Henriette Lamotte (Countess D'Espinay) trained and worked as a milliner in Paris. She arrived in Sydney in 1938, and began trading under her maiden name. She opened a number of millinery salons (including one in Rowe Street, Sydney) selling imported hats from top Parisian designers, as well as her own designs. Lamotte also collaborated with local haute couture salons including Germaine Rocher, Madame Le Pellier and Elvira Listwan.
Her salon interior was sumptuous, complementing her elegant millinery. Sydneysiders were charmed by this sophisticated Parisian. She established a clientele of rich, famous and glamorous Sydneysiders with her hats, which adorned heads at social events, cocktail parties and 'after five' gatherings. Her reputation was enhanced by her husband who in 1952 added her suggestions for menus to the publication Oh, for a French Wife!
In 2001, Elaine Daly, saleswoman in the salon (1951-1955), said: 'It was almost a social occasion when the clients came in. It was not like buying over the counter. The whole atmosphere was absorbed with a lot of gossip, a friendly exchange, and some scandals…I was the receptionist really. Maybe sometimes I would be asked my opinion because I became quite familiar with the clients because they came so regularly and were well known. They were all very friendly, and they themselves were friends as well. They didn't mind being seen at the Races in the same hat because it was a joy to be known to be wearing a La Motte hat. Some country clients would come down and get several hats at the same time.' (http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/inspired/rowest)
Bonits Baggs recalled working at the Germaine Rocher salon as a 15 year old in 1950. 'Madame Rocher would often send me to Henriette La Motte in Rowe Street, who was the leading society millier of the time, to pick up a delicate little cocktail hat that had been ordered to go with one of Madame's creations…During yearly fashion parades that Madame Rocher put on, I would be scuttling back and forwards to Rowe Street collecting hat boxes containing hats for parades'. (http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/inspired/rowest)
Powerhouse Museum website 'Remembering Rowe Street'. http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/inspired/rowest/, accessed 5/7/2006.
Fashion photographs from the records of Henriette Lamotte Pty Ltd, ca. 1950-1971. Creator: Lamotte, Henriette. Date of Work: 1950-1971.
Newscuttings in ML MSS 3747 Mitchell Library. Related Manuscript Material: Henriette Lamotte Pty Ltd records, 1939-1975. Location Number: ML MSS 3747 Mitchell Library.
Bonita Baggs, 2001