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My Interview with Hat Academy

Updated: 6 days ago




As an experienced milliner you have made so many hats in various styles, but what was it like to make your first hat? My first ever experience creating a hat 13 years ago took place in the Nicholas Building under the watchful eye of talented Louise Macdonald in her Melbourne studio on the corner of Swanton St & Flinders Lane. To look out the window of the 8th floor and smell the cool crisp air with the sounds of horse & carriage and trams below gave me a sense of deja-vu, like no other in that I had done this before and that here and now was where I was meant to be.


The hat I chose to make was a teardrop crown with small turned up brim on one side, made in brown sinamay from Mimi Millinery, rolled edge on the brim and trimmed in a stylish vintage cream swiss straw which was inserted on the brim. I still have it and it holds a special place in my heart being the first attempt, which was completed exceptionally well and also fitted my small head so this is why I started millinery. You have trained under some of Australia’s leading milliners. Other than learning specific techniques what is a favourite tip you have learnt from them? Training with both Australian and many International milliners has taught me so much, but the one thing I was advised early in my millinery career was: “PATIENCE’’ Quote - Don’t put the cart before the horse. I always had a tendency to visualize the finished product and couldn’t wait to get there!! Now I understand the value of process and know that the best way to finish anything is to let the process flow and not try to force your materials into something they are not going to do! Plus I am never seen without wearing a thimble and apron in my studio.


I was taught that “Never Say Your Work Is Not Good Enough” as I entered the international HATalk Competition and was named the “Overall Winner of the 2018 HATalk Competition” in London.



Blocking is an essential part of millinery. Do you have a favourite block?

I don’t really have a “go to” block however I have a vintage brim block (that I won’t share with anybody) that allows me great flexibility of design. It has a concave on one side with the other sloping plus I have made a button block to fit. Once I have finished blocking and reshaping to the final stages it has a trendy mod look & style but I am also able to use as the vintage shape it has been made for in the 1950’s. Very versatile and I love it as it was made in my era as well!


Looking at the array of blocks on Hat Blocks Australia website is there one block on your wish list?

Over the years I have collected or been gifted with an array of hat blocks. But there are a couple from Hats Blocks Australia that I really like. 16 inch Curved Satellite & Ram block plus I don’t have a 221/2 inch board & 23 inch collars so these are on my wish list.


Trimming is all about Feathers, Bows or Flowers. Which is your preferred trim and why?

Trimming sometimes can be the least enjoyable part of my work but only because I cannot wait to see the finished result. So you see I have not solved all my issues around “PATIENCE”. I guess my preferred trims would be the traditional feathers and flowers but giving them a modern edge to create a point of difference and new themes. But of course, when I finish trimming the hat looks so inviting to wear and I am proud of my design ideas.


With many Fashion on the Field wins for yourself personally, why is this such a great way to promote your brand?

I’ve always loved fashion and from a young age began designing and making my outfits right through to owning a fashion boutique for many years. There is nothing quite like dressing up and I love the styling, co-ordination and presenting the look with my very own designer headwear. It is a great way to lift your spirits and promote your own style & fashion. If you look good you feel great and it always shows. My motto is : Wear It Like You Mean It! With A Spring In Your Step And A Happy Smile!



When designing a hat for a client what is the starting point? Custom orders need a lot of two way information before a needle is threaded. In order to know your client, it is all about asking the right questions and going from there. It’s not an interrogation it is normal conversation as they have contacted you to make them something special to go with their outfit & wear on their head for the complete look. Sometimes they have an appointment in my studio where they try on samples or we discuss over the phone. We discuss the timeline, where they are going, discuss materials, colours (or colours they don’t like), style, outfit & shoes etc. trims (or what they don't like) and even head fit if needed. I advise them to look at my website to have an idea of the shapes and designs they are looking for so I can assist with the design process & style to go with their face shape etc. Sometimes I send process photos if it is a remote client and there are lots of other assistance that is given if necessary. Both parties should have a clear understanding & picture of costings & how it will look, after all being in fashion industry for 10 years, it has helped and I have been taught to understand and listen your client and the “Customer Comes First” for the end result.

Coming out of COVID lockdowns with more freedoms to socialize, what does this mean for Sandy Aslett Milliner? Now that we are all free to move about, things have really started to get moving with lots of events and custom orders. Like other milliners, I have gone from nothing to very busy in a short period. The thing to remember is my catch phrase – “Making Headlines Just For You’ and that each client is treated equally and is assured of a quality well made product.

Sometimes there are challenges and my internal drive will strive to supply the outcome. We may be almost back to normal but there are still ongoing supply chain challenges so it is important that clients plan ahead for their necessary Spring Racing Carnival requirements, but I do love a challenge!



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