London-based Australian milliner Lisa Tan creates elegant, sculptural designs using traditional millinery techniques and materials. Her signature style contrasts more flamboyant millinery, fusing classic styling with a modern edge to produce distinctive silhouettes with a less-is-more aesthetic. A passion for horse racing has been prominent throughout Lisa’s life and therefore race wear millinery is Lisa’s specialty, we sat down with Lisa to understand more about what it’s like to create millinery for socialites…
An Australian background inspires Lisa’s work but she doesn’t believe it has helped her brand flourish in London, “If anything, it’s a disadvantage – the British have a distinct way of dressing, particularly where millinery is concerned and that doesn’t correlate with Australia’s way of dressing for the races. Big hats aren’t really the norm there yet… so I started by doing smaller headpieces, but over the years my hats have become larger and larger to fit with what the British want.”
These big hats have been popular at the races, using her previous fashion training – Lisa has designed larger than life hats styled alongside glamorous racewear ensembles to win prestigious ‘Fashions on the Field’ competitions, including the: Epsom Derby Festival, Sandown Park’s Eclipse Stakes meeting and the Melbourne Cup! So, this is a woman to take socialite fashion advice from, “My piece of advice to women attending the races would be to take a risk and be brave – Royal Ascot and similar events are an opportunity to wear something you’ve never dreamed of wearing before, as nothing can be too much or too flamboyant.”
Lisa continues to speak about horse-racing events with such passion, she believes in the pomp and pageantry of the racing scene, “These events are reminiscent of Parisian haute couture shows – the effort some people go to for the perfect outfit, and the ridiculousness and grandeur of it all, in the best way possible. I love that people can spend literally months obsessing over an outfit for a one-day occasion – it’s an attention to detail like no other.”
Outside of the races, Lisa hopes to see millinery take off at other events too, “I would love to see more hats worn in general! When you look at photos and films from the 50s and 60s, wearing a hat was an everyday accessory – just like a handbag. I find it quite sad that, somewhere along the way, hats were deemed an unnecessary accessory for society and people stopped wearing them in everyday dressing. That’s why it’s so important for events such as Royal Ascot to have dress codes – they literally keep our industry alive.” We agree – everyone should be reminded how wonderful millinery can be!
Lisa’s recent year has been as busy as any other! She continued to influence the racing fashion scene by being part of the Royal Ascot Millinery Collective, which came with many more opportunities than she imaged would. We predict an even bigger future for Lisa, but she is letting the millinery ride take her wherever it may, “I have no idea what lies in store for the next 12 months. I used to push quite hard but have since learnt that things tend to happen when you don’t force them.” We can’t wait to see what’s next!