The “specialized craftman” : the milliner

Philip Treacy

“Hats are for everyone. We all have a head so we have the possibility to wear a hat. You feel better for wearing them.”

This incredibly talented Irish milliner started sewing when he was about five. He started making dresses and hats for his sister’s dolls. “My mother had chickens, geese, pheasants and ducks, so all the ingredients of the hat were in my house. (…) I couldn’t care less for the dolls but I could make the clothes really easily. I was making bust points before I knew what bust points were.”

Then he moved to Dublin to study fashion at the National College Of Art & Design where he made hats “as a hobby” to go with outfits he designed on the course.”Nobody really had much time for the hat because it was a fashion school, but there did come a point when I was more interested in making the hats than the outfits”. When the students had to arrange work experience, Philip chose to spend six weeks with Stephen Jones, the London hat designer.

In 1988 he won a scholarship to London’s Royal College of Art where he specialized in hat design, fashioning his first efforts from bits and pieces picked up in local flea markets. While he was still a student he started to work with established designers such as Rifat Ozbek, John Galliano and Victor Edelstein.

in 1991 the young designer established his own company, Philip Treacy ltd, and started his 10 years collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld  for Chanel. He has designed hats for Haute Couture houses such as Givenchy, Alexander Mc Queen, Valentino, Helmut Lang,Thierry Mugler