Philip Treacy: Crowning Glory

FROM ECCENTRIC ROCK STARS TO EXALTED ROYALTY, PHILIP TREACY’S MILLINERY CREATIONS ADORN SOME VERY FAMOUS HEADS AND, YES, HE DID MAKE ‘THAT HAT’ FOR PRINCESS BEATRICE.

Tim Warrington meets the fab hatter.

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Italian Vogue – March, 2007

Tim Warrington: On style.com you’re referred to as “Philip Treacy, milliner to princesses and pop stars.” Are you happy with this title?

Philip Treacy: Being asked to design so many hats for the royal wedding was a great honour; it was one of my proudest moments to date. Of course, people had their opinions about Princess Beatrice’s hat. It was unusual, but in a hundred years time people will look at it and think, “Wow, who is she?”

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Grace Jones wearing Philip Treacy

Margaret Atwood once said, “I myself have 12 hats and each one represents a different personality.” Do you think hats can change your personality?

A hat can completely change the personality of the wearer; make them stand differently and walk differently. A hat can make that person feel interesting. People think sometimes that people who wear hats want to show off. But human beings, since the beginning of time, have always wanted to embellish themselves.

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Lady Gaga

Do you think all hatters are a bit mad, or just the ones in Wonderland?

It’s all very well accusing someone of being a “fashion animal”. I’m one, too! Fashion animals are obsessed with something for a moment and then they move on to something else. That’s the nature of fashion – it’s all about change. One of the most exciting aspects of my job is that I have an opportunity to influence how people see hats in the 21st Century. And that is wonderful because I have a worldwide audience open to seeing hats through fresh eyes.

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Isabella Blow Exhibition Catalogue – 2013

What’s the Treacey plan B? If you couldn’t make hats, what would you do?

Although I will always love designing hats, I see myself as a designer first and a hat designer second. I don’t see any limit to how I can apply my skills as a designer in the future. There are many things left to try! Who knows, maybe I will design a building. Why not?

Isabella Blow Cover Philip Treacy Hat

If France has the beret and America has the baseball cap, what is quintessentially British headwear?

In the UK, traditional occasion hats are very strong, inspired by the royal family and the season, Ascot and Henley. Street wear is led by sporting icons, the music world and celebrities.

“A good hat is the ultimate glamour accessory. It thrills observers and makes the wearer feel a million dollars.”

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Who was the first royal you designed for?

Princess Michael Of Kent. And I still do! She is beautiful and she wears hats magnificently.

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Will we ever see a collection of Philip Treacy baseball caps?

We make baseball caps for our street wear collection. We have also collaborated with Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy for the Autumn/Winter 2012 collection where I designed baseball caps with ears.

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What’s your favourite hat?

A 17th Century Dalian or sailing ship hat. I’d seen old renderings of ships in women’s hair. It was a costume designer’s dream. The idea for this hat was inspired and created from a chapter in Olivier Bernier’s book Pleasure And Privilege called Rule Of Fashion about life in France in the 1750s. The chapter describes a British Fleet Admiral losing a famous battle to the French fleet. In celebration, women in Paris wore ships in their hair to go to the opera – I loved the emotion attached to this. The ships are made from satin and the bone of the feather.

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ELLE Arab World – March 2014

Hats are less popular than they were a hundred years ago. Do you think they’ll will ever make a big resurgence?

The message is simple and absolute: a great hat exists outside its own time. Don’t believe in elitism in fashion. Fashion is for everybody to enjoy and it’s everybody’s right to look great! We live in the present and we should be making contemporary hats and showing them in a different and new way.

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David & Victoria Beckham

At the opening of the exhibition Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones, he said “Hats are a great antidote to what’s going on. It’s really their purpose to put a happy face on a sad world.” Do you agree?

A good hat is the ultimate glamour accessory. It thrills observers and makes the wearer feel a million dollars. This creates a high status of desirability and although the images received can seem out of this world, the conspicuous consumer relates strongly to it.

“I couldn’t believe that I’d hit upon a person who didn’t expect tulle, veiling and pearls for her wedding hat.”

Milliner Shirley Hex once said, “The right hat can make a career.” Which hat made your career?

In 1989 I took one of my hats to Michael Roberts, fashion director of Tatler and his style editor, Isabella Blow. Our conversation that day was like 20 seconds and I thought nothing of it. A few weeks afterwards, the secretary at the college said, ”Some lady has been phoning up. She wants to know what your schedule’s like for the next six months.” I didn’t know what she was talking about, but it turned out to be Issy [Isabella Blow]. She was getting married and had decided I was going to make a hat for her. Having chosen a medieval theme for her wedding dress, Issy asked me to make an appropriate head dress. I wanted to base the hat on a ’30s play called The Miracle, which Lady Diana Cooper was in. I suggested to Issy that maybe this would be good for the wedding. I couldn’t believe that I’d hit upon a person who didn’t expect tulle, veiling and pearls for her wedding hat.

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Vogue Special Edition METGALA – 2013

If you could design a hat for any man, who would it be?

David Beckham. I designed a top hat for David – the hat he wore at the royal wedding of Prince William to the Duchess Of Cambridge.

Go to Philip Treacy.

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