It’s a very exciting time for passionate milliner Sue Wood after being selected as a ‘Making Headway’ Designer for Stockport Hatworks Museum, funded and supported by Mary Portas and The Arts Council.

Photo: Jessica Lang Photography

The exhibition showcases the work of 13 up and coming milliners and will follow her through her 2014 spring/summer collection and into the 2014/15 autumn/winter collection, culminating in a selling exhibition at the Hatworks which commences May 2014.

‘My style is vintage inspired with a contemporary edge and my work is handcrafted using traditional methods and, where possible, up cycled materials. My choice of materials and textures reflects the contemporary relevance of vintage, whether that’s a good material or a good idea, fusing vintage style with contemporary design.’

Gold Silk Turban on a Fine White Straw Peaked Hat 
Centrepiece Gold Medallion in Pleated Silk 

Sue’s reason for setting up in business was simple; she fell in love with millinery. She told The Women’s Organisation: ‘I have a smaller than average head and struggled to find a hat to fit me for my daughter’s wedding. I have always been creative and began to experiment to improve the fit. I enrolled on a millinery course with Rose Cory (the late Queen Mothers Milliner) and after 3 days I was hooked. I then followed on with a 10 week course at Liverpool Community College before embarking on HNC course at Leeds College of Art, Graduating in 2013 with Distinction and Higher Distinctions.’

The hat lover told us how starting up Sue Wood Millinery was a straight forward process with the support of The Women’s Organisation. ‘I enrolled on several day courses surrounding
business start-up. I found that the session on how to do a Business Plan was particularly helpful, as well as social media training and Tax and NI.’

Silver Cap with Beautiful Veiling
  Silver Textured Fabric Scarf Detail


Commenting on the Accelerating Women’s Enterprise programme, part funded by European Regional Development Fund, Sue said: ‘Having a personal advisor was very useful, he directed me towards courses which were appropriate for  me to attend, forthcoming events, as well as being available to answer any queries as they arose. I also took advantage of the option to meet with my personal advisor locally, with the majority of my meetings being held in Heswall Library, which meant I could slip out of the studio for a quick meeting rather than taking an afternoon off to go to Liverpool.’

Sue enjoys ongoing support in the form of The Women’s Organisation’s Business Club and has attended numerous women only networking events. ‘Being in the company of so many local entrepreneurial women in a beautiful building (54 St James Street) that creates an inspiring environment to work in and visit is amazing. Having the support and encouragement of the knowledgeable team at The Women’s Organisation is very reassuring. As a result I’m feeling more confident and better equipped to tackle the challengers that lay ahead.’

Beautiful Hand Crafted Vintage Rose

The most important thing for the Wirral resident is to design and make hats. She put a lot of thought into her business structure and decided that a premises would restrict her creatively, choosing instead to find shops that would be happy to stock her hats. Fenwick’s of York and Beau Hats in Oxton Village, Wirral, are amongst her current stockists, with plenty more boutiques and hat shops showing an interest.

Sue is also delighted to have been asked to work for the highly anticipated Lion King tour in Liverpool Empire, where she will be looking after the hats, doing repairs and general maintenance. This has sparked up her passion of working for films and theatre productions, as it’s a field she is most interested in.

‘I love the power of the hat. A hat can to instantly depict a mood, occasion or an era in the most dramatic and expressive way.’

White Straw Cloche with Satan Cord and Gold Beads
Adorned with Hand Crafted Silver Rosette

For Sue, nothing is more rewarding than designing and interpreting client’s ideas to produce something stunning. She also enjoys being in control of her own future, which is something self-employment certainly offers.

‘I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved so far, I feel empowered and very excited about the future and where this journey will take me.’

Whether you have a design in mind or you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, Sue is more than happy to talk. For a free consultation, contact her directly on  07801 970 195 / visit

And if you would like to express yourself further through a hobby by turning it into a business, contact The Women’s Organisation on 0151 706 8111 / or visit

Portrait photo by Jessica Lang Photography

By Beckie Kinsella