By Angie Hilton
Geelong’s own award-winning Milliner Rebecca Share is a dead set dynamo. Hard working disciplined and resilient. And it’s no surprise when you hear the back story of how she worked at her parent’s fruit market every weekend from the age of 8 for 50 cents a weekend.
She runs a tight ship at home and her adoring boys know the drill. In fact, when I walked in to interview Rebecca, 14 year old Kai was half way through a basket of ironing… and still smiling. She must have some serious parenting superpowers!
Her hard work ethic paid off when she received international acknowledgement for her Millinery in the form of an exclusive headpiece order from a mega star.
But life hasn’t all been parades and race days. It took a marriage breakdown for Rebecca to rediscover herself, refocus her priorities and reboot her Millinery career.
Now, 5 years on, Rebecca is living proof that you can get through your darkest days and create the life you want.
OK Rebecca. I like to start at the very beginning of your parenting journey. How were your births?
Ha ha!! Oh my gosh. Well Kai was a pretty stock standard nine hours. He was 41 weeks, so he was very well cooked. I didn’t know what I was having with Kai. I think I was pretty much shock for a couple of weeks at how full on the whole birthing process was. I only had gas as there was no time for anything else.
Nothing smacks you in the face more than when the midwife hands you your baby and says “Here’s your baby and you’re responsible now”. It was completely that turning point in my life where I thought, holy hell, it’s not just me anymore, I have to look after this beautiful little human”.
Jarvis was only born 16 months later. Dealing with a little toddler running around, being eight and nine months pregnant with no immediate family in Geelong was pretty exhausting.
Jarvis came within three and a half hours from the first labour pains to coming out. And he would’ve come out sooner, however he was posterior. So once again, only had time for the gas.
I just remember lying in St. John of God, birthing suite saying to the Midwife “I can’t believe I’m back in here”. And she said, “If I had a dollar for every person that said that”.
Millinery is not an everyday career. How did you end up exploring this field?
I was in year 11 at Bendigo Senior Secondary College and I was only 16 at the time. My Fashion teacher, Margaret Harvey, took us on an excursion to the Bendigo Cup.
The class had to make our own outfits and enter the Fashions on the Field. I didn’t know anything about horse racing or the fashions, but it was super exciting, and it opened up a whole new world for me.
I won the young innovators category and from then on, I was addicted to sewing clothes and trying to piece together outfits and hats to enter more Fashion events.
After year 12, I moved to Melbourne and studied fashion design at RMIT.
I’m pretty gung ho and want fast results. After realising that fashion was such a slow process and discovering that hats can be made within a day and can completely transform an outfit, I knew Millinery was for me. I left RMIT and began my hat making journey, learning all the traditional techniques and processes to creating headwear.
So how did this little Bendigo girl manage to get the world’s attention?
I guess my break came when I met socialite Lilian Frank. Through her connections I ended up making hats for all the Toorak scene including people like Ann Peacock.
Lilian took me under her wing, helped me enter the world of parades and connected me with designers like Alannah Hill and John Cavill and pretty soon my career took off.
What would you say has been your biggest achievement?
Oh, making exclusive headpieces for the J-Lo tour in 2019. I received an email via my contact form on my website claiming to be J-Lo’s stylist. I was actually on the train to Melbourne with my friend Fiona and laughed telling her about the ‘hoax email’ I had just received.
She encouraged me to respond just for fun and within 10 minutes I had a phone call and it was all happening. I was asked to make 28 visor headpieces for Jennifer Lopez’s upcoming ‘It’s My Party’ USA Tour.
I said to my partner Brett, “How good would it be to see the concert and he said, “Well, why don’t we go?”
So on a Tuesday night, we looked at the tour dates and by Friday night we were in Las Vegas ready for the show on Saturday night. We literally spent 40 hours in Vegas.
We got VIP tickets to the show and were invited backstage after the show to meet JLo and have a photo. It was an incredible experience, a pinch me moment!
For all the excitement in your life, you’ve had your share of challenging times. How did you manage to pull yourself though a tough marriage breakdown?
Initially I didn’t think I’d survive it. However, you don’t know how strong you can be until you’re forced to be strong.
I knew I had to let myself feel the full brunt of emotions and not mask them. So I was doing everything I could, whether it be yoga or mindfulness, long walks and just taking some time out for me. I spent 18 months discovering who I was again. A friend once said to me “never say no to an invitation” and that made me get back into living and meeting people, which at times was the last thing I felt like doing.
But here I am, 5 years later and life has never been better.
I can actually say I’m so grateful for the experience of what I went through, because I’m in a much better place in my life now. I have genuine people in my life and it’s forced me to be stronger. It’s forced me to rely on myself and pursue different avenues such as having my own home for the first time, getting out of my comfort zone, making new friends and setting up a second business.
Having the support of Brett who has been such a positive force in my life for over three years now has been a beautiful, welcomed surprise. My boys adore him and he really is the most incredible father figure for them.
How did you go staying creative throughout that time?
I didn’t make hats for a couple of years.
I was MIA from social media. I spent that time with the boys, giving them my full attention and rediscovering who I am.
