15 Oct Friday Files – Off To The Races, With Milliner Neil Grigg
This week for Friday Files, DESIGNER DISCOVERY, we are profiling Neil Grigg of Neil Grigg Millinery. We talk background, business, and his passion for exquisite fabrics.
In his 30-year career, Neil has created thousands of hats for brides, race-goers and celebrities alike. He has also created headwear for theatre productions such as Miss Saigon, 42nd Street, Glimpses and Les Miserables.
Neil’s contemporary, unique and innovative one off pieces always incorporate beautiful textiles.
In collaboration with BOYAC, Neil has designed two headpieces using the exquisite LE CRIN horsehair fabric from Creation Metaphores.
We begin our conversation amidst a very busy day for the milliner.
“I am Diamante-ing a fedora as we speak!” says Neil.
Tell us a bit about how you became a milliner.
I was studying in Melbourne at the State College of Victoria, as a Drama-English teacher. In the middle of all that we were working on a show and we had hats to make. I knew nothing about how to make a hat but became totally fascinated about how a hat sits on a head – it’s a real art..
Following that, I became a dancer for the Sydney Dance Company in contemporary ballet. Here is where I fell in love with costume design. I then won a Millinery scholarship with The Australia Council for the Arts,and trained under the famous Theatre Designer,. Betty Viazim, That was my training. Started with showhats. Then theatre pieces. Then fashion pieces.
I started selling my hats at The Paddington Markets. In 1989 I opened my first shop in 1989, then moved to William Street, Paddington 15 years ago, and have been busy ever since!
I have had some great people working with me too. Jennifer Nairn worked for me for 25 years. Jennifer had 1950’s training copying hats from Paris, had excellent technical knowledge and was a complete perfectionist.
What do you enjoy most about being a milliner?
A hatter makes mens hats. A milliner makes ladies hats. I enjoy making women and men look wonderful!
I enjoy how my job feeds my creativity, I am constantly challenged and get a real buzz out of working with people. That journey with the client is fun, listening to what they want but also advising on what suits them.
As a trained dancer, I have an eye for line and shape, I look in the mirror with my clients and can see the shapes and proportions that suit different people.
What inspires you in your creative process?
The fabrics. Very much to do with fabric. I see a wonderful lace, silk, velvet or tulle and get excited. I also love flowers. At the moment tulles are inspiring me.
I also love playing with feathers, dying and cutting and shaping and tweaking and turning. I use feathers a lot. Ostrich feathers, the more extravagant, the better!
Colour also inspires me. After a year of gloomy lockdown I feel like clients will be wanting more colour and fun in their head pieces!
What are the fabrics you most work with?
I work with felt in the winter, and straw in summer. For covered hats, these are the base fabrics, then I add fabulous fabrics to the top. I like using fabrics that you can manipulate and create something new with.
What are you working on now?
Racing hats, for Everest! This is traditionally a very busy time of year. If you need a hat for the season, get your orders in early!
Above: customer in Neil Grigg creation; Le Crin “Nircel 201” col noir/blanc 044 and “Nircel 204 col noir/blanc 058.
What did you do with the Boyac Le Crin fabrics?
Using the BOYAC horsehair from Le Crin has been fun – it is a heavy and resilient fabric that I have shaped into something unexpected.
The horsehair was a challenge. Because these particular fabrics are very stiff they can be hard to manipulate. I chose my version of the very on-trend “ halo “ style and finished it with a wonderful rhinestone encrusted veil to accentuate the pattern.
The second piece uses the fabric to create the petals on a stylized flower trimmed with horsehair ( yes, milliners use it too ) and hand dyed stripped and recut feathers on a covered headband.