Susi Meares, designer and owner, Seventh & Figg
Photo: IBK Photography
When it comes to creating a showstopping centrepiece or the perfect finishing touch for a look, couture milliner Susi Meares has a distinctly spectacular eye for detail.
The Christchurch designer’s award-winning creations range from mesmerising avant-garde works of art to designs thoughtfully crafted to enjoy every day.
Susi’s handcrafted hats, headpieces, and fascinators have caught the attention of many, with her newest collection, exclusive to WORLD, now available to view at WORLD Britomart, Auckland and online.
From sharply artistic lines to dramatic embellishments, Susi’s discerning eye for detail results in the creation of pieces designed to last a lifetime and add a touch of personality to any occasion.
Her designs have graced the likes of Zara Phillips and often been part of winning race day fashion looks.
Inspiration can strike at any time; often a new design is sparked by the shade and shape of a leaf or feather, as the final finishing touch to a concept she has been visualising for months.
FashioNZ finds out more.
Tell us about your latest collection
My latest collection for winter 2023 is a mix of ‘classics with a twist’ pieces and some fun, quirky designs. Choosing the right colour combinations plays a huge role in making the overall look of the hat work. As a designer, my inspiration can often come from the materials, which I source from all over the world. This may be interesting feathers or little embellishments that are unique and special. Each of my hats is a one-off design.
What first motivated your interest in millinery?
The most obvious reason for an interest in millinery is my love for ‘all things hats and headpieces’. I found it difficult to find hats I loved in New Zealand and so started to make my own to wear. It slowly evolved from making hats for myself to commission-based hats for clients.
What is your background/former career path?
My former career path always revolved around the arts and creative outlets and studying computer graphic design and digital photography. These skills have been invaluable, as I also do my own photoshoots for new collections.
What inspires you?
My never-ending love for hats and headpieces. My creative and artistic personality is something I can’t turn off. The ever-evolving creativity helps drive me to the next new concept/idea. I also love creating beautiful and fun designs.
Describe your personal style and how it influences your designs
My personal style influences my designs in the way I always want things to be unique and stylish. I don’t have one particular look; one day I could be wholly modern and the next day quite classic, but always with a twist. I’m an individual dresser and often purchase clothing offshore to ensure my style is always fresh and unique to me.
Do you have a personal favourite style to work on when it comes to headwear – avant-garde/classic, etc.?
Sometimes, the style will come down to what the client wishes for. When creating my own collection for WORLD, for example, my personal style is more evident here, as WORLD offers me freedom of creativity.
What’s your overarching advice around headwear?
Always wear a hat/headpiece that you feel comfortable in. If you are getting a headpiece made for the first time, start small, and then let your confidence grow from there. There is a hat for everyone. Also, when you create with a milliner, think about whether you would like a statement piece or something subtle. I’ve had many a hat client tell me they are not a headpiece/hat person, but in the end, together, we created something perfect.
What you’d love more people to embrace when it comes to headwear?
I would love people to be more confident to wear a hat or headpiece to a wedding. It feels so magical to be designed and finished from toe-to-top. A hat or headpiece can be the icing on the cake for a look, whether casual or formal.
Are there fresh looks/silhouettes for 2023 or is millinery ever-evolving?
Millinery is ever-evolving and so are my own designs. I don’t necessarily follow trends but create my own.
What fabrics/trims do you particularly love working with and why?
For my more casual hat designs, I love working with gorgeous colour combinations and fun, unique hat trims such as velvets and ribbons. When it comes to headpieces, what I really love is interesting feathers and a gorgeous millinery fabric called Jinsin. This is a type of straw that is available in many amazing colours and creates fabulous shapes.
What’s your go-to style when it comes to headwear?
My go-to style is to always be unique and different. My millinery style is not by any means traditional and each piece is a one-off design. I don’t use a lot of traditional millinery products; this ensures my designs stay unique.
What is one of your all-time favourite purchases?
Being a fashion lover, this question is impossible to answer. I love so many of my dresses/clothes and hats it would be hard to pick just one. However, my favourite colours this season are rich burgundies, deep olive greens, and marigolds. This has shown through in my latest winter hat collection, always with a pop of colour. I also love the look of an oversized wool blazer. You can often find these in wonderful patterns such as herringbone or fun colourful tartans. This look, with some high-waisted jeans, a simple t-shirt, and funky trainers is very groovy.
What wardrobe item should everyone invest in?
I would have to say one fabulous casual felt hat for winter and a delicious summer hat. Timeless and unique but with a twist. Also, another wardrobe ‘must have’ I think is a blazer. I just love blazers. You can pop one on at any time, dress it up or down, and always feel smart.
Do you have a style rule you are guided by?
To be unique and have my own style. Also to have fun and be adventurous with fashion.
What has been a career highlight/a moment of particular satisfaction?
Working alongside the New Zealand designer brand WORLD has been filled with many magical moments. I’ve had a long-standing working relationship with team WORLD for many fabulous years.
I was also featured in a beautiful coffee table book called SPIRIT. This was such a privilege to be part of and is a wonderful book written to showcase and celebrate many talented and creative women around New Zealand.