melbourne spring racing hats - milliner - designer

Jill Humphries – Melbourne milliner

Jill Humphries is a Melbourne milliner ( who has made a great debut to the Melbourne Racing scene. Her first ever hat sold was part of an ensemble which won the Geelong Cup! Jill works predominantly with leather. Her creations are beautiful and modern. She’s gaining a large following with the Fashion’s on the Field entrants and has her eye on winning the Oaks Day Millinery award. I have a feeling that this designer is just getting warmed up. Read her inspiring story:

1. What made you want to get into millinery and how did you get started?

I’m from New Zealand, originally. We moved here ten years ago when my husband got transferred with work. My background was in Event Management and Marketing where I was running big conferences all over the place, including India.

One of the clients that I was working for took on sponsorship for the Richmond Tigers Football Club. As my job was “Sponsorship Manager”, I took around 600 people to the Champions Marquee on Melbourne Cup Day and we had an amazing time. There were so many amazing hats! I was always a hat wearer but became interested in making them. After speaking with a couple of milliners, I decided to study it at night while still working in marketing.

I started making pieces and after putting one on facebook, a woman rang me up and ordered on for the Geelong Cup which was on the next day. Her name was Jac Russo, who is well known in the racing scene. She won the fashions on the field competition wearing my hat! It was the first hat that I had sold! She came back and asked about other pieces that I had. Suddenly the word spread and this network of racing women were buying off me. I went to more races and met more of these racing women, which have become my clients. It’s just grown from there.

Things really started working for me as of last year when I did the Queen’s Jubilee hat. I did all the leather flowers and I got runner up. When that happened I got great exposure. There was more focus on leather pieces and on what I did. I liked the fact that people were really not doing a lot of leather so I thought I’d teach myself that.

Now I’m getting constant requests to teach my leather skills. I’m a mum who works from home and I don’t have the time or space unfortunately. There are a lot of classes out there now. It was a quick evolution from sitting at a corporate desk for years and years, which I did love! I had some great times with that. Now it’s time for the kids and to be a bit creative. It was scary at the time of transition but the rewards are well worth it.

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Jack and Jill Milliner - Interview

Melbourne Milliner Jill Humphries

2. Where do you look for inspiration for your collections? What are your designs influenced by?

Overseas and Australian runways are always a constant source of inpiration. I mainly look to my clients for ideas. They research, create and spend months putting their outfits together. Some buy off the rack but it’s the ones who design their own pieces that really inspire me.

3. Who are your favourite milliners?

Kerrie Stanley – one of my besties. I love her work. She’s so much fun! We get into trouble together. She has an edgy, contemporary style. Philip Treacy. William Chambers does some amazing flower work.

4. What’s the trend for the upcoming Spring Racing 2013/2014 season?

More feminine, larger, dramatic pieces. Larger fascinators moving into hats. More contemporary, classic styling, and silhouettes in amazing fabrics.

5. What’s the do’s and don’ts on how to wear a hat or fascinator?

Be confident with what you wear. When you start the process of looking at millinery and headwear, try things on. You won’t know what suits your face shape or what’s most comfortable for you otherwise.

Also talk to a milliner. A lot of people have this misconception that going to a milliner is going to be expensive, just walking through the door. That’s not correct. I get sent dresses, swatches of fabric, and mood boards from all over the world. You can talk to me and my advice is free. Usually getting a piece custom made is no more expensive than buying a piece from the shop. It’s also made especially for you. I’m not sitting on stock. Usually it’s a better way to go.

Don’t ever be afraid to ever ask a milliner for advice! When it comes to colour, styles and face shape they can help interepret what you want out of an outfit. Don’t be afraid to ask. Research your outfits and what you like. Look at what you want from a milliner and make contact.

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6. Who is someone famous that you would like to be seen in your designs?

Someone who’s just got that perfect beauty like Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchette. Tall Parisian style women.

7. What does your typical work day involve?

Drop off the kids. Block 2 or three pieces the day prior. I’ll spend 5-6 hours working, then pick up the kids. Spring Carnival time is totally different. Everything changes for about 8 weeks. I’ll pick the kids up, hand them over to my husband who cooks while I’m working.I could be sitting on the couch working til midnight or 1am!

8. What is the best hat you have ever made and who was it for?

It was a piece I made for Jac Russo last year, for Super Saturday. It was five big leather daisies on a moveable wired headband. She wore it with a beautiful white dress. I just loved the white with the yellow centres. It was just a great statement piece which looked great against her dark hair. I’ve been asked to make it for other people but I won’t do it. I won’t copy pieces. Following that, the Maroon leather headpiece I did for the Queen’s Jubilee.


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9. What do you love most about your job?

The ability to just make. Sometimes you won’t have an idea of what you want to do. You just start folding, steaming and you end up with something awesome!

10. What has been the highlight so far?

There’s been many. The queen’s Jubilee has been fantastic! Getting a hysteric phone call from a client to tell you that they’ve won in your piece has been a highlight. Normally I’m there with them but sometimes I have received that excited call.

11. What motivates you to keep doing what you are doing?

Once again, it’s the women I deal with. They are just great. Then it’s my husband and my children. My children come into my studio sometimes and ask if they can make something with sinamay. They know the materials and want to play with them. I get this huge surge of pride when they do that.

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12. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Hopefully doing the same with a few more awards under my belt. Winning the big one, the Milliner’s award on Oaks Day! I would love to do a week or two internship with someone like Phillip Treacy or Stephen Jones.

13. What’s the most fabulous place that you’ve been to?

Udaipur in India. Seven years ago I went to India for work. It’s like the Venice of India. It’s a manmade lake with these amazing buildings and architecture. In the middle of this lake is a magnificent palace which was built by a sixteen year old Maharaja! Udaipur had a calmness about it which was a contrast to the fast and crazy rest of India.

I played elephant polo there with the Maharaja’s polo team! It’s where Octopussy was filmed. As an event manager, I was taken there with a small group of people by “Tourism India”, from different event companies, to have a look around. They wanted to tap into the Australian market. It’s just incredible there.

14. What do you love about Melbourne?

The diversity! The multicultural vibe we have here. Everything from sports to restaurants, to entertainment and arts. It’s a melting pot of everything great around the place. You can go from the beach to the vineyard in no time! The food here is great.

15. What is your favourite quote

Less is more! – Coco Chanel

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16. What are some words which best describes you?

  • Motivated. You have to be when you’re working from home!
  • Creative.
  • Immensely loyal.

17. How would you describe your fashion style?

Relaxed, but I love quality. I’m not a fashion’s on the field person but I do enjoy the whole process. Being a mum, I do love to be relaxed, comfortable, ready to go but stylish.

18. What is your favourite mood lifter?

Husband, children and my dog. We cook as a family a lot. I grab a glass of wine and we cook together. We constantly have music on in the house. Hanging out with the family makes everything better.

19. Finish this sentence: To be happy, fabulous and successful, a woman should …

Be confident and wear a hat! Especially when at the races.


And don’t forget to like us on facebook or follow us on twitter – we can’t wait for the next spring racing season. You can find my own Millinery at