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From inspiration to outfit

When Elizabeth Charleston won the Fashions on the Field at Tauranga Races in March she received a trip to the Brisbane Racing Carnival as the main prize. She was to represent Tauranga Racecourse on Oaks Day. Here she is in her Tauranga outfit:


Elizabeth Charleston – Supreme winner at Tauranga Races 2017

Very soon after her win the planning for the outfit began …looking out for inspiration and what to put together to embrace ‘classic and feminine’ as the set theme for the day.

I saw this image on Instagram  and instantly loved the look.


So did Elizabeth – and we began to look for a way to emulate the style and make it Autumn Racing appropriate.

The hat was actually the first component made. Blocked in Esparterie, covered with Dupion silk and lace and the crown wrapped with veiling.


The skirt  from Forever New has a nice weight and walks beautifully.


She had the vintage lace top as well as the strappy closed heels already in her wardrobe , sparkly black jewelry and a little handbag completed the look. Her hair was put into a rather big Donut bun upon which the hat sat at a perfect angle.


And to top the whole experience of this trip she was awarded a sash for 2nd Runner up in the competition.



I love working on a complete look in collaboration with a client ….or in this case very good friend. I was the lucky one who she took along to Brisbane and in the end share the excitement and joy of her fashion success.

So what do you think – was the inspiration successfully translated ?



Monika x

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Zoetica – Tarnished Frocks & Divas

Every 2 years a group of extremely creative and clever women age 40+ put on an amazing stage extravaganza with fashion, music and a storyline to tie it all together – in Tauranga, New Zealand.

2 years ago I had been invited to be part of the judging panel for the Open Designer section. What makes this year so very special to me is that I have been invited to design 17 hats! for a show section called: “From Head to Hoof”.

The name of the show, Zoetica, comes from “zoetic” – of or relating to life , living, vital. Together with Passion and Bravery it sets the theme of the show about women and what they do, all with an 80s vibe to it.


I said yes before spending a thought on of what I got into. And I won’t lie….it’s been a challenge to get a different perspective…away from wedding hats and race day hats, etc… stage dimensions and impact.

After making the first 2 hats and posting away for feedback…I heard nothing. Now I have come to realize they were just being polite. “How are we going to tell her?” must have been on their mind….but the creative director, Robyne Dowdall – who is a most remarkable woman with a warm and lovable/loving personality, gently stirred me in the right direction, encouraging, hinting….’more is more’….’bigger is better’….and then bigger and bolder again.
To date I have finished 6 hats…and I am getting more comfortable with the dimensions and letting all my crazy come out to play.

Here are a few glimpses – of course it’s all very hush hush till end of August and show time.

More about it all later.


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Summer Racing season 2016/2017

Another fantastic season for MNM and here are some of our amazing clients. All looking gorgeous and some winning sashes. In no particular order:


Katie O’neill Flett at Melbourne Cup Derby Day 2016


Eleanor Campbell – middle -winner at Prime Minister’s Cup Australia

te rapa

Eleanor Campbell at Te Rapa Races


Talia Marshall at Melbourne Cup Oaks Day 2016


Talia Marshall at Melbourne Cup Derby Day 2016


Shadi Salehpour at Boxing day Ellerslie Races


Katie O’neill Flett – left – Royal Randwick


Maggie Toothill here being interviewed on stage – finalist at Ellerslie Prix de fashion


Eleanor Campbell – top 10 finalist at Ellerslie Prix de Fashion 2017


Claudia Campbell – winner of under 25 at Ellerslie Boxing Day Races 2017


Johana Neuhauser – Boxing Day Races 2017


Elizabeth Charleston on the right – winner of Alexandra park Races Auckland Cup Week 2017


Claudia Campbell – winner of Contemporary lady in blue feather headpiece at Wellington 2017


Anna Campbell on the right Supreme winner andRebecca Sherie in the middle – winner of Classic lady at Taranaki Races 2017


Melbourne Cup Derby Day 2016


Elizabeth Charleston – Supreme winner at Ellerslie Boxing Day Races 2017


Elizabeth Charleston – Top 5 finalist at Prix de Fashion Ellerslie 2017


Elizabeth Charleston – Supreme winner at Tauranga Races 2017


I truly love the variety of styles I get to create for all these different looks.

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Talking Hats

End of September I had a quick trip to Melbourne to surprise my dear friend and mentor,Waltraud Reiner,  to be there for her Talking Hats show.

Waltraud was at the helm of a 4 woman design team – herself, Katrin Juchems from Germany, Queenslander Brianna Minuzzo and Tamati Aino from Japan – who put together a collection of over 30 hats as metaphors to life stages and situations.

The hats were made with a variety of materials and techniques – sometimes defying gravity, some simply breathtaking.

This was a One Night Only affair held in a gallery. I had received sneak peaks over the time of production but nothing could have prepared me for the event I was privileged to see that night.

