Piers Atkinson

  • Piers Atkinson Milliner interview


    Art | Q & A

    We’ve got Spring Racing on our minds and can hardly wait until Melbourne’s finery shows up to play in the coming month. As part of an ongoing partnership with the Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) and Caulfield Cup Carnival, we’ve been lucky to celebrate the festival in our own way for the past few years, and this year we wanted to embrace the artistry and creativity of some of the makers behind the best looks of spring racing – the milliners.

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18th September 2014

Three top local and global milliners were each paired with an Art Series signature artist to interpret their works for three one-of-a-kind pieces ahead of the 2014 Crown Golden Ale Caulfield Cup Carnival.  You can read our interview with Jill & Jack Millinery, responsible for The Olsen-inspired pieces here.

This week we’re speaking to a global superstar on the millinery circuit. We were incredibly lucky to engage Piers Atkinson to bring his fearless and fun approach to The Cullen-inspired creations. As a leading name in both bespoke and boutique millinery, Piers has designed pieces worn by Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Anna Dello Russo and many more. Add to this an extensive ready-to-wear collection, spanning all kinds of headpieces from berets to baseball caps and you have yourself a master of the contemporary millinery landscape.

We picked Piers’ brain for what goes into creating his works, his inspiration and what he might get up to on a trip down under.

What attracted you to the millinery industry, particularly after working across a number of creative arts?

I’ve always been familiar with hats, as my mother is a milliner and made hats at home for everything from The Royal Opera House to Doctor Who! I originally decided that I wasn’t going to follow in her footsteps professionally, as I am nowhere near as skilled as she is!

So, I made hats for friends as a hobby while working in different areas. When I eventually made my first collection I never dreamed that someone would want to buy them. But the collection sold, and so I thought I should create another one. Today I now have a millinery business – even though it was never the original idea!

Your work spans far beyond the Ascot and Races crowd into baseball caps, beanies and other more contemporary fare – how do these designs influence your more traditional milliner designs, and vice versa?

I love making the more traditional racing hats, but it’s a smaller market than the multi-season casual styles, even though they are ‘designer’ casual! We also find that people come to us for the slightly eccentric ideas – regardless of the occasion, which means we are taking elements of the casual styles and incorporating them into the racing millinery. And vice-versa. For instance, we have started putting the more traditional crystal veils on baseball caps and they look amazing.

Your designs are often described as ‘adventurous’. Do you see your designs as fitting a specific personality, or are they intended to transform each individual wearer?

I don’t think my hats transform the wearer; I think the wearer gives my hats a home.

Our style does attract a certain type of woman – confident, witty, a real show-stopper of a person who doesn’t mind rocking the boat occasionally!

What elements did you draw most from in Adam Cullen’s work in your designs?

What incredible, passionate work! One of the hardest things to translate is the quick, frenetic brushwork of his style as making a hat is anything but quick or frenetic. I also wanted to make pieces that women would enjoy wearing, so taking ideas from passionate, thought-provoking imagery and translating those ideas into formal attires was a challenge. However, the relevant elements that stood out for me were his incredible colours and the wonderful, instinctive brushstrokes.

We took key colours from his paintings and his signature black outlines and made hats in these colours with black trims. Next, we painted over the trims to try and reflect the painterly elements. Finally, we made feather flowers and placed them with angular black feathers to try and emulate Cullen’s brushstrokes. Hopefully we have respected the artistic vision and at the same time made some exciting designs for the races at Caulfield!

Did you know much about Adam Cullen’s art before you developed the hats?

A little. My sister lived in Australia for years and worked in various art galleries, so she would often show me the work of Australian artists – including that of Adam Cullen. Also, London is an amazing international city and I have many Australian friends who keep me updated on Australian culture.

If you were visiting Melbourne for the Crown Golden Ale Caulfield Cup Carnival what would you make sure you did in town?

Place a winning bet on Caulfield Cup Day!

Keep an eye out for the other two works from Piers as we get closer to the Caulfield Cup Carnival in October.

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