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July 23 2014

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“A Real Hat Moment”: Philip Treacy, Milliner To Princesses And Pop Stars, On The Royal Wedding

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With the royal wedding ten days away, Philip Treacy is busy. “People came to see me as soon as the invites went out,” says the Irish-born milliner, who has designed headpieces for Alexander McQueen and Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel shows and was famously championed by Isabella Blow. “Most will have three or four fittings because, of course, it has to be right; something like a billion people will see them on the day.”

Royal weddings are “a real hat moment,” according to Treacy, and he knows a thing or two about them. He won’t be attending the Wills/Kate nuptials on the 29th, but, he says, “my hats will be! I did go to the last royal wedding—Charles and Camilla’s, in 2005—and it was the most interesting day of my life. I watched Princess Diana’s wedding as a boy, so to see the future Queen of England coming round the corner towards me in one of my hats was just amazing.” He won’t say who’s wearing his creations this time around—though the clients coming to him are accessorizing Chanel Couture, Valentino Couture, and Gaultier Couture, for a start. “I’m designing hats for queens, princesses, and celebrities; you definitely won’t miss them on the big day.”

Even though he has designed hats for everyone from Lady Gaga to Sarah Jessica Parker and Grace Jones, Treacy knows that royals are among his most loyal customers. “I design for royalty throughout the world because royals actually wear hats,” he explains. “They are the true hat-wearers of the twenty-first century, the ultimate influencers who keep the millinery business going. And England is the home of hats because of the customers here. I design for some very conservative women who think that my hats are normal. Many, like the Duchess of Devonshire, would never wear unusual clothes but when it comes to hats, they see what I make simply as something ‘smart.’ “

Hats, he says, are “the ultimate twenty-first-century personal expression.” (He’s also recently called them “a cheaper form of cosmetic surgery.”) “Every hat I make is particular to every customer, to the way they look, their personality, so you really get to know that person well. They are giving you their heads and I have to give them something they will be comfortable with, even if I push things a little.” Push or not, the world is banging at his door. “One day it will be Pamela Anderson, the next a queen,” Treacy says of his London atelier. “My assistant says it’s like stepping into Alice in Wonderland.” The Mad Hatter jokes make themselves.

Photo: Patrick McMullan / PatrickMcMullan.com

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