Hats off to the doctor: The Kiwi with a PhD in millineryby Lisa Scott
For Margo Barton, hats will always be in fashion.
“As a craftsperson – a maker – computer making is a really sustainable practice,” says Barton, who began designing adornments for the head in the mid-80s for magazines such as Vogue Australia and Harper’s Bazaar to accessorise their fashion shoots.
And while millinery has become a less popular career calling, in part due to the mechanisation of the blocking and finishing process, she sees potential for a sustainable niche market for handmade hats, alongside bespoke shoes and tailoring. “More hat wearers would make more opportunities for milliners to do their milliner-ing,” she says, “which would make me very happy indeed.”
The academic leader for fashion at Otago Polytechnic, Barton is creative director of iD Dunedin Fashion Week, which will be held from May 1-6. This year, the International Emerging Designers Awards – a highlight event – have attracted a record number of entries, with nearly 200 submissions from 22 countries and 56 fashion schools. Barton says that shows how highly the industry regards iD.
“Designers bring their friends and families, a delegation, to a town that’s buzzing with people, to see what’s pushing the boundaries of fashion. They make connections and collaborate. Some even make hats!”
In the 90s, Barton launched her own design label in New Zealand and had a swimwear range, too – “hats and togs going together well”. Now, she says, “most of my hat designing and making is linked to my research, fashion shows and special projects for friends”.
In this small but impeccably-turned-out town, fashion pieces by Dunedin designers are constantly circulating via a thriving secondhand trade, a constant source of temptation if – like Barton – you’re on the hoarder spectrum. “I’m not very good at throwing things out. Finding something I’m planning to biff, I’ll end up wearing it to work, and realise it still needs me,” she laughs. “As Marc Jacobs said, ‘Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them.’”
That’s something she encourages her own students to be conscious of. Clothes have personalities of their own: a saucy cocktail outfit or a floaty Carlson dress can change your mood, let you shed your skin at whim.
“I’m a bit of a magpie,” says Barton, who confesses to a particular weakness for 70s fashion. “If it fits and it’s made of Lurex, chances are I’ll buy it.”
This was published in the May 2018 issue of North & South.
Diana Wichtel reviews a new American TV series based on the hit Kiwi comedy.Read more
In her latest novel, Julie Cohen traces the parallel male and female lives of a single character.Read more
To celebrate Sir David Attenborough season on Sky, we are giving away copies of his book Life on Earth: 40th Anniversary Edition.Read more
Thanks to the determination of Christine Maiden, NZ has joined an international leadership network that aims to work on issues important to the futureRead more
The National Party is calling the u-turn on a capital gains tax a massive failure for the Prime Minister.Read more
The TV network is switching things up - again.Read more
The Wall may be speculative fiction, but it feel like it's just round the corner.Read more