My entry into millinery was at age 7 when I helped my father make the Mad Hatter`s top hat.
Wearing a boater at boarding school probably awakened my understanding of the functionality of hats.
The inspiration for my designs has always been Australian flora and fauna as well as my background in Papua New Guinea and its bird of paradise and native headdresses which have also always been a passion.
In Melbourne, I was delighted to find antique markets full of millinery materials. I was a keen collector and designer and eventually applied for the position of assistant head milliner to Vera Gollige in the Australian Opera Wardrobe department. The prestige of the wardrobe was highly acclaimed due to the presence of its star, Dame Joan Sutherland.
After three years of working in the Art Department, designing and tailoring costumes, I left the Opera to open my own business in Sydney in 1984.
Knowing that the Melbourne Cup Carnival was the place to be seen in a hat, I moved back to Melbourne in 1986 and am now celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Peter Jago Exclusive Hats.
Over the years, I have designed for the theatre, films, television, opera, ballet, and stage productions for people with special needs.
In 1988, I was awarded a Travelling Arts Exhibition Scholarship by the Queensland Arts Council, for which I created 10 original hat designs and toured 65 regional and country centres during the following year.
I have developed ranges of hats and head pieces for Georges, David Jones, Myer, Perri Cutten, Jag, Saba and various boutiques across the country. The label expanded into bridal couture, creating headdresses, tiaras and veiling.
I am always interested in, and reflect on the history of design, and am inspired by the best vintage stock available.
I love the exotic and extreme and created headdresses for the opening of Crown Casino.
I have the skills for both taxidermy and furrier work and have spent many years trying to have feral species removed from the wild and converted into worthy products.
The local industry has been enhanced through race attendance by the young and not just the Establishment but has also been seriously encroached on by uncontrolled importing.
I think I am able to continue as an artist by reinventing design elements and remaining interested in all aspects of design. I am also inspired by the varying needs and personal tastes of my clients to which I respond by allowing the hat to evolve from the client, to reflect her individuality and not overwhelm her.
Anyone searching for a Spring Carnival headpiece would be best advised to seek a professional milliner with at least 10 years of experience. For those who want to create their own, my advice is “DON`T” – not without some serious training. The structural engineering of a hat is a 3 dimensional sculpture and quite challenging.
While I obviously love to wear exotically plumed hats, not many men have that ambition. However, I am also able to make a perfectly coutured, classical hat.
While I look forward to creating headdresses for many Spring Carnivals, I also hope to expand into designing clothing and I especially want to create children`s hats.