Designer Spotlight •
Martina McGrath is a Brisbane based couture milliner who creates exquisitely crafted pieces that honour century-old techniques and traditions. Martina founded her eponymous label ‘Martina McGrath Millinery’ in 2008 and her work has been featured in campaigns for both Brisbane-based designers and Australia-wide publications.
The art of accessorising has been a lifelong passion for Martina, who hand-selects the materials for her headpieces from specialist artisans and vintage emporiums worldwide. Citing travel as an inspiration for her work, Martina’s intricate yet contemporary millinery translates beautifully across both seasons and continents.
We spoke with Martina to find out more about her career, her design process and her recommendations for styling millinery all year round.
Tell us a little more about you, what inspired your career in millinery?
I have always loved fashion, especially accessories. Accessories are often conversation starters which I love. When I was in high school, I used to catch the train an extra stop so I could walk home through Indooroopilly shopping town to look at the fashion, especially the hats in Myer. I always regretted not pursuing a career in fashion, so when my children were a little older, I decided to study Millinery at TAFE and I fell in love instantly. I love that it hasn’t strayed too far from how it was done a hundred years ago and I work really hard to honour millinery techniques and traditions.
We’d love to know more about your design process, how do you find inspiration for your work and how do you bring a piece to life?
Inspiration for my Millinery is everywhere! I follow fashion quite closely, I would describe it as an addiction. My Instagram is flooded with designers and influencers who inspire me. Stephen Jones is at the top of that list. I am often inspired by what is on the runways, I love the design houses like Dior, Valentino and Chanel who always include Millinery in their runway shows. During the international fashion weeks my phone battery is always on low. There is a ridiculous amount of runway millinery screenshots on my phone. Putting your own spin on something you’ve seen is super fun.
Travel also inspires me, I always seek out Millinery suppliers and vintage treasures when I travel. New York, Tokyo and Paris are amongst my favourites. I have boxes full of trims, fabrics and vintage treasures that consistently inspire designs. I have recently made the most beautiful boater from a vintage Straw I bought at a vintage street stall in Paris. It’s so divine!
Designing hats is an organic process as what you imagine rarely comes to life exactly how you imagined it. Exercising the right amount of restraint is really important to me. Letting a beautiful ribbon or the texture of the straw be the feature is often all that is needed. Sleek and simple design is always beautiful.
What’s your favourite look (or two) for the spring racing season?
The Boater is my most favourite hat and it continues to be the strongest of the current millinery trends. I love that the proportions of the boater can be played with to achieve really different looks. I am in love with the Baker Boy featured by Dior. I had a Baker Boy hat block made with the plan to use it predominantly for winter racing. I decided to make one in straw and it was love it at first sight. It’s a real ‘cool girl’ look, it’s slightly irreverent which I love, particularly when paired with a super feminine dress.
Once the racing season concludes, its onto the festive season. How do you recommend styling millinery for the festive season and into the New Year as a lifestyle piece?
The perfect accessory for the festive season is the turban. My turbans are the perfect lifestyle piece, so versatile and easy to wear. Great with denim and a white tee on a dirty hair day & also perfect for a glamorous night out. I make them from beautiful plain silks and I also love to use gorgeous European prints. The addition of beading makes them a pretty fabulous wardrobe piece.