The hats, the models, the music, the background visuals….it all was so perfectly curated and orchestrated…all I could think of after the show was that I wanted to see it again – a sentiment that was expressed by many others.

The whole process was actually filmed, including a de-brief of the design process as well as the show. This in turn allows for a documentary being put together which might be entered at a future Film Festival.

Here are some impressions.


All proceeds from the evening were donated towards a Mental Health for children project.

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Spring Fever

With the racing and wedding season well underway we are looking at what’s trending this spring/summer 2016-2017 .

After a little dying session quite a few were in the beautiful pastels reflecting the Pantone Spring 2016 colour chart.



Most of MNM millinery is made to order but I always keep a good selection of Ready to Wear pieces in the showroom. There are hats which just want to be made, customers who need something last minute and not to forget clients often want to try on different styles, shapes and sizes.

Here is a selection of pieces that reflect the trendy spring colours. Iced Coffee is such an elegant and understated colour.


I also plan to add a bit of Fiesta and Peach, as well as Buttercup and Green Flash to add some freshness.

Limpet Shell, a lovely version of a teal / aqua  tones is another favourite and a hue I have seen quite a bit in the shops overseas a few weeks ago.

Floral and lace will again be big players no doubt. It’s looking to be a very pretty season.

If you are interested in a particular piece go here



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There and back again

Time flies when you are having fun – never a truer word spoken.
I had every intention of keeping a travel blog. In the end it turned out I was far too busy having a good time than sitting behind a screen and keyboard.
The 5 1/2 weeks  were everything I hoped for: family and friends, fantastic summer weather, amazing sights and beautiful places , many I knew and many which I hadn’t been to, yummy food.

2 weeks in Vienna, 1 week in Styria, 1 week in Waldviertel right by the border , with quite a few day trips over to the Czech Republic, and 1 week in the Wachau region.

On the 1st day after our arrival in Vienna I managed to have blisters on the soles of my feet. And they more or less lingered around for the rest of the trip. Basically walking for 5 weeks took a bit of a toll on the trotters but was also a welcome antidote to the calorie intake in the many gorgeous coffeehouses. The coffee is great, the cakes and pastries are delicious and the service is impeccable. There is no lining up at the counter to place an order…you chose your seat or be seated, place your order when you are ready and make eye contact with the waiter when you want to pay and leave. The only time you might go to the counter / vitrine is to help you make the agonizing choice over which cake or pastry to have.  Apart from all that it’s of course an architectural experience and a history lesson on top.


Cafe Zentral established in 1876 -extremely popular place if you want to get a seat you either come very early or you line up ….and beware  of the portion sizes…doggy bag, anyone?



Cafe in the Museum of Art History – the interior of this whole building is breath taking


detail of the interior, painted by Klimt


The beautifully restored baroque Garden Pavilion at Melk Abbey


with it’s gorgeous tropical themed decorations


A definite highlight was a visit to Prague. Believe everything you hear about this beautiful old city. It survived the war without being bombed and has therefore an intact old town part that is just stunning, not dissimilar to Vienna with grand old buildings from Imperials times, a lot of beautiful Art Nouveau as well as much older architecture , the utterly impressive St Vitus Cathedral for example being founded in 1344.

Prague was absolutely crowded with tourists. I only had 1 day in the city, so naturally couldn’t do everything –  the Castle, which  I only saw from the outside, has to wait for the next visit.
Made it however into the Clementinum Library , which was on my to do list, and it was as beautiful as it promised in the pictures.


One of the most beautiful Cafes I have come across is the Cafe de Paris ( also the Hotel de Paris)…a simply stunning example of Art Nouveau in Prague


My slight problem with heights had to be ignored that day, the view from the Clock Tower is truly worth the lengthy wait to get up…me and possibly a few thousand others wanted to do that on the day




If you ever make it to Prague don’t forget to indulge at one of the countless Trdelnik stalls. The yeast dough pastries are wrapped around wooden barrels and cooked  over hot coals or in electric rotisserie type ovens  Make sure you get one fresh and hot…delish. My preferred version is the traditional sugar and cinnamon coated one.


Another fantastic day was biking along the Danube from Melk to  romantic  Dürnstein and making the return trip on the Danube. You bike along the river on a bike way, often set apart from the road or rather on the “old” roads. The town, with it’s landmark blue church tower,  was first mentioned in 1192 and is a gorgeous, quaint old place with the ruins of Dürnstein Castle towering over it. The place is most “famous” for having kept King Richard the Lionheart captive for ransom after returning from a crusade.
I opted not to climb up to the ruins due to temperatures in the mid 30s.


