Stefano Costabile: a head above the rest

To know Stefano Costabile's work is to know a mastermind in action. Likened to the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll's imaginative world of Alice in Wonderland, Stefano is indeed mad about hats.

To know Stefano Costabile's work is to know a mastermind in action. Likened to the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll's imaginative world of Alice in Wonderland, Stefano is indeed mad about hats. With a career spanning decades, and with work gracing various industries and fields, Stefano has proven that he has what it takes to lead the millinery industry and set a new standard in functional Italian fashion. As it goes, there is certainly more to hats than meets the eye: medium, design, artisan technique and styling.

Stefano has been the face and brilliant mind behind ‘Steven's Hats' in Cosenza, Calabria since 2006. Don't let the date fool you, his journey in the world of millinery and design began much earlier. The atelier, or ‘laboratory' where Stefano creates his wonderful designs, is where his madness impregnates genius with a delicious mix of colour, cut and craftsmanship. ‘Steven's Hats' is indeed a high-pressure culmination of what has been a fascinating career to date. Stefano's work fuses artisan quality and attention with a playful love of texture and mediums. Nothing is impossible and everything has potential for beauty and originality. Stefano works with Italian felt, leather, straw, cashmere, parasisal and sinamay - just to name a few.

Stefano's creations are all unique: each one tells a whimsical tale. Custom designed and made to measure, it's truly possible to achieve a one of a kind piece in Stefano's laboratory. Each creation has a personality and story. Flicking through a catalogue of Stefano's work you are immediately transported to a different time and place. I found myself overwhelmed by the beauty found in the art of millinery; taking for granted the aesthetic and artisanal value of headwear beyond the usual fashion statements of the common-day. Some hats are dainty and intricate, while others are of eye-wateringly epic proportions. To have one of Stefano's masterpieces sit atop your head is to engage in an intimate experience with wearable art. After all, that's what his work is: art.

There is curiosity on what brings about such passion for Stefano to be consumed by the love for millenery. He draws upon his other creative disciplines; performance, costume design and textile arts. Having studied at the Accademia delle Belle Arti in Bologna, Stefano's multi-disciplinary skill set brings a balanced and considered approach to his work. No stranger to challenging deeds, he has a long-attested relationship with performance and costume design, both from the perspective of an artist on and off the stage. He has lead creative teams and projects, and has taught newly emerging artists how to thrive in this incredible industry. His name is synonymous with excellence and his style is ever-evolving and mesmerising. It is not difficult to understand why so many people and industries for that matter, look to his work for inspiration and pleasure.

As you can imagine, Stefano's work has been met with great adoration and a strong following. It has taken him around the globe, competing in competitions and showcasing his work at exhibitions the world over. Similarly, Stefano's hats have graced the heads of some of Italy's most famous celebrities, as well as numerous boutiques and catwalks. Theatre, film and television: he has conquered them all.

What of a place in Australian culture? Where does the fine art of millinery fit in today's society? Stefano will be gracing our fair shores from September to November, touring his work and love of hats during this year's Spring Racing Carnival. It is during this time that we, lovers of a good day out at the races, turn our attention to accessories and fashion; dressing to impress, seeking out the perfect ensemble. Stefano will be showcasing his work at various exhibits, demonstrations, and during the Melbourne Cup Carnival. This is a very unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the work of this fashion icon, to better understand not only the curious world of hat making, but to come to appreciate the mastery of Italian artisan craftsmanship. So, if you find yourself in the presence of a jaw-dropping beauty perched precariously on someone's immaculately coiffed locks - there's every chance is one of Stefano's.