The Judging of this years’ Design Award took place on April 11th at Haberdasher’s Hall. Whilst the competition had taken place during the pandemic, it was the first time in two years that the judging panel had been able to all meet in person and judge physical hats – it was so good to be back!

The final selection comprised 20 hats, selected by the panel from drawings and sketches of 36 entries. The judges had viewed digital images of both the finished hat and accompanying artwork. Since adopting this method during the pandemic, it was agreed that it made sense to continue as it gives the judges a much better insight into the workings of each entry.

The spread of entries between colleges, apprenticeships, start-up businesses and European makers has grown wider over the years, as large companies have closed and millinery/craftwork has become more sought after as an individual skill. In 2004, European colleges were invited to submit designs from their final year’s millinery students to enable them to experience the freedom of design we encourage in this competition. By 2016, the competition was extended further to  support former students/apprentice milliners with businesses which had started within the past two years and this has worked extremely well.

Entries were received from Morley College, Nottingham Trent, Northampton, Northern School of Art, University of Lincoln, Kelvin College Glasgow and The Fashion Institute of Vienna and JBH Millinery School. We also had several entries from new start-up businesses and an apprentice.

This year’s selection was one of the most exciting: the themes and techniques were far-ranging and the standard of work extremely high, with some quite extraordinary yet wearable headwear on display.

The Lady Mayoress, Mrs Amanda Keaveny, attended and was overjoyed to try on many of the hats, taking a particular lean toward the colour green to endorse her Irish heritage.

We were delighted to welcome George Lomax, millinery buyer at Fenwick of Bond Street, who had no hesitation in the selection and made a particular stand for the Commercial Appeal award. The other members of the judging panel were: Milliners Rachel Trevor-Morgan, Edwina Ibbotson, Noel Stewart and journalist Carole Denford.

The Master, Mr Nigel Macdonald attended with his wife Maggie and gave their full support.

First – Alison Cooper, Millinery Malarkey. A beautiful emerald scarab beetle the inspiration for which was taken from the 1920s when Egyptomania was influencing fashion due to the many archaeological discoveries of the time. Beetle wings were widely used in fashion embroidery, the colour was inspired by that fact and by the Tutankhamen tomb discoveries of the time. We all loved her hat –exquisitely made and beautifully balanced.

Second –  Eleonora Tata, Eleonora Millinery. Inspired by Dante’s Inferno. Strips of felt intertwining with each other represent the souls of the lustful trapped in an eternal whirlpool. The dark colour palette of the design aims to reflect the depths of hell. A huge amount of thought and work can be seen in this hat.


Third – Nicola Miller, Kelvin College, Glasgow. Inspired by Marie Antoinette and The Palace of Versailles, this was pretty and detailed. Marie Antoinette always surrounded herself with flowers and floral themes- wallpaper, furniture and fabrics and, of course, the beautiful gardens. A beautiful colour mix was used for this hat and each flower and petal was worked in felt.

Craftsmanship – Lauren Thompson, Lauren Thompson Millinery. This Garden of Eden hat showed excellent craftsmanship and skill, cleverly blocking a snake relief into the brim and adding beautiful embroidery. There was a tremendous attention to detail and beautifully executed.


Commercial appeal – Aliyah Dankwah, Northampton College. This hat was constructed using laser cut shapes intertwining around the head. Taking inspiration from fans and the way they were used as a secret form of communication in Victorian times.


Art & presentation – Ilektra Maria Charalampopoulou, Nottingham Trent University.  Her Artwork included beautiful hand drawings and images.


Innovative use of felt – Jasmine Gibson, Northampton College. This hat was constructed with laser cut felt which was then painstakingly wired and stitched. This was inspired by the bone structure of the spine. Once the felt was prepared, it was attached to the felt pillbox and bent into shape.