With the Winter Racing Carnival upon us and like every passionate race goer, we’re so excited to see what fabulous fashion moments Brisbane brings to the track this year. As someone with extensive Racing fashion knowledge and fashions on the field experience, Milano Imai is one of Brisbane’s best fashion experts when it comes to piecing together the perfect racing outfit.

As a blogger turned businesswoman, Milano has made a name for herself by bringing together a community of like-minded fashion enthusiasts with her insightful blogs and racewear Facebook group. Just reading her blogs makes you feel like you’ve got your best girlfriend helping you get your ideal look together. Her helpful tricks and hints are invaluable for making every outfit exceptional. After scrolling through her Instagram, it’s clear that Milano has created many inspiring looks for racegoers from all over Australia, displaying the talent and style of each individual.

She has extensive experience placing at Fashions On The Field and has even been asked to judge at many racewear competitions, including the prestigious Viva Prix de Fashion in New Zealand.

Milano stands out from the crowd for individuality and the personal touches she adds to all her ensembles. With qualifications in Fashion Design and Millinery, Milano often creates her own outfits showing off her unique style. Showcasing the talents of our local milliners is a passion of Milano’s, which she put into action with the creation of her e-commerce site, Millinery Market.  Millinery Market is an online space where race day enthusiasts can purchase or rent millinery from talented Australian milliners. With an extensive selection of hats and headpieces, Millinery Market offers buyers beautifully handcrafted pieces at affordable prices.

We sat down with Milano to discuss winter trends, her planning process as well as her top tips for Brisbane’s fashion fanatics. This is advice that money can’t buy from one Brisbane’s racing insiders. With KIRIN Doomben 10,000 Day kicking off on Saturday 12th May, there’s no better time to get the trackside tricks from the best in the biz.

With the Winter Racing Carnival approaching, which event are you most excited about?

My favourite event is Stradbroke Cup. I love dressing to a theme and theirs is black, white with a touch of red, which is always fun to experiment with! It’s amazing how many different ways you can interpret and incorporate this theme and everyone always looks totally unique and different from everyone else.

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Photographer: Wendell Levi Teodoro @wendellt

What sets the Winter Racing Carnival apart in the racing calendar?

I love that Brisbane Racing Club has 4 consecutive weeks of feature race days in their Winter Carnival. Each one has a Fashions on the Field competition on each of those days. Dressing for winter fashions is also a favourite among many as it gives you a chance to show off some different styling skills. I think Brisbane’s Winter Racing Carnival definitely features some of the highest calibres of racing fashion, as ladies have been planning for these events all year and are excited about getting all their ideas coming together.

How long have you been planning your outfits?

It really varies; some outfits can take months to come together, especially if I am getting a dress and millinery made. Others can be thrown together in a mad rush the week before the event! Although not proud of it- I am the last-minute queen! This year I started putting together some inspo early, determined to be more organised, and I’m exploring different millinery options.

What winter trends are you most looking forward to seeing?

I love how ladies accessorise their winter outfits with faux fur, velvet belts, gloves and glamorous shoes. Then there’s the seasonal change into winter colours. I really love royal blue, emerald, maroon and rich copper, and a bit of veiling with millinery.

What is the fashion faux pas to avoid for winter racing?

The main fashion faux pas to take note of in winter racing is wearing the wrong winter fabrications. Your millinery should be made of leather, felt, wool, lace and heavier fabrics. Your shoes should have a closed toe and your dresses should have a sleeve or be more covered up than in Spring/Summer.

What is your top styling tip for winter racing in Brisbane’s climate?

It doesn’t get too cold here in Brisbane at this time of year, so unlike other states where you are really dressing to the climate, if the day is still warm, choose winter colours and fabrications, but wear lighter fabrics. You don’t have to wear a jacket, cape or hosiery if the day doesn’t call for it.

What advice would you give to Fashions On The Field entrants for this carnival?

When planning your outfits, carefully take the theme into consideration. Doomben 10,000 requires bold colours, Doomben Cup is fashion-forward, Ladies Oaks Day is feminine and floral and Stradbroke Day is black and white, with a touch of red. The themes have been put in place for a reason, don’t ignore them. The organisers and judging panel will appreciate your effort. I recently published a blog called ‘How to win Fashions on the Field’.

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Photographer: Wendell Levi Teodoro @wendellt

What’s your favourite traditional race wear trend?

My favourite traditional race wear trend is a beautifully handcrafted piece of millinery! I think all women should experience the magic of wearing a hat made by a milliner. Too many women are still wearing fascinators (mass-produced cheap models) when there are so many better options available, not all of them are expensive either.

What’s your favourite way to experiment with traditional race attire?

I always stick to a traditional, modest silhouette, but I have fun playing around with different fabrications, prints and colours. I still love a midi length hemline and feature sleeves.

What do you look for when judging Fashions On The Field?

There are many things I look for as a judge; someone who stands out from the crowd and is styled seamlessly from head to toe with appropriate millinery to complement the outfit. Attention to detail is important to make sure the accessories suit the look, grooming and deportment (I love a fancy hairdo), stage presence and someone who is enjoying themselves. Everyone always looks fabulous and it’s so hard to pick just one winner! I think judging is harder than entering.

How would you advise entrants to stand out from the crowd?

Don’t be afraid to try something new. You don’t have to follow trends or wear the same brand as everyone else. It’s more exciting to see someone wearing something you’d never thought of, or someone testing out a new colour combination. Use FOTF as a way to showcase your own personal style whether that be classic, quirky, modern or anything else it may be.

What are the accessory and millinery trends you are hoping to see?

I am all about accessories this year! I’m drawn to something quirky or embellished; big jewelled earrings, a statement shoe or clutch. It all adds to the overall look. Millinery; I love all shapes! I’m swooning over rich felt and velvet colours at the moment with a bit of veiling to finish the look.

What menswear trends are you excited to see trackside?

I always love seeing some funky socks and pocket squares in a fun print and A HAT! I love a man in a hat- when else do you get a chance to wear them? Also, I like a bit of colour thrown in to jazz up a suit.

What are your tips to look fab without breaking the bank?

I’m often on a budget when it comes to race day outfits and I try to save money where I can. I have hired dresses and hats before. Last year I started Millinery Market in an effort to combat the cost issue many women have. Millinery Market strives to make beautiful, bespoke millinery accessible to everyday race goers while providing a platform for milliners to showcase their work to a wider audience. It now has almost 400 hat listings. You can also hire a hat from a milliner for as little as $45, which really helps if you plan on attending all four race days in the Winter Carnival.

Other tips include painting your accessories when you can’t find the right colour- I paint shoes and belts all the time! And learning to do your own hair and makeup helps, although I am yet to master the art of hair myself. I still opt to get it done every race day.

What’s the one thing you can’t go to races without?

Call me lame, but I can’t go without my battery pack for my phone so it doesn’t die halfway through the day and I miss out on photos of everyone’s stunning outfits! Otherwise, it would be a lower pair of heels for when I want to wander around the track. My feet are usually sore from my ‘outfit’ heels.

Images: Wendell Levi Teodoro

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