November 25th is St Catherine’s Day, a day for the patron saint of hats in France. This traditional  day was  all the inspiration Catherine Kelly needed to launch her Sydney Hat Shop – Embellish Atelier in Sydney in 2005.

The studio…

Catherine Kelly welcomes new and existing clients to design and craft the perfect hat, fascinator, or  headpiece to suit their personality, occasion and attire in a magnificently restored historic building with soaring pressed metal ceilings, rustic walls, and elegant chandeliers- Embellish  Atelier at 128  Victoria Road Rozelle.

The French-inspired studio is an intimate space where her creations evolve over appointments with the client. Catherine’s style  and colour inspiration comes from her travels, her interest in architecture and her studies in, and as a teacher of design, technology and millinery. “Studying millinery has been the perfect outlet for my passion for fabric, colour and texture” says Catherine who puts to use her skills acquired over 30 years.


The beginning…

Catherine grew up on a  dairy farm and cattle station in rural Queensland and cites her  upbringing as one where she was required  to be resourceful, creative, inventive and courageous. “Learning to sew on  my mother’s Singer treadle machine sparked a lifetime interest in fabric, fashion, pattern and colour. I would run over to  the dairy to get mum to help me with a wayward seam or zip and run back to finish a garment for the local dance. I was also encouraged  by my English grandmother who as a professional dressmaker remarkably made wedding dresses during the war from parachute silk. An early necessity of life was wearing a hat in the harsh outback sun and I have always been renowned  for my collection of hats.”

Catherine’s career path took her to learning the art of teaching textiles and design at high schools from the Gold Coast to Central Queensland to the City of London School for Girls in London. Simultaneously she put her creative talent to use creating  and marketing elegant gift items for Liberty of London to a luxury range of soft furnishings including bedlinen, cushions and lampshades in Sydney. .  And today as a milliner, Catherine offers  seasonal collections of her millinery designs.

Accolades and awards…

Diploma  of Teaching – Home Economics 1982- QUT, Brisbane.

SCDA – Diploma Colour and Design, Sydney 2000.

Cert 2, certificate 4 Millinery Ultimo TAFE  2003, 2005

International Hat Arts Competition Winner  Public Prize – Prix du Public  L’atelier Musee du Chapeau in 2009.

Jean Carroll Award – Best Spring Derby Day Hat

Co-founder of Hats and High Tea events.

2009  Sydney Royal Easter Show – 1st Place, Excellence Award and a Highly Commended for millinery creations.

Exhibition – The Art of Contemporary Millinery – Outlaws- Breathing Colours Gallery 2009.

David Jones Exclusive Collection- Melbourne and Sydney Stores – Spring  2010.

2012  Hat Life  Hatty Award  –  contribution to millinery.

Millinery Tutor – Hats off to Brisbane – 2013, 2015.

Millinery Tutor- Lina Stein School of Millinery – Westport, Ireland 2013.

Hats selected for display at the XX1st Century Hat Exhibition, London 2015.

All About E.  hats and masks for movie by Louise Wadley 2015.

Teacher- Sydney Community College- 1990-2015.

2015 Royal Melbourne Show – 1st Place – Winter Millinery

2015 Royal Melbourne Show – Commended- Themed Wearable Art Millinery- Halo.

Hats Selected for Milliner X Artisan 2016 London Hat Week Official Exhibition

Finalist – Inner West Business Awards – 2016

Winner – Outstanding Youth Award- Sarah Jehan – Embellish Atelier – Inner West Business Awards- 2016

My Fair Lady – Assistant to Rebecca Read- Head of Millinery – Opera Australia. 2016

Top 10 Finalist – Myer Millinery Award 2019- Oaks Day Melbourne 

Studio 10- Millinery Segment – 2019 

The Hat Project – 2019 – Penrith Regional Council

Professional memberships…

 Millinery Association of Australia.

Past Vice President – Milliner association of Australia 


Catherine and her children  initiated  and run the JSKfund  in honour of her late husband John Skipper Kelly – supporting leadership opportunities for disadvantaged youth. Check out our upcoming Millinery competition Hattember www.hattember.com where we host a competition in conjunction with Hatters Millinery Supplies raining funds for the JSK fund . 


Her successful business is based on the principles of using only the finest textiles to produce the finest headpiece for her clientele. Catherine’s designs are timeless and  her bespoke pieces add glamour and elegance to all occasions.

“Wearing hats everywhere was part of my life, now it is my business. A hat completes an outfit. Everyone remembers someone who wears a hat”