FEATURED DESIGNER – BANKS & BELL
“I can wear a hat or take it off, but either way it’s a conversation piece.”
Hedda Hopper, Actress
After watching a beautiful collection of Art Deco-inspired beaded headpieces make their way down the Fenella Peacock runway recently I had to find out more. Who made them? What inspired them? Will there be more?
With so many questions left unanswered there was only one thing to do; track down the designer behind Perth Millinery label Banks & Bell, Lucy Carter, and interrogate her!
Where does the name Banks & Bell come from?
I wanted a name with a meaning that wouldn’t be apparent to anyone else, but myself. I came up with the name Banks & Bell while I was taking a walk in Kings Park. Banks comes from the banks of the Swan River and Bell from the Pylon at Cottesloe beach known to locals as the Bell. I grew up in Perth between the river and the ocean. It seemed appropriate that the place I call home should be a part of the label.
Can you tell us about how your love of millinery/headpieces began?
While studying at the West Australian Institute of Fashion and Textiles (WAIFT) I was given the opportunity to do a short course in millinery. I loved the process of making a felt hat, steaming it and moulding it into shape. I pursued it as a hobby for a number of years creating pieces that I wore to events and social functions. I then started collecting vintage hats and that is when my passion for millinery really took off.
Tell us about your creative process. Do you begin with sketches, mood boards or similar?
I try to absorb inspiration from everything; art, fashion magazines, blogs, classic films like Funny Face, and television shows like Agatha Christies Miss Marple and Poriot. I am particularly fascinated by the past. Hats used to have a place in daily life, but the sixties revolution saw the demise of the tradition of wearing hats. I think that in order to create something new, it is important to see what has come before. My vintage hat collection is also a great reference point. I have pieces from the 1940’s to the 1960’s.
Creating a hat is a very different process from designing a piece of clothing. You are only limited by your imagination and the materials at hand.
My design teachers would probably be appalled but I keep most of my ideas in my head, I might jot down a few things to remind me and maybe do a rough sketch. I start with colour, materials and the idea. However it is in the process of making the piece that most of the designing occurs.
Are you inspired by other milliners? If so, who and why?
I have always loved the pieces that Jean Lavin created in the 1920’s. With my label I wanted to create that same feeling of opulence and flair for the dramatic, with a modern take. I love Stephen Jones and Phillip Tracy. They helped to put hats back on the map with the help of hat lovers like the late Isabella Blow. They both create abstract pieces that take on an almost sculptural quality. They can be both playful and avant garde. I love the element of risk and pushing boundaries.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
I love working with felt, however there isn’t a lot of demand for small felt hats in Perth. So I’m looking at using it for next winter. Currently I’m working with silk, velvet ribbon and glass beads to create headpieces rather than hats. I’m looking to branch out into hats for my summer 2013 collection.
I’ve used beading as the main embellishment for the collection for Fenella Peacock. I sew on each bead individually, so that if a thread should break the whole piece won’t fall apart. It is very time consuming however the result is a high quality piece that with last forever.
I’m always looking for something new. Currently I’m exploring the idea of creating my own lace. In the past I have used feathers, cotton ribbons, vintage buttons, various fabrics and sinamay.
How did you become involved with Fenella Peacock and her recent ‘Poetica’ runway show?
I started doing some work for Fenella in social media last year. In the process of one of our meetings I mentioned I made hats. I showed her a few pieces and she liked them so much that I started to stock a few pieces in her store. I had been long toying with the idea of launching a millinery label and when she asked if I would be interested in creating some pieces for the parade I jumped at the chance.
Are there any other designers (Perth, Australian or international) designers you would love to collaborate with?
I would love to work with Lisa Gorman. I love her colour palette and how she uses natural fibres. I am a self confessed Gorman addict, I can’t get enough. Other labels I would love to work with are Ginger and Smart and Bec & Bridge.
What is your favourite dish?
Hmmm tricky, because I love my food, but I would have to say that my favourite dish is my mum’s Salmon Pie.
What music are you listening to at the moment?
I can’t get enough of Lana Del Ray, I particularly love her song Blue Jeans. I’ve also recently discovered Hindi Zahra. I’ve fallen for her music which is a blend of folk and jazz, with soulful lyrics.
Can you tell us what we can expect to see in your new capsule collection?
I don’t want to give too much away, however I can say that it will still have a 1920’s feel but with an injection of bright clashing colours. I’m currently playing with using a mixture of embroidery and beading.
The Banks & Bell pieces from the Fenella Peacock AW12 show are available to purchase from Nells Boutique, 15 Glyde St, Mosman Park WA t: (08) 9284 6009
For more information on Banks & Bell visit Lucy’s blog The Hat Affair or email firstname.lastname@example.org