All of this is of course not even scratching the surface of those few weeks, but I simply can’t show it all. You have to take my word that everything was just wonderful, at times truly breathtaking, spectacular, interesting, beautiful, delicious, …and best of all – I got to share this with my daughter who was the perfect travel companion on this trip. And I have countless pictures of her backside to prove it.

If you are wondering what you can do in 51/2 weeks…here it goes:
Schonbrunn castle, castle grounds and zoo, St Stephens cathedral with the catacombs underneath, the Imperial Crypt, watching the morning workout of the Lipizzaner horses, City Park, Museum of Art History and Natural History, Hofburg with Imperial Apartments, Vienna Museum, House of the Sea, Vienna Secession, National Library, countless churches, Lainz Game Reserve, simply walking around the inner city in Vienna and marvelling at the buildings and architecture, Theater visit, Central Cemetery, visiting castles, visiting a flea market ( and finding a cute 1950s coffee set ) , more museums and exhibitions, visiting SlavoniceTřeboňTelč, Cesky KrumlovJindřichův Hradec, and Prague, biking trips, Danube Ship ride, several small towns along the Danube, Aggstein Castle, Melk Abbey, Graz, Deutschlandsberg Castle,  having a fantastic day on the Slovenian border sitting in a vineyard and enjoying the products of the region, going mushroom foraging, and ..and and …and a spot of shopping in between.


As far as hats go….not a whole lot. The only hatty highlight was a visit to Vienna Museum for a hat expo…no photos were allowed but was very interesting to see it from a social history point of view. I did manage to bring back 3 hat blocks that were gifted to me, here sitting on the window sill of my room with a view. They weigh about 7 kg, due to this I could not take all the chocolate I initially wanted to bring back…just as well. – the cafe visits were quite enough to deal with. #nomoreexcesscaloriesrequired



After my return mid August it took me about 10 days to get over the jetlag. But there is no rest for the wicked, hats were already waiting to be made and somehow these wonderful few weeks on the other side of the world seem to be much longer ago than they are.

It’s all memories now…wonderful ones…and I have about 1700 photos to re visit them.

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Winter break – Summer fun

Winter in New Zealand is naturally a slower time for millinery – so what better time for a few weeks in Europe.

My 5 1/2 weeks trip to Austria is only a few hours away and the excitement is growing. So many plans, so many things to see. Starting off in Vienna – down to Styria – up to the Czech border – Czech Republic / Prague – down to the Wachau Valley – back to Vienna – hopefully over to Budapest….and who knows where else.

Vienna has sooooo much to offer – I don’t think one could run out of things to explore and see, I so love this city. The perfect place to wander and getting lost in small streets amongst old buildings. My bucket list is quite long by now and who knows how many more things will be added to it.

Graz and Styria – my breeding ground  – taking my daughter there again will make me re visit lots of childhood haunts.



The Wachau Valley is one picturesque history lesson  – Melk, my daughter’s birthplace with its over 900 years old  Benedictine  Abbey,



the medieval Dürnstein Castle Ruins – the famous site of the imprisonment of the English King Richard the Lionheart ,  Aggstein Castle  with it’s breath taking views over the Danube are but a few points we will revisit this time.

Wachau Weinberg - Wachau vineyard 15

Wachau vineyard 


Aggstein Castle ruins


The valley is of course a famous wine growing region established during the medieval period of the Roman settlements  but equally well known for it’s apricots. Lucky for us we will be there in time for the harvest and we will no doubt gorge ourselves on those delicious globes. One of the most loved dishes – Marillenknödel – will be on the menu. Apricots are de stoned – a lump of sugar is placed inside and the apricot is enveloped in a potato based dough. They are then cooked in simmering water and rolled in a butter and breadcrumb mix. Sprinkle with icing sugar and devour. Heaven!


Another thing on the ‘to do’ list is mushroom foraging! One of the things I miss in New Zealand is the variety of wild mushrooms  and going out into the forest to try and find these tasty fungi is a lot of fun…especially if the weather is right for it: warm weather with recent rain…boom….


Coming home with a basket as full as this makes for a delicious meal – good knowledge of what’s edible and what’s poisonous is a must – and there are lots of very edible treasures to be found.

Walking and biking will be a big part of our mode of transport – not least to counteract the effects of all the calories ingested during this time. Austria is famous for its pastries and coffee house culture and we will indulge. The Viennese Coffee House is an institution and listed as   “Intangible Cultural Heritage  in the Austrian inventory of the “National Agency for the Intangible Cultural Heritage”, a part of  Unesco.  Coffee is said to have been brought to Vienna during the Turkish sieges in the 17th Century. The ‘Kipferl” , the ancestor of the croissant, is also said to stem from that time, the shape representing the Islamic crescent and commemorating the defeat of the Ottomans.



And of course I will look out for all things hats and millinery. Fortuna has arranged for a hat exhibition in Vienna to be visited and I hope to have some lucky finds at one or two antique fairs.

So for now……

so long