The Fashion Luncheon (featuring spring racewear and millinery)

I was very excited to attend this ladies luncheon event on Sunday 14 September 2014 at the 5 star Shangri-La Hotel. Not only did it have great views of Sydney Harbour, great food from the hated Altitude Restaurant, millinery on display from the best milliners in NSW and racing fashion from Mackenzie Mode, but my photo was on the invitation of this sold out event.

This event was organised by the queen of racing fashion events, Sharon Lenton, from Thoroughbred Events Australia. She organises two of these ladies luncheons a year: one for spring and the other for autumn. She also runs fashion on the field competitions at country race clubs in NSW.

The event included a two course lunch, a fashion parade with matching millinery, an opportunity to purchase an outfit with matching millinery (or the millinery or clothes separately), an art exhibition by Lysandra, a speech by Clare Hawkes, raffle prizes, and a best dressed competition judged by Christopher Haggarty. The event was MCed by Jamie Rodgers from the TAB.

The highlight of the event was the fashion parade with clothes from Mackenzie Mode. I was impressed with the fashion of MacKenzie Mode. The vibrant colours in her outfits were very appropriate for spring racing. The collection looked very Peter Pilotto, Clover Canyon, and Mary Kantratzou. Canadian born designer Emily MacKenzie lives in Coogee and has a store there. However, she sells clothes all over the world. In the United States, her direct competitor is Clover Canyon. She sat at our table and told me that what I saw in the fashion parade was a very small portion of what she sells. She has other collections including swimwear, casual clothing, coats and her own headpieces.

Clare Hawkes, the 2004 Spring Racing Ambassador, is the daughter of pioneer female jockey, Linda Jones and New Zealand trainer, Alan Jones, Clare is married to Michael Hawkes, the youngest son of Australian Racing Hall of Fame inductee, trainer John Hawkes who trained the 2014 Golden Slipper winner Mossfun (among many other winners). She gave a very humble speech about her experiences growing up with her famous mother (where she thought it was normal for people to have reporters visit their house).

Editor of Men’s Style Report Christopher Haggarty judged the best dressed competition. Alla Dimech won best dressed and former Fox Sports presenter and current Channel Seven producer Christy Johns was runner up. Clare Hawkes got a special mention for her racing attire and was presented with flowers.

The women who attend these events hold off from buying any outfits or millinery beforehand. The general feeling is that you do not want to waste your money buying an outfit when you could find something much better at this events. Then when you arrive at the event, you rush around looking at all the millinery and purchase the best piece before anyone else can. Of course the milliner can take special orders, but you have to wait for it to be made and that could take some time if the milliner has many orders. Some women purchase one headpiece but others purchase many. One lady and daughter team left laughing. They told me that they purchased six hats from milliner Cynthia Jones Bryson and many others from other milliners.

Milliners that were displaying and selling their headpieces included milliner to the stars Neil Grigg, milliner to the Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce Cynthia Jones Bryson (who is also the milliner of my blue headpiece), Carmel Butler, Bev Gunn, Kathleen Watson, Deb Parish, Kerry McGlone and Julie Lynch.

Sponsors included TAB, Sky Racing, Barbara Wenman from La Fleur D’Alyse, Blue Pyrenees, MacKenzie Mode and Lysandra.

If anyone is interested in buying any of the outfits, please contact Thoroughbred Events Australia and they will direct you to the milliner and designer of the outfit you liked.

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Fashion on the field competition at Wyong Gold Cup Day 2014

On 5 September 2014, I had the honour of being a Fashion on the Field judge at Wyong Race Club. My fellow co-judge Neil Grigg, pictured with me below, is one of Sydney’s best milliners and has many celebrity clients. The three categories Neil I judged were Best Dressed Female, Best Dressed Male and Best Millinery. Prizes included a trip to the Gold Coast (for the Best Dressed Female), Westfield gift vouchers, De Bortoli Wines, gym membership etc.

Female contestants came from the Central Coast, Sydney and Canberra to compete. The standards were high and it was hard not picking some female contestants. You could see that they had put a lot of effort into their outfit. It reminded me of the many times I had put so much work into an outfit and got nowhere. I was not surprised that the girls who either won or were runner ups (who wore the same outfit at Rosehill Racecourse a week later) were also successful in getting into the top ten for the Fashion on the Field competition at De Bortoli Wines Golden Rose Day. In the end, Neil and I picked the girls who we thought were the best and our decision was unanimous. The girls who won were the ones who not only had an amazing hat and dress, but had put a lot of effort in getting appropriately matched shoes and accessories. The female who won Best Dressed Female was Courtney Doyle and the female who won Best Millinery was Viviana Parish.

For the male contestants it was another story. They were local Central Coast males who rocked up to the racecourse not knowing anything about a Fashion on the Field competition. When they found out, they entered with their friends for a laugh. When they won, and the prize included alcohol, they could not be happier. I remember giggling to myself when we took the winners and runner ups into the VIP marquee, and the winning male and the runner up male contestants approached the promotional girls to tell them about their good fortune and show off their spoils. You could tell that they were having a good day.

As for the expression on our face when we were judging, I look like I am cringing and Neil looks like he is alarmed. I do not know why we have those expressions on our faces. All I remember is that I kept on checking each girl’s outfit over and over again while she was on stage to make sure I picked the best one. The photo is by Wyong Race Club.