The 2019 International Millinery Competition

The prices of fruit and vegetables in stores across Melbourne may be doubling due to the poor climate this season, but for the month of February, the collaborations and partnerships within Melbourne’s fashion industry have been harvesting ripening fruits.


This month has proven Melbourne to be the hub of creative collaboration with the Melbourne International Millinery Competition taking place. Directed, produced and beautifully curated by Catherine Ellen, this competition denoted over seventy different headpieces submitted by milliners from all four corners of the globe.

The Melbourne International Millinery Competition in collaboration with The Masters Institute of Creative Education sent packages around Australia and across the seas to all entrants within this year’s competition. These packages included the images, sketches, fabric swatches and conceptual descriptions of student work, to be used as inspiration for what would become one of the loveliest and most enchanting events for the first quarter of the 2019 fashion calendar.

I myself was lucky enough to have been called upon by Catherine to take part in the judging of this fanciful event. I arrived at her studio and shop, ‘The Essential Hat’ in Prahran on a forty-degree day for the preliminary judging.

This competition is as important to the global millinery industry as quidditch is to a seeker. Whilst I am on the Harry Potter references I must say that as the door swung open I felt as though I had found myself in a wizardly store within Diagon Alley, brimming from floor to ceiling with geometric to organic shapes, slick to abrasive textures, subdued to vibrant hues presented in silhouettes from miniscule to formidable form.

It took me, along with the other judges a day of contemplation and deliberation. On leaving no one was aware of who the final three prize winners would be. Catherine in her cleverness constructed a point scoring system, leaving us all in the dark until the Grand Finale. The event to be held within the Art Deco walls of Emulation Hall, a building which fit the program so impeccably.

The Grand Finale was an elegant event; exuding a combination of old world charm and contemporary headgear. Ladies donned exquisite headpieces whilst sipping their champagne as they watched the models glide around the salon style runway. Each wearing a headpiece whilst holding a small flag to the nation each milliner called home.

First place awarded to Chris Mullane of Australia, her headpiece, Metallic Flock was comprised of an extraordinarily lightweight flock of metallic birds that appeared to be in flight as the model walked the room.
The people’s choice was awarded to Michelle Robinson of Australia. Michelle’s latte coloured sculptural piece reached for the sky as though it was Babel Tower.

The one I need to mention is the hat created by Cynthia Jones Bryson, her vibrant orange feathered hat looked as though it had jumped straight out of the pages of a Gum Nut baby book and brought such delight to my face.

I would like to congratulate all entrants who participated in this year’s Melbourne International Millinery Competition along with thanking both Catherine Ellen of Essential Hat and The Master Institute of Creative Education for the opportunities you have created for emerging and international designers.

Todd Anthony

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