Meet Rachael Clunie, The Brighton-based Milliner + Hat designer

Although Rachael Clunie is no stranger to headwear, her “millinery journey” started two years ago, with a little help from Tracy Chaplin and Katherine Elizabeth.

And, let’s not forget about those pesky lock-down(s): during the 18-month lock-down-period, Rachael got to work: she put her full attention into training and developing her craft (millinery), AND she designed and launched her bi-annual hat collections. 2020 also saw the official launch of the Rachael Clunie Millinery label. 

Rachael designs private, commissioned headwear for clients, – for wedding and racing events. Soon, she’ll be launching her own millinery workshops, too (luxury hat-making days for both private and corporate clients). Rachael designs both contemporary-styled couture hats, and ‘off the wall’ designs, including her unique SS2019 collection (which was made from locally-sourced seaweed and beach litter).

Her work has also seen the use of recycled plastic from regular household products, and the use of lights.

In May 2021, Rachael was awarded with a prestigious scholarship from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (a charity that supports excellence in British craftsmanship). The QEST award will fund further training, where she’ll have the opportunity to train with the master milliner, Dillon Wallwork, and the Israeli-milliner, Maor Zabar.

Rachael is also a keen advocate when it comes to helping children who suffer with cancer: this year, she designed a unique hat collection in honour of a 10 year old child, named Chloe Balloqui, – who suffers with Neuroblastoma (a rare childhood cancer), with donations going towards specialised treatment for Chloe in Barcelona. 

In September 2021, Rachael was nominated and awarded with a scholarship by the Ambassadors of the British Millinery Association, which will also provide training from world-renowned milliners. And, November 2021 will see Rachael showcasing her work in London to Royal Warrant Holding companies, as a QEST scholar.

“I didn’t find millinery. Millinery found me,” said Rachael. If you study her journey to how she got where she is now, you’ll quickly realise that this is true: it all started when Rachael set up Avant Garde Couture UK in October 2017 as an umbrella company to her burlesque and cirque entertainment company, Le Cabaret Avant Garde.

While performing, Rachael spotted a gap in the market for ‘show-stopping,’ high-quality costumes, which led her to start designing her own crystal encrusted corsets. The range quickly expanded to crystal-embellished shoes, dinner jackets, headwear, and masks for traditional, annual celebrations and events, such as Halloween, the Festival of the Dead, and Masquerade Balls.

Rachael’s first ever Halloween collection was a complete sell-out, and with her unique, and outlandish headpiece designs becoming increasingly popular, she took it upon herself to learn how to design and make couture hats and headwear using traditional millinery methods. As a result, Rachael Clunie Millinery finally launched in 2020.

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