The Art of Hats: The Legacy of an Iconic Australian Milliner

Frederick Fox

The announcement of Frederick Fox, former milliner to the Her Majesty The Queen, as the 2013 Australian of the Year in the UK was a fitting tribute to a man of great talent. Born in outback New South Wales in 1931, Fox trained as a milliner in Sydney before leaving for London in 1958 where he established himself as a brilliant designer. 

In 1968 Hardy Amies, the Queen's dressmaker for half a century, asked Fox to create hats for the Queen’s tour of Chile & Argentina. The Queen obviously liked his creations judging by the royal warrant Fox received in 1974 as Milliner to HM The Queen. Not only did Fox craft more than 350 of Her Majesty’s hats during his 34 years as official designer of the Queen's headwear, he is also widely-recognised as the founder of the fascinator.

Australia Day Foundation Director Bill Muirhead had this to say about Frederick Fox: “When Hardy Aimes first saw Frederick Fox’s innovative designs he immediately recognised the brilliance of a true master craftsman. To have been milliner to Her Majesty The Queen for 34 years will be a record no other milliner will match. In recognition of his outstanding achievements and distinguished career the Australia Day Foundation considers Frederick Fox a most worthy recipient of the 2013 ‘Australian of the Year’ award.”

The naming of Fox as 2013 Australian of the Year in the UK is a reminder of the depth of talent within the Australian headwear and millinery industry. Although the iconic Akubra hat is undoubtedly the most famous product of the Australian millinery industry, a number of contemporary Australian milliners are producing innovative and unique creations that could challenge the status of the Akubra.

World-renowned Australian milliners such as Jill Humphries, “The Hatmaker” Jonathon Howard, and Richard Nylon are forging a formidable legacy for the Australian millinery industry that has resulted in numerous international awards and many internationally significant commissions. Most recently, Melbourne-based New Zealand-born milliner Jill Humphries, owner of Jill & Jack Millinery, was awarded 2nd place worldwide in the Talenthouse millinery competition celebrating the Queen's jubilee.

Although he has lived in England for more than 50 years, Fox returns to Australia regularly and for over 20 years participated in the judging of the Fashion Field at the Melbourne Cup. He is also a Patron of the Australian Millinery Association. Given the achievements of Fox, Australia’s current contingent of world-class milliners have big shoes to fill but are more than up to the task if recent events are anything to go by.

Click the slideshow to see ten amazing Australian hat designs