Andrew James: Millinery’s next ‘big thing’

Laura Peppas

Whether it’s on the runway, racecourse or down the aisle, unique headwear has become an essential part of an outfit, rather than an after-thought.

Andrew James could well be the next big thing in the millinery industry: the former “country boy” from Parkes, who moved to Canberra in 2005, is quickly establishing a name for himself in the design realm.

Since launching his self-titled label in 2008, James’ millinery creations have appeared on runways locally and interstate, as well as editorial photo shoots (including our soon to be released Unveiled pictorial preview.)


Andrew James, far right, with some of his designs. Image: Robert Coppa. Full credits below.

With a background in make-up and dance, James says he loves the theatrical elements of millinery.


One of Andrew James’ millinery creations on the runway. Image: Chi Chu. Full credits below.

“My designs aren’t typical, nor do I want them to be,” he says.

“I love the world of wearable art, a lot of fashion designers produce garments for performers or dancers as well as the everyday consumer, so I’d love to explore that route of wearable pieces, whether it be hats, headpieces or otherwise.”


One of Andrew James’ millinery creations on the runway. Image: Chi Chu.

James says the race season is one of the busiest times for his Wright studio, where he works with around 15-20 clients at a time.

“I find many Canberrans still want to be in their comfort zone, so for me and my business it’s about finding that fine line between traditional millinery with really detailed pieces, to breaking free and making pieces that people can dance or perform in, with movement and lines and texture,” he says.

“I like to really tailor my designs to the individual, to spend a bit of time with them and get a sense of their style rather than making stock-standard pieces.”  Clients not only leave with a unique piece of wearable art, they carry with them an experience of creation that lasts beyond the event that brought client and artist together.


A model wears one of Andrew James’ headwear creations. Image: Robert Coppa.

James says his foray into millinery began in his hometown.

“I actually studied millinery in Parkes for 12 months – there was a teacher there from Europe and everything she taught me was gold,” he says.

“I’d always been pretty creative in school and loved using every day fabrics to make something beautiful. I remember one of the first pieces I made was this beautiful red mad hatter head piece, which I wore to the races with a three-piece suit, and I won the fashions on the field. I remember the MC being a bit shocked that a boy from the country turned up in such a bright outfit!”


Image: Robert Coppa.

After moving to Canberra, James studied design at CIT as well as makeup artistry, deciding to combine the two for his business model, offering event and wedding makeup as part of his services.

“I love both makeup and design because it’s so easy to create something tangible and change it if need be,” he says.

“A big part of my business ethos is sustainability – there is so much wastage in the fashion world, so I love reinventing every day fabrics and finding a use for everything, including the things you might usually not think to use.

“A lot of my style comes from my mum – she is from the Philippines and she is always dressed beautifully with amazing tailoring and fabrics and often shops at second hand stores, as we both love that romance of owning something someone has once loved. She still helps me style my own wardrobe sometimes!”


Image: Robert Coppa

James balances life between the world of creativity and the corporate 9 to 5, and has found the flexibility within the public service lends to providing real time with his clients and his passion for design.

“At the moment I’m working one on one with a number of clients from my studio, but I hope to eventually make some of my bespoke designs available online,” he says.

For more on Andrew James visit

Runway credits: 
MUAs • Andrew James Makeup\\Millinery + Lesley Johnston – Make-up Artist
Brows • Browlab 
Hair • 121 Hair ( Kathryn Ilijoski+  Jessica Skokleska + Roza Dimoska) + Lexi Bannister
Wardrobe • The Label (Created + Dressed by Emma J O’Rourke)
Creative Directors • Jessica Rolfe + Andrew Cannon

Studio shoot credits: 
Key Stylist/Concept – Jessica Rolfe
Designer – Emma J O’Rourke – The Label
Key Hair stylist – Despotoski Zaklina


Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

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