After spending a morning with one of Australia’s top milliners Richard Nylon and his lovely assistant Ann, and seeing some of the beautiful headwear he has created, it really made me wonder why people don’t wear hats more often. Richard and Ann’s enthusiasm for millinery was contagious, and both spoke enthusiastically when speaking about their experience and love for making hats and headpieces.
Wandering around his Fitzroy studio, which is located just above the Australian bridal designer Gwendolynne’s store, it was impossible not to be in awe of the array of dramatic headpieces Richard had created.
Richard with assistant Ann
Richard splits his business between designing wedding headpieces and veils to the more artistic side, designing pieces for the races and theatre productions such as his latest collaboratins with the ballet and companies such as MYER. The bulk of his work is bridal as the ready-to-wear market has become increasingly competitive with the increase in competition from overseas designers.
Despite catching the eye of the Fashion Design Council with his early work in the 80’s, it wasn’t until Richard collaborated with local designer Gwendolynne Burkin that his name on the Australian millinery map.
Richard meet designer Gwendolynne at her 22nd birthday. They ended up sharing house together before Gwendolynne moved overseas to work. When she came back and started her own label, she asked Richard to make her some hats for her collection, as she didn’t like hairstyles on the runway. Richard became the first milliner to collaborate with a designer season after season, with this working relationship with Gwendolynne still continuing today.
Richard has since collaborated with Australian designers Gail Reid from Gail Sorronda and Lui Hon, and he is currently working on a collaboration with Ted Baker for their upcoming Spring collection. He said collaborations can be frustrating at times if your artistic ideas have to be compromised for commercial reasons however, on the whole, it’s a great way to challenge yourself and get an insight into someone else’s design aesthetic.
Despite being in the industry for over 20 years, Richard is refreshingly humble about his success. There are still times when he has doubts about what his doing, but spending time with him, anyone can see that not only does he loves what he does, but he is amazingly skilled at it despite being self-taught in his art.
Richard started teaching millinery at RMIT around 6 years ago. Despite being one of the most successful milliners in Australia, he said that he, like many other milliners have to teach to support their practice. However, Richard says he is lucky as he loves teaching and being around people who want to learn and who are enthusiastic about millinery.
One of Richard’s most recent collaborations was with Ballet Lab’s production of Aviary: A Suite for the Bird. For this project, Richard worked for over 3 years with choreographer Phillip Adams and designer Toni Maticevski (who produced the costumes) to create beautiful headpieces for the production. After overcoming the hurdle of getting funding for the project, Richard created a range of dramatic feathered headpieces for the production, several of which were used in the spectacular dramatic opening to the 2011 Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, paired with outfits made by Toni Maticevski and Neo Dia.
So what are Richard tips for those hoping to make it in the industry? He said it’s important to get yourself noticed. You have to network as much as possible, and be willing to put yourself out there to take on different projects. He also said it’s important to believe in what you are doing and believe you have something to offer. But most of all, you have to stick at whatever you are doing and not give up, and if you are lucky enough to get some success, be humble about it.
Thank you Richard for not only taking the time to talk to Couturing, but for convincing this writer to wear more headpieces!
So for the races or and special occasion, make sure you visit Richard to find the perfect piece of headwear to compliment any outfit.