Current event: Nicole Latoyah models one of Paris Kayne's latest creations , the Banksia, inspired as a tribute to people who lost money in the financial group's collapse.

Current event: Nicole Latoyah models one of Paris Kayne's latest creations , the Banksia, inspired as a tribute to people who lost money in the financial group's collapse. Photo: Jason South

IT IS as unexpected as finding Santa Claus having an afternoon snooze on Christmas Eve.

On Friday, 24 hours before the Derby and with the Cup only days away, milliner Paris Kyne was propped easily in a chair in his splendidly decorative city showroom.

''Completely organised,'' he said. ''Always am. Orders are out the back, most have been picked up. I don't take much last-minute work. I'm exhausted.'' Admittedly the mobile phone did peal regularly.

Penny Murray of South Melbourne wears a hat made from drink cups at the Melbourne Cup in 1974. Click for more photos

The mad hatters of Spring Racing

Penny Murray of South Melbourne wears a hat made from drink cups at the Melbourne Cup in 1974. Photo: Fairfax Archives

''Paris Kyne master milliner,'' was his standard greeting. Paris was christened Michael Kyne and, if you want to split blow-waved hairs, he has no degree in master millining - but he figures that after 25 years in the trade, including a stint in London, he has earned his stripes.

And those are successful years, judging by the fact that he has recently paid off his heritage house in the CBD and now plans to buy a city shopfront.

Mind you, the recession has tightened the purse-strings of those millinery-loving matrons from Toorak.

''Don't make thousand-dollar hats any more,'' said Kyne. ''They sold in the 1980s and '90s but not now. The Toorak set has changed.''

So, for the 2012 racing season you can pick up an off-the-rack Kyne creation for as little as $360.

Born in Sale, Kyne began work in a local hairdressing salon but wanted something more creative and spotted an ad for a hat-blocker in Melbourne. At age 46, he now has a brisk trade centring around the racing seasons in Melbourne, Tasmania and Kentucky.

He also teaches hat-making three times a week at trade college. A week ago his creative juices were fired up by the Banksia financial collapse and he went to his workshop, researched the banksia plant and created a ''robust hat like the flower'' in sympathy with the investors' plight.

''It reminded me of the 'big bad banksia men' in the May Gibbs children's books on the gumnut babies,'' he said.

Two decades ago Kyne had his fingers similarly burnt in the Pyramid collapse.

''I lost $500. And Compass Airlines folded about the same time and I lost a flight on that.''

His Banksia hat is not for sale - it will go in to his 2013 millinery exhibition as a salute to the latest financial victims and perhaps as a small footnote to his own long-ago misfortune.

Five hundred bucks may not seem much now but, as Kyne points out, you could buy three potato cakes for 25 cents then.

''Today a potato cake costs you a dollar,'' he said. ''That's what inflation is.''