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The Millinery Memo: Style your summer headwear with Ashlee Lauren

Ashlee Lauren Founder and Designer Ashlee Kalantarian has the creative gene. Both her mother and grandmother are innovators; her grandmother has long worked her seamstress talents to produce anything from wedding dresses to cakes and bouquets. In the lead up to Ashlee’s wedding day, it was the collaboration of the female role models in her life that ignited the market for the highly coveted headpieces Ashlee Lauren is renowned for today.

“When I was engaged to be married in 2011, we all sat down together and made my wedding accessories using antique brooches, fabrics and I wore my Grandmothers gloves on the day,” Ashlee said. “It was really special to be able to keep the connection of two generations in my wedding,” she said. “This is where it all began, because after my wedding, my friends started to ask me to create bouquets and accessories for them.”

When Ashlee was six months pregnant with her first child, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. “We then decided to spend time making things through her recovery and while caring for my newborn, and the business was built from there,” Ashlee said.

A Visual Communication graduate from UniSA, Ashlee had aspired to be a graphic designer, but realised a desk job was not her calling and pursued her passion for arts. “My designs are not a product of any formal millinery training, they are just pieces of art that I have the pleasure of making for people,” Ashlee said. “My style is quite avante garde and contemporary, and after finding my feet in a more fashion-based industry (not only bridal), I realised that I wanted to empower women and absolutely loved working on statement pieces.”

Inspired by style icons like Cleopatra and Josephine Baker, Ashlee admires how these women over-accessorised, pushed boundaries and kept audiences guessing with their fierce nature. To cater to all levels of fashion ferocity however, Ashlee Lauren offers two categories in the Designer range, both Ready to Ship and a Designer Collection.

“My ready to ship designs are what I like to categorise as easier to style,” Ashlee said. “The colours and styles work with a range of outfits and could be easily worn to a range of events,” she said. “My designer collection is for women who are wanting the wow factor.”

Boasting career highlights ranging from dressing 10 models for Fashion Palette Runway at New York Fashion Week in 2017, to multiple at Adelaide Fashion Festival, Ashlee appreciates the local icons she has met along the way – Chis Kontos and Paul Vasileff of Paolo Sebastian to name a few. “I am working with Chris and other SA creatives on our 2019/20 campaign, which is very exciting,” Ashlee said.

But there was one special woman who Ashlee was most thrilled to see wearing her creations. Kesha wore a piece to the 2018 Grammy Awards after party, following her performance of her song Praying, a key moment in the #metoo movement. “I worked with her stylist Samantha Burkhart and she also used one of my NYFW runway pieces to style internet sensation ‘Poppy’ for an editorial in New York Magazine, which was released in February,” Ashlee said.

Ashlee Lauren designs are all for female empowerment, giving every woman their celebrity moment, and racing carnivals are no exception. To create a winning racing look, Ashlee recommends selecting a dress first, as ready to wear pieces can easily be paired with it.

“If you have your dress and need a colour match, we send you in to get a paint swatch and mail it to me, so I can base it on this,” Ashlee said. “Custom designs are my favourite but make sure you book in early as it takes six to eight weeks.”

When choosing a headpiece style, Ashlee recommends first deciding on how grand a statement you wish to make, which will determine the size. “Take into consideration your hairstyle, accessories, neckline and detail of your dress,” Ashlee said. “Harmony is the key,” she said. “We have a stylist onboard here at Ashlee Lauren and Designer Crown Hire to assist you with your entire look, if it’s something that you find hard to put together; we would love to help you!”

If you are looking to make your headpiece the focal point of your outfit, Ashlee says size, colour and style are what you should highlight. “A pop of colour, a metallic contrast or mixed textures can make an impact.”

“A good headpiece shouldn’t match your dress, it should complement it,” Ashlee said. “You can add a new colour and then pick it up with a clutch or shoes or even your lippy,” she said. “Be creative and see how you can make it work without being obvious.”

Ashlee forecasts a cocktail of trends on the summer headwear scene. “Clips, hair scarfs and minimalism made a wave through Spring Racing in 2018 and will continue though summer,” Ashlee said. “I predict neon and more Tropicana themes to pop up throughout summer which is exciting, however I am a strong believer in dressing to show your own sense of style,” she said. “Don’t follow the trends, embrace your own ideas.”

If you are aspiring to wear an Ashlee Lauren crown, Ashlee advises choosing the hairstyle most flattering to you. “The headpieces can work with a sleek pony or a soft wave - anything really,” Ashlee said. “Headband-style crowns will stay strong as they are easiest to wear in all weather conditions,” she said. “If you are wanting the more minimalist look, try a few hair combs or pins.”

Ashlee has always been a fan of the classic headwear pieces throughout racing fashion history, admiring the big bows and veiling of the fifties and sixties. Currently, Ashlee is loving Jodi Anasta for her minimalist approach to style and her fashion label favourites are Zimmermann, Bronx and Banco and Elliatt.

This summer, Ashlee is anticipating the showcase of talented and stylish people in country areas at their local racing events. “We see a lot of amazing looks come through,” Ashlee said. “You will get many people entering FATR events in the city, but if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s to never underestimate a country girl,” she said. “From what I’ve witnessed, the country races are up there with some of the best looks nationwide.”

A limestone coast local, Ashlee appreciates the role racing plays in her region. “I love that local businesses can support one another, and it becomes a networking event,” Ashlee said. “I’ll be attending the 36° South Coonawarra Vignerons on the 17th of January 2019 and can’t wait, as this will be my first time.”

Each year, the Coonawarra Vignerons Cup brings more than 3000 guests to the Penola Racecourse. This year marks the 37th annual race meet, promising a full day of fashion and frivolity amongst the ancient gums at one of the state’s oldest racing clubs.

If you needed any more convincing, you can read all about why the Limestone Coast’s belongs on your bucket list here.  

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