If you follow Fashion At The Races, have attended a meet or have owned a Vogue magazine in your time, then the name Viktoria Novak needs no introduction. But just in case you have missed the memo, let us fill you in… because we would hate for you to be left out in the cold.
Taking the crown from the bridal pages and placing it firmly on the ‘most wanted list’ of Australia’s leading fashion set, Viktoria Novak is the millinery extraordinaire who has become a permanent trackside fixture. Renowned for her craftsmanship, intricate designs and the ability to make an outfit come to life without overpowering it, Novak is the recipient of multiple “Accessories Designer of the Year” awards and a fashion magazine darling. Her skill in creating exquisite headpieces that can easily translate from winning trackside looks to vacation and wardrobe staples is the reason women are flocking to her Alexandria based studio. Because each Viktoria Novak creation is more than millinery, it’s a story, a feeling and a lifelong wardrobe investment.
First stepping onto the racecourse scene 12 years ago, Novak noticed a growing demand for millinery, which could be worn again beyond a racing meet. “Customers would complain about investing in big hats and intricate millinery, which they would never wear again,” she explains. Adding to this was constantly seeing intricate pieces worn back to front or not as the design intended. With a desire to simplify the process for racegoers, Novak introduced the headband phenomenon with her bridal crowns and headbands proving to be a winning recipe. Before long, bespoke crowns and headpieces, as well as collection staples, became the Viktoria Novak signature.
So how does one pick the perfect piece de résistance is the million-dollar question. According to Novak, it all comes down to self-assurance and staying true to your own personal style. “Go with your gut and choose something you will wear with confidence. Don’t listen to other people and what they like, it’s about you. Don’t try too hard, be yourself”. Not one to succumb to trends, Viktoria believes millinery comes down to creating moments rather than following what everyone else is doing. “If you can afford to and want to stand out, commit to your look and really go for it. Wear your intricate design with conviction and really own it. However, if you prefer something more classic and minimal, that is equally powerful because it’s you” she explains.
When it comes to putting the puzzle together for a winning look, whether the outfit or millinery comes first is up to the individual. However, when designing a bespoke piece, Novak prefers it when the client comes with an outfit prepared. “This process means that I can help style the look and ensure the headpiece works in perfect harmony with the ensemble” she explains. However, if you’re looking for that piece of inspiration for a look, there is no reason the headpiece can’t come first.
Having cemented her name as a style icon in her own right, we couldn’t resist but ask Viktoria about the art of putting together the right accessories. “A less is more approach should be considered when pairing your accessories” explains Novak. “My pet hate is having too much on. Huge earrings, with a big necklace and a cuff can look heavy. Focus on one thing and make millinery the star,” she says. One should also stick to and respect tradition. This means no ribbons in the hair ladies. Save that look for parties and stick to crowns and fascinators. "Ribbons are for parties" she says.
While a Viktoria Novak piece is considered an investment, the designer urges women not to shy away from wearing their chosen piece again and again! “There is no reason why you can’t create a completely different look and feel with the exact same crown. Just by changing your hair or how you wear your part, you can create a new moment” explains Novak. Which brings us to our next point, the art of choosing your first crown. According to Viktoria, if you opt for a classic headband with gold, silver, black or white finishes and even pearls, you will ensure longevity of design and a crown that will live in your wardrobe forever. Once you have a good base, then you can invest in more intricate and bespoke designs.
Known for accessorising some of Australia’s most celebrated fashion icons, we couldn’t help but ask about Novak’s most memorable raceday moment to date. Her most recent crowning glory goes to a look created for Nadia Bartel for Melbourne Cup last year. Pairing her intricate embroidered red and white dress, Nadia’s headpiece was made from vintage Swarovski crystals for a jaw-dropping look. “I envisioned her to be a beautiful Babushka Doll and I loved her confidence and approach to the whole process. She really owned her look. It was definitely a moment to be remembered, not only for the look created but also for Nadia’s personality and commitment to seeing the process through”, explains Novak.
As for her own personal favourite look, Novak says Derby Day 2017 was a real fashion moment. Going away from her usual colourful attire to create a show-stopping black on black Gucci ensemble with an equally jaw-dropping headpiece, her ensemble made its way onto the street style pages of Vogue and beyond. A true artist and fashion icon in the making, Viktoria Novak is a name which has become synonymous with trackside glamour and all that we love about Fashion At The Races.
Image source: Karen Woo Photography.