From Mt Gambier to NYC: SA milliner a head above of the rest

By Melissa Keogh

The dazzling lights of New York City are a world away from the idyllic country side of South Australia’s South East.

But Mt Gambier milliner Ashlee Kalantarian is about to give New Yorkers a taste of what SA style is all about.

In September, the mother-of-two will showcase her Ashlee Lauren headwear at one of the world’s biggest celebrations of style – New York Fashion Week (NYFW).

It’s a big achievement considering five years ago she began crafting the bespoke headpieces at home from her garage.

Ashlee Kalantarian has turned a passion for craft into a business which will enjoy the spotlight in New York and the upcoming Adelaide Fashion Festival.

Ashlee Kalantarian has turned a passion for craft into a business which will enjoy the spotlight in New York and the upcoming Adelaide Fashion Festival.

The accessories will also hit the runway at the Adelaide Fashion Festival (AFF) in October, giving Ashlee the chance to rub shoulders with established and emerging SA designers.

“I create my pieces all from my garage which I have transformed into a studio,” she says.

“It’s a slow process … it takes hours to complete one piece.”

With the South East’s social scene thriving on horse racing events, Ashlee launched her first race-wear collection in March this year.

The headpieces take about six weeks to design.

The headpieces take about six weeks to design.

“That’s what blew me out of the water and that’s where NYFW picked me up from,” she says.

Ten Ashlee Lauren pieces will be showcased through NYFW’s Fashion Palette, a platform that elevates Aussie designers and connects them with the big players.

She will share the spotlight with eight other designers, while Adelaide hair care company Davroe is the official hair partner.

The Mt Gambier community helped raise $22,000 to help cover the costs of the stint, while $11,000 was raised through an online crowdfunder.

Ashlee Lauren will hit the SA fashion scene on October 12, for the AFF Couture Culture runway show.

“I’m really fortunate to go to New York but (AFF) will connect me to local people,” she says.

Many social media gurus have been snapped wearing Ashlee's accessories, including fashion and travel blogger Jasmin Howell who has a following of 252,000.

Many social media gurus have been snapped wearing Ashlee’s accessories, including fashion and travel blogger Jasmin Howell who has a following of 252,000.

Ashlee began her love affair with design while studying visual communications at university before catching the travel bug and living in London, Canada and Dubai.

Dubai was where she became a flight attendant for Emirates and met her husband, Ali.

After falling pregnant with their first child, the pair relocated to Mt Gambier to be closer to Ashlee’s family and raise their children in the country.

The Ashlee Lauren label took flight when she made a brooch bouquet for her own wedding in 2012.

Word of her talent soon spread and her accessories were selling on popular online marketplace, Etsy, and featured in Bride Australia magazine.

Now 20% of her customer base is from overseas while her accessories also retail at Adelaide couture label Alexis George.

“Living here has given me so much love and support, I don’t know if I would have been able to get that anywhere else,” Ashlee says.

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