Attention and Fascination
A jewellery designer by trade, a mother makes her first fascinator for a client and wears her own to the 2014 spring races. She walks along the track – past picnic tables and umbrellas. There is a roar from the grandstand that could seat 5000 people. Strangers want selfies.
Then the media found her. Crews are waiting from Channel 9, then Channel, 10, then Channel 7. Anne is surprised by the attention, and steps away to meet with her friend. Her buddy says, “The ABC are running toward you.” This was the success she had not expected, “Anne, when ABC want you, you’ve made it.” She knew, “From then on, I knew I was doing something right.” This is the story of how one crafty designer ‘made it’ in the fascinator industry.
Anne Stevens still talks about that moment when Designer Fascinators gained attention for the first time. “I’ve had my 15 minutes of fame.” Fans still remember, “I still get people later on 2 years later.” The signature fascinators continue to stand out in the crowd, “You need to make that impact for people to remember. It’s a recognition thing I suppose.”
Designer Fascinators in History
Anne Stevens is finding success as a fascinator designer, after years of designing jewellery. She discovered a significant market for this headwear, for events all year round. It all started when she received one request to create a fascinator. Demand continues in this market, as women request custom styles.
Fascinators were known in Australia as the accessories women can wear to Melbourne Cup Day races around November. The Melbourne Cup does have a history dating back to 1861. Yet more opportunities exist for racing fans, throughout the entire year. Versions of this headwear go beyond racing, with moments at events such as weddings.
Anne’s Fascinating Career Change
Anne Stevens feels inherently creative. Her brand of fascinators is a twist in her career path. Although it is an evolution of her lifelong fashionable flair. “I have always been a crafty person. I have had my own business now for over 10 years, I have recreated myself a few times over.”
She had previously sewn, cross stitched, knitted and done craft. Anne also made costumes for her son. After making many different pieces, Anne says, “I’ve found my niche.” Specialisation happened after years of making a broad range of items.
“I was making my own jewellery out of wire, all one of a kind; the business name was Twisted in the Tropics. I sold mostly online and I had a stall at the Smithfield markets for 6 years.” Aspiring fashion entrepreneurs can take inspiration from Anne’s balanced approach to selling her products. She juggled e-commerce with in-person retail. The markets were a localised traditional version of ‘bricks and mortar’ retail. And her use of online selling achieved reach beyond the local area.
After years of creating jewellery, an unexpected custom request took Anne on a new creative journey. “Two and a half years ago, I had one of my suppliers send me an email about fascinators (by mistake). I looked into it – saying to myself, ‘I can do this, it is amazing’. But I did not see much of a business in it. Boy was I wrong.” Anne may not have known the potential of this project. But she embraced the opportunity.
Starting a Business in Designer Fascinators
Her initial investment was proof that a new small business or brand can be built on a budget. “I decided to give it a try, like all my new ideas I spend $1000 on new supplies and I go from there; putting everything back into the business, growing from there.”
Creations changed from a hobby into a successful business. Anne converted the patio in her family home, to allow space for her supplies and production. Working from home allowed for work-life-balance, “I can spend time with my family and feed them.” There is a connection to the family, “I can see into the house and still talk to them and close the door at the end of the day.” This is one way to make a home business work. It is a goal that became a reality, “My dream was to have a studio. I now have one.”
Anne’s Fascinators at the Races
Local celebrities wore Anne’s styles with pride. She was able to see these products, her own handiwork, on fashionable public personalities.
All the fascinators are unique pieces, allowing consumers to express individual styles. Pieces were diverse with materials such as hats, feathers and flowers. These portray unique personal styles such as classic black and white, glamorous sparkle and spring style garden inspired looks.
View the gallery to see more of Anne’s amazing Designer Fascinators.
Why Wear Individualised Items
Each fascinator is unique. In an era of mass produced products, these hand made creations are customised for all customers. “Besides one of my items, that is hand painted anyway, I never repeat anything. Every single piece is unique and they are getting something they love.”
Inspiration appears anywhere in the world. Anne finds style influences from her surroundings, “I went on a cruise recently and saw the most beautiful light shade.” Fashion design can be impacted by interiors and other creative spaces. Every piece is also made guaranteed to be an original with no outsourcing, “One point that I never want to do, is let anyone else design my work.”
Design is more than aesthetics. It is also about practicality. Anne explains, “They balance perfectly on your head… “The biggest faux pas that you could do is hold your fascinator. “It should stay on your head perfectly.”
Women wear things very differently, depending on their sizes. Anne thinks about the client as a person, and fits pieces to the needs of individuals, “I would never put a little petite girl in one of my items.” She considers, “Skin tones, shape of their face, personality, height, dress size.”
Body Image and Confidence
Women are finding confidence in their identities, through these fascinators. A close friend of Anne chooses to shave her head bald. This normally attracts comments from strangers, who wonder if she is alright. Yet it is just this person’s preference, “We live in the tropics and it’s her choice.” Anne designs a fascinator on a cap, which hid her friend’s head. This coverage was an escape from an everyday problem. The friend was immensely grateful and thanked this designer, “You’ve taken me outside my square.” Women are able to be themselves with custom designs which bring out their real selves.
A Background in Customer Service
One of Anne’s first jobs was working in a shop in Melbourne. It was there that she learned the value of customer service. This value is a priority in her current work, “I would not send a fascinator out that I am not completely happy with. If I’m not happy with it, I’m not going to put it on one of my clients.”
A Year in the Life of a Fascinator Designer
Work does not stop for fascinator designers after Melbourne Cup day. She receives requests regularly. “Even some of my clients think, you must be very busy this time of year. There are races all around.”
Bridal and Royal Fascinators
Fascinators, as products, are available for consumers in multiple markets.
Anne says the royal family wears fascinators to events, “You can do so much more with a fascinator than a hat – big, small, tall, short.” Princess Beatrice wore a fascinator style hat for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Princess Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, wore fascinators to various events over the years.
Besides the races and royals, these accessories are also options for the wedding industry. Brides and flower girls decorate their outfits with fascinators of all shapes and sizes.
Preparing for 2016 Races
This designer now enjoys wearing her own creations to the races, “It’s a lovely excuse to dress up. She adds, “There’s not many places where you can dress up anymore.”
Anne was preparing her own fascinator to wear during the Spring races, “I have just finished sewing my new outfit for Oaks day with matching fascinator. I am attending Derby day, Melbourne cup and Oaks day (ladies day).”
News From 2016 Melbourne Cup Events
Anne wore a black and white floral fascinator to the 2016 Derby Day Melbourne Cup. Her outfit was coordinated in all black and white.
Her outfit at Melbourne Cup Day was a floral pink and white theme. She wore wide sleeves, in a similar style to the Derby Day outfit. The pink fascinator tilted on a side.
She wore black and red floral styles for the Red Rock Deli Special reserve, during the 156th Melbourne Cup Day Carnival 2016. A large red flower brought her style back to that original fascinator, which brought attention a few years prior.
Competitive Streak with Fashions On The Field
Advice for Attendees
The key message for younger attendees is, “A lady can be a lady.” Anne’s approach to spring fashion is traditional, although still creative. Gloves and shoes are required at winter races. As seen in her own outfits, “Match your clutch with your shoes. Do blend in with your dress.”
Fans can follower her simple rule for what to wear, “If you can wear it to a night club, don’t wear it to the races.”