GUEST BLOG by Liz Kelly: Grand National 2021 & Interview with milliner Alice White

On Grand National day 2021, Glaze & Gordon is delighted to welcome back record breaking jockey, Liz Kelly, as the guest editor for today's journal entry. In today's post Liz talks about this year's Aintree meet and interviews top milliner and regular race-goer Alice White, founder of A.W.Collection.

Over to Liz...

Grand National day is finally here and the sun is shining on Aintree racecourse in Liverpool for the big day. The Grand National meeting feels like the beginning of spring and summer fashion collections. The April sun always seems to shine and we can enjoy the weather, finally putting away the warm layers and practical shoes!

If Cheltenham, like the first signs of spring, whispers promise of glorious summer days, then Aintree shouts it from the rafters.

Aintree racecourse has a special place in my heart as I rode one of my biggest winners on Tea for Two in the Grade One on the first day of the 2017 meeting. It was an amazing day and the drive to Aintree is a wonderful trip down memory lane for me.

It’s the first event of the year where horseracing and fashion meet in a celebration of all that is great about Jump racing - gorgeous horses, beautiful outfits and of course the hats! The ladies of Merseyside descend en masse to the racecourse; a scurry of colour, print and patterns - an assault on your senses. A riot of feathers, high heels and a healthy dollop of fake tan. If Ascot is a display of the best of global fashion, Aintree is her disobedient (and much more fun) younger sister.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a chat with Alice White, owner and founder of AW Collections. Alice has been the ‘go to girl’ for all things millinery in the racing world for several years; offering a hat rental service for any occasion from days at the races to weddings and christenings. I love the affordability of her pieces and renting works for me as I can wear a different hat every time! 

- When did you start making hats and what inspired you?

"From a young age I have loved the glamour of the big race meetings and after plucking up the courage (I loved hats but never thought I could pull them off!) I eventually hired a hat from Lizzy Hughes in Lambourn for Royal Ascot and soon became addicted. I attended a millinery class at the age of 16 and in my spare time played about with different designs and styles until my collection of hats grew so big I needed a spare room to store them!"

- Obviously it’s a very creative job, but what do you enjoy about it?

"I love it when a customer comes to me with a dress or particular item of clothing to match and gives me the freedom to put my own creative flare on their outfit. It’s so rewarding seeing the finished article at the races or a wedding knowing the customer feels amazing in one of my designs!"

- When did you realise you could make a business out of your passion?

"At the start I lent my headpieces to friends and family, mostly to grow confidence in my designs (it was nice to know people other than my mother liked them too!) but to also help spread the word and see if I could make it a success. Soon I was making bespoke pieces and from there it grew."

- We are coming to the traditional hat wearing racing meetings - how do you prepare for the spring/summer season?

"In normal circumstances I would follow the trends for the season and try to keep myself as up to date with the current fashion as much as possible, whether this be colour contrasts or specific patterns. However, as everyone has been locked away for a year the trends this year are slightly more ‘anything goes’ so I’m aiming for bright colours this spring/summer to lift spirits as we return to normality!"

- Aintree is the first warmer spring meeting - how do you decide which colours/trends to follow for the season?

"I find Aintree fashion is such an open book and gives you the opportunity to explore all colours/styles. However as it’s a National Hunt meeting I tend to stick with Autumn/Winter styles with Spring/Summer colours. I’m obsessed with pastels at the moment and think they look great this time of year!"

- How would you like to expand in the future?

"Before COVID-19 I was looking to expand into fashion and was working with a manufacturer to combine some fashion pieces to match my hats. Sadly I haven’t been able to progress with this due to current circumstances although I would love to revisit this idea in the future. I know my partners mum is keen to help me expand, she’s a wiz with a sewing machine and has lots of fantastic ideas!"

- You have had your first baby recently, little boy Arthur. Has this changed the way you view running your own business?

"Apart from having a little less time to sit down and create new pieces nothing has really changed. It’s made me appreciate how lucky I am to be my own boss and work my own hours to accommodate Arthur. As you’re aware having a newborn completely consumes every part of your day but I wouldn’t change it for anything! People say when you have a newborn you should sleep when they sleep, but I find myself making hats or throwing the hoover around the house!"

- The sister brand, Arthur’s Boutique, has come as a result of your new arrival. What are your hopes for this brand?

"It’s a new venture which I’m really excited about. I was overwhelmed by people’s generosity when I had Arthur and it made me think there was definitely a market to create a brand which specialises in newborn gifts and gift sets. There are lots of babies being born currently so I feel it’s a real opportunity and I’m excited for it’s future."

- Thankfully weddings and big events will be back shortly, what are your goals for this coming year after having been a victim of the pandemic?

"I haven’t set myself any goals, only to focus on building my stock of designs so that next year I have a full selection for customers to choose from. It’s been tough but it’s been tough for everyone and I’m grateful that everyone has supported my end of season sales and capes to ensure I can keep the business afloat and focus on creating new designs."

- What are you looking forward to the most for this year?"Seeing A.W. Collection hats in racing crowds and finally wearing some of my new creations!"

And so, as the Grand National meeting enters the last day, I feel that the lack of pizazz is so evident and it makes me yearn for the colourful crowds to return to our racecourses. Bring on a return to normality and the catwalk-esque displays of all that is great and good about fashion at the races.


Follow Liz:

Twitter & IG: @LizDKelly

Follow Alice: 

Twitter: @AliceSWhite

IG: @awcollectionuk


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