Imagine opening the May issue of Vogue magazine to see a photo of Kylie Minogue perfectly styled and wearing a headpiece that you have designed and created – that was the reality for Christie Murray, who has established a globally successful millinery business in Brisbane.
Growing up in Townsville and attending The Cathedral School Christie never envisaged a career in fashion.
“I was too busy having an amazing childhood outdoors!” she recalls. “Although I never had a sewing machine, Mum taught me to sew by hand and I found myself altering outfits when I left home and went to University. Looking back, I always had an eye for balance and flow in a look, I even made my sister’s formal dress by hand.”
Christie worked as a physiotherapist for five years and was living overseas when at the age of 28, she took the leap and moved back to Australia to study millinery at TAFE in Melbourne.
“I feel like this was my creative awakening, where I really found my passion in life, what I was born to do,” she explains. “Since this time, I’ve fallen head over heels for my industry. I love the transformative power of headwear.”
Christie believed she had something different to offer and a fresh aesthetic, but with no internships available in Australia like other countries, she decided to start her own business. To ensure she had the necessary business skills, she enrolled in the Fashion Business Accelerator course through QUT’s Creative Enterprise Australia in Brisbane.
“I received valuable industry mentoring on the business side of fashion,” she says. “I also had an incredible fashion brand and marketing mentor, Vanja Stace from Stace and Co. in Sydney, who I worked with for over a year and completed her online business course. I also did an online business course with acclaimed British milliner Piers Atkinson and took inspiration from other mentors such as New York milliner Anya Caliendo, who helped me navigate the industry at an early stage.”
The combination of natural talent, training and business acumen has resulted in a thriving business. Christie employs up to 12 milliners to work with her on projects and millinery orders for weddings, cocktail parties, races and runway shows, and her clients have won national ‘Fashion on the Field’ championships at Oaks Day at Flemington, and have been finalists at Derby Day and Melbourne Cup Day. Industry trends also influence Christie’s work.
“My current focus is on developing my bridal millinery business, providing fine headwear and veils for brides, bridesmaids, and high-end headwear for wedding guests and mothers of the bride,” she says. “It’s exciting to see more guests wearing headwear to Australian weddings, particularly with recent events around the British Royal Family,” she says.
Christie enjoys the freedom of working for herself.
“You have the ability to be agile and approach your industry through a fresh lens,” she says. “I loved testing the market and seeing what my customers responded to. The analytical side of my brain loves the business side of fashion – production schedules, branding, social media. Owning my own business is so satisfying, it challenges every facet of my being and is the perfect creative soup for me.”
Christie maintains close ties with Townsville with her and her husband’s parents both still living here. She keeps an eye on the evolving fashion scene and would love to see financial support for up and coming designers.
“It would be great if the local council provided grants to be put towards industry mentoring in the early stages of launching a business. Fashion is 90% business, so this is where a lot of very talented designers fall short,” she says.
Christie does not believe you need to be based in a capital city to be successful in the fashion industry and encourages aspiring local designers to pursue a career in their field.
“There definitely seems to be some exciting steps forward with emerging labels such as Mara Swim being based in here, along with events such as The Townsville Fashion Festival highlighting local talent,” she observes.
“Never before have we lived in an era where you can access millions via social media and online. Many home grown labels have been started from rural and remote locations. All you need is talent, a unique product, and passion for what you do.”