When I lived in Sydney, not so long ago, one of my favourite things to do was to pop into the David Jones Jones millinery department and spend as much time as I had up my sleeve trying on all the hats. This was especially helpful if I was having a bad day as I felt transported just being there. My worries disappeared, my stress fell away, it was bliss.
This was how I discovered the world’s greatest milliner, Philip Treacy. In my opinion, there is no finer milliner. No one has his daring and creative approach to design, he is fearless.
Treacy’s talent was evident from the very beginning. Discovered by the late Isabella Blow in 1989, she knew he was going to change the face of millinery. At the time Isabella was style editor for Tatler magazine and after meeting him she commissioned Philip to make her a hat for her wedding and as luck would have it (the luck of the Irish perhaps?) he was blessed with having a client that sought out the unusual and the unconventional.
After graduating from the Royal College of Art with first class honours, Philip moved into Isabella and Detmar Blow’s basement where he set up his workshop. Isabella the benefactor became the artist’s muse and they talked of nothing but hats, hats, hats!
In 1991 Treacy was to meet chief designer at Chanel Karl Largerfeld and became their chief milliner for the next 10 years. Not a bad job straight out of university. He was just 23 years old. Wow!
The real change for him happened after his first catwalk show. Supermodel’s Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Yasmin Le Bon all agreed to model his hats, (an all black collection) and were paid not in money, but in hats. The media went crazy when the girls did his show and this changed how hats were seen in fashion from then on.
By 1999 Treacy was designing for Alexander McQueen for Givenchy in Paris while while still designing for Chanel.
This led to the first ever Haute Couture show devoted purely to hats which was held in Paris by the chambar syndical de la haute couture and of course Treacy was invited to contribute.
Treacy has now taken his design esthetic into other mediums, designing accessories, glass wear and furniture. Treacy was awarded an OBE by her majesty the Queen in 2007 in recognition of his services to the British Fashion industry.
“I believe in beauty and elegance and communicating thoughts and dreams in a visual way. I started designing hats 15 years ago while I was a student at the Royal College of Art. It was at a time when hats were perceived publicly as something worn by ladies of a certain age and something from a bygone era. I thought this was totally ridiculous and simply believed “we all have a head, so everybody has the possibility to wear a hat.” – Philip Treacy
“I have had the greatest pleasure of having the opportunity to challenge people’s perception of what a hat should look like in the 21st Century.”
This butterfly hat is truly my favourite. I imagine the wearer must feel like they are in a butterfly enclosure, it is pure whimsy, sigh. If I was lucky enough to own this piece of millinery genius, I would have it on display in my home for all to see.
This post is dedicated to my friend Trudi Francis.