Joanne Edwards has worked within the fashion industry for ten years, designing womenswear and bridal dresses before starting up her own range of headwear and accessories in 2012. Teaching the Accessories For BeginnersCouture Handmade Floral Crowns and Headbands and Summer Festival Crowns and Headbands (Weekend) short courses; we caught up with Joanne to discuss her work, interests and what makes her want to share that passion.

Joanne Edwards

What inspired and lead to your work as a milliner?

I worked in the Fashion industry for over a decade as a womenswear designer for a variety of high street brands. I’ve always loved traditional crafts and had long felt a desire to create something unique with my hands. I wanted to become skilled in an area of handcraft and seek out authenticity in my career and work. I explored many areas and eventually found the world of Millinery! After studies, I worked for and learned from others including fashion milliner Piers Atkinson and couture milliner Edwina Ibbotson, before stepping out on my own.

Tell us about your work.

I design and make hats for weddings and race events such as Royal Ascot. The craft of Millinery is both laborious and beautiful, requiring lots of patience, an eye for detail and a love of hand sewing. From stretching hat materials over wooden blocks to form the shape, stiffening and wiring the hat to ensure its shape remains and dyeing components such as feathers used to trim the hat. Every step during the ‘make’ process is carefully considered and requires many hours.

I adore trimmings and love to create silk handmade flowers which decorate many of my hats and bridal headpieces. It’s an incredibly therapeutic practice, cutting each petal from various silk fabrics and pressing them shape with traditional iron tools, to stitching each petal together one by one to form your desired flower. Seeing your work come together in any discipline is incredibly satisfying and the end result can be a work of art.

I also create headwear for other brands. Collaborations have included Vidal Sassoon, Appetiser and recently Venyx World where I hand made the Space Chameleon Swarovski Crystal mask. These were created for guests who wore them during the annual Animal Charity Ball and displayed at the V&A, in London.

© Joanne Edwards

What inspired you to teach the courses you tutor upon?

I’ve always loved the idea of being able to share my knowledge during a creative workshop and introduce others to the skills of handmade Millinery headpieces and couture flower-making. I really enjoy seeing students’ ideas come to life.

What are you most passionate about?

I’m passionate about design and creativity. I strive to create a product that both looks and feels elegant when worn within my work, something which has balance in its design, use of colour and trimming.

I’m also incredibly passionate about traditional handmade crafts. I’m pleased I can introduce others to skills like silk flower-making. I’ve always been drawn to arts and crafts where time, skill, effort and energy has been lovingly poured into producing something unique. I am not a fan of throwaway Fashion.

Which piece of creative work, in any discipline, do you most love and why?

Coming from a Fashion Background, I’ve always admired the great couture Fashion houses such as Dior and their teams of skilled workers who dedicate hundreds of hours into creating intricate couture gowns. These are works of art in their own right.

What/where is your favourite London discovery?

I’m originally from Ireland and grew up in the beautiful countryside of Donegal by the beach. For me, being either by the river or open green spaces is where I’m most at ease. I recently stumbled upon York House Gardens in Twickenham. A footbridge leads from the House leads you from pretty gardens areas of wildflowers and a great pond graced with nymphs and Gods, all tucked away beside the river. That was a perfect little discovery on a summer’s evening.

What is your guilty pleasure?

I adored musicals growing up, all that singing and dancing, Hollywood glamour, glitz, charm and huge hats had me intoxicated! My guilty pleasure would be a day spent reliving classics from the 50’s & 60’s, starting with Barbara Streisand’s Funny Girl.

Name a favourite book, film and song.

Book: I set myself a challenge recently to read more, so I currently have a list of well known figures throughout history to get though. I’m currently reading The Diary Of Anne Frank.

Film: I love big productions full of glamour and elaborate costumes, but nothing’s better than reliving a cheesy 80’s flick like the ones I grew up on; Big, The Breakfast Club, E.T. or The Goonies, to name a few.

Song: I saw Will Joseph Cook at Dingwalls in Camden lock last year. He’s got a chilled indie sound and got me thinking about this year’s festivals and the headpieces we will be creating on Summer Festival Crowns and Headbands’ and Accessories for Beginners courses!

What advice would you give to aspiring creatives?

It’s often hard to know exactly what you want to do or which path to take, so just keep exploring and enjoying the areas you have an interest in and eventually you’ll stumble across something that has meaning to you.

Creativity is lifelong learning. Working as a Fashion Designer in a busy office, juggling many roles taught me so much about the retail industry, gave me many skills and the confidence to eventually try something new, choose a different path and emerge as something else.

What’s the best bit of advice you have ever been given?

Keep your options open, don’t rule anything out, and just keep opening doors.

For further information on the upcoming Accessories For Beginners , Couture Handmade Floral Crowns and Headbands and Summer Festival Crowns and Headbands (Weekend) short courses please visit the Central Saint Martins Short Course website.
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