, quills, bows, AND veiling – edit the trims and make what you have dynamic!

What’s the most out-there creation you’ve ever come up with?

Probably the neon ones, as you have to plug them in with miles of cable… which means you can’t walk far. We did create a battery pack version though!

What’s the most time-consuming piece?

They are all quite time consuming, but the more hand-made the more intricate they become: dying to match, stripping feathers, tiny invisible stitches and so on.

The nail-art cherries from my SS14 collection took days – we only ever made one pair and it’s now gone to a collector.

What are the headpiece trends for the coming Spring Racing season?

I think the bigger brim is making a welcome come-back! It’s becoming more popular in the UK and also, from looking online, at the Middle Eastern and Australian races too.


That’s why we are doing a larger ‘swept’ brim in a stunning bright red for the Caulfield Cup and Art Series Hotels collaboration – where I’m using the artwork of Adam Cullen from The Cullen Hotel as inspiration!

Who do you most admire in the fashion world?

So many – Alber Elbaz continues to create beautiful, chic and innovative work after a lifetime of doing it, which is no easy feat; my friend Zandra Rhodes for sticking so passionately to her design ethic and Vivienne Westwood and Katherine Hamnett for using their status to bring attention to moral issues that affect us all.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

From everything – as I walk down the street I often think: ‘that would look fabulous on a head’. For example, today I saw a broken fan and all of the pieces looked amazing. Perfect for a summer headpiece.

Do you have a muse?

I have an imaginary ‘character’ who inspires each collection; the last two were for a little girl dreaming of fame, and then the celebrity of last season.

But real my muse is my sister; we miss each other (she has lived in Freemantle for a long time and had her baby boy in Australia!) and she still is a strong influence on me. She has great modesty, poise, strength, a sense of humour. A strong and ladylike woman. A formidable mix.

What’s your ultimate goal when you create a headpiece?

To wow myself! If I manage to do that then at least I have a chance to wow the rest of the world!

Piers Atkinson has been engaged as one of three milliners to create bespoke millinery pieces in collaboration with the Art Series Hotel Group to celebrate the 2014 Caulfield Cup Carnival. His pieces will be on display in The Cullen Hotel in Melbourne from early September in the lead up to October’s Carnival. For more information on the collaboration, please visit:

Image credit: Nathan Seabrook
Image credit: Nathan Seabrook


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