Interview: Milliner Piers Atkinson

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

Collette Dinnigan chooses family over career

Collette Dinnigan, the Australian Financial Review reports, will close her boutique stores in Sydney, Melbourne and London and will cease production of her internationally sought after, high-end bridal and evening wear – a move that will affect more than 50 staff members.

The news comes hot on the heels of Dinnigan’s well-received Paris fashion show earlier this month. The designer is known for her twice-yearly shows in the French capital, which she first began in 1995.

The 48-year-old reportedly insists that, unlike other Australian designers who have shut up shop recently, her decision is not based on any financial trouble. In fact the designer told reporters business is still very profitable and without any debt.

So why has Dinnigan decided to close shop?

“I am not closing for financial reasons, at all. It has absolutely nothing to do with it,” the designer insisted.  “This is about finding a way to spend more time with my family,” Dinnigan told reporters.

The working mother of two, who gave birth to her second child only last November said she needed more time with her children – her son Hunter turns one next month and daughter Estella is nine. Dinnigan was apparently crestfallen after returning home from her recent show in Paris to find her baby son hardly recognised her.

“Before Paris I was working seven days a week, I’d see him in the morning and not see him until the next morning again, and that happened for four weeks. Then I went to Paris and he almost didn’t know me when I got back,” Dinnigan said. “ I got back for five days and was on a plane again to Hong Kong. And that was when I went, ‘hang on’. And it has to happen, you have to give it that kind of energy, you can’t just be half pie, or at least I couldn’t.”

But the designer has maintained 100 per cent ownership of the brand she began more than two decades ago. She will continue, “for now”, with the parts of the business that require her to design only and where production and retailing is handled elsewhere.

Her difussion label colette and children’s label, Collette Dinnigan Enfant, will also be manufactured offshore and sold only in department stores such as David Jones and Neiman Marcus or online.  Dinnigan  will also continue her partnership with Specsavers, for which she will launch a prescription sunglasses range early next year, as well as a hosiery line for David Jones

Only this month, Dinnigan featured prominently in a 10-page feature story for a well-known Australian fashion publication celebrating her creative lifestyle and her recent delve into books and publishing. She cited the publication of her book, Obsessive Creative, as a factor in the decision to close down.

“I almost feel the publication of my book was a catalyst,” she said. “The book is a retrospective of my life and it’s made me stop and think about the amazing journey I have had thus far. It crystallised my thinking,” Dinnigan added.

In a statement released this morning Dinnigan said: “I have sacrificed a lot of family time in building and maintaining my business. Now I want balance back in my life with my husband, nine-year-old daughter and baby boy”.

“I have met and worked with some of the world’s most talented people, as well as realising my own creativity while driving a financially viable, profitable business. I truly feel blessed,” she added.

Deeta Colvin, Dinnigan’s publicist, said the deisgner’s decision to close had been “a very difficult one, as she is incredibly passionate about design and her entire business, including all of the people within it, but the hours and travel required to sustain what is necessary to run such a successful international company doesn’t allow for the time she and her family need.”