I decided I was going to make one last hat for the 2018 MYER Fashions on the Field Millinery Award before I changed my career entirely. My girlfriends came to cheer me on. It was so nerve wracking standing on stage at Flemington with the top 10 finalists. When they announced my name it felt like more than just winning an award.
It wasn’t about beating other Milliners or being the best. It was about proving to myself that I won’t be kicked when I’m knocked down. It was the best feeling to step out on that stage and hear my girlfriend’s screaming and I just thought, “Yeah, I’ve got this. I’m going to be okay”.
I’m fascinated to learn about your parenting strategies. It just blew me away that you had a 14 year old boy doing a basket of ironing without grumbling. Please help!
Single parents might overcompensate by doing everything for their children. And I think that that’s the worst thing for them. Helping kids to understand that the house is a team effort is really important.
I get the boys involved in pretty much everything that we do at home. They mow the lawns, garden, iron, cook with me, do washing and make their own lunches.
They understand the costs and I don’t buy them absolutely everything they want, but they’ve got absolutely everything that they need.
We don’t have an X-Box anymore. They rarely fight but when I noticed the negative impact the X-Box was having on them 2 years ago when they had a fight about who’s turn it was, I simply walked up to it, pulled it out of the wall and it’s never gone back since. If something is not working and it’s a negative in the household and bringing everyone down, then something needs to change, my boys know I mean business when it comes to boundaries.
They’re only allowed to watch TV at night time. Instead, it’s bingo, cards, Monopoly – good old fashion fun and connection. We also have a pizza oven, so Friday night is family time where we all make our own pizzas and put on some great music to relax.
What did you take from your own upbringing that has helped you with how you parent?
My dad is hilarious, everything is an adventure and my childhood was spent on 14 acres where we made our own fun. We’d be out in the paddocks catching tadpoles, chasing sheep and building huts.
But from eight, we had to work. My parents had a fruit and veggie stall at the Castlemaine and Bendigo markets so Friday nights after school, I would be in the cold or boiling hot shed, bagging up and weighing kilo lots of onions, potatoes and carrots.
And then we would be up at five o’clock every Saturday and Sunday to work at the market all day. I was adding up and weighing everything, serving customers, carrying boxes and cutting up watermelons and pumpkins. And I got paid 50 cents for the entire weekend!
And even then, Dad must have though we weren’t doing enough because he got my sister and I the job of cleaning the market after everyone had gone. We had to clean the toilets, empty bins and pick up every little bit of rubbish in the whole market. However, we were paid $15 between us which was like hitting the jackpot!
So yes, that is where the work ethic came from. As hard as it sounds, there was a lot of love in the house and never a dull moment.
So you’ve moved in to online courses?
It’s incredibly important to give as much of my time to my boys and I wanted to maintain being home for them as much as I could. Therefore, I needed to have a passive income and so I started to film, edit and create online Millinery courses for my second business ‘Hat Atelier’ 6 months prior to Covid-19 hitting.
Luckily I was ready to transition to online teaching when Covid hit and I set myself the goal to launch 15 courses in the first year, which I achieved. The courses sell around the world and have allowed me the flexibility to be more available for the boys which is my number one priority.
I’ve also expanded the business to film other Milliners courses now, it is going from strength to strength and it a wonderful feeling to have control and consistency in my life with something I am so passionate about.
And part of your new life is a new love?
I had no plans of ever meeting anybody or having another relationship.
Brett is the only partner I have dated and given his calm, kind and hilarious nature I was drawn to him in an instant.
I was never looking for any hole to fill, as I truly believe that if you are happy within yourself then you don’t ‘need’ anyone to fill a hole. But I do know now that there are really good, genuine people in the world and sometimes you have to go through the storm to realise that. With the boys coming into teenage years, Brett has been an amazing father figure who always makes the time to guide them and show them the right way. They really adore him and he has been an integral, positive role model in their lives.
Job: Milliner (hat designer)
Two businesses – Rebecca Share Millinery (25 years) Hat Atelier (online courses)
Partner: Brett – positive, calm, funny
Kai – 14 – creative, hilarious, passionate
Jarvis – 13 – witty, kind, thoughtful
Quote: “Just when the caterpillar thought her life was over, she began to fly”.
Mantra I live by: I don’t have a Mantra I live by but there have been times I should have listened to my gut, so now I “Listen to my gut”!
3 people living or deceased I’d love to have over for a pizza night?
Only 3…I’m stretching it to 4! I’d love to fire up our pizza oven for The Seinfeld cast and have a dance off with Elaine!
It’s a running joke in our family that we are the cast of Seinfeld and we call each other Jerry, Kramer, George and Elaine.
Guilty Pleasure? Wine! I love nothing more than spending Friday afternoons with my partner at Cellar Door in Geelong. Yummy cheese, incredible wine and lots of cuddles… the best way to kick off the weekend.
Favourite Geelong Coffee Spot? Born and Bread in Newtown, the pastries are to die for!
Worst habit? Picking at my fingernails! I know, it’s yuk but when I have glue stuck to them from making hats I can’t help it. I have been having my nails done of late, so I am slowly breaking the habit (slowly!)
If I had a full day just for me how would I ideally fill it?
It’s a no brainer, I’d Fly to Hobart for a day exploring Mona followed by dinner in Faro Restaurant + Bar. The perfect balance of escaping to indulge in art, wine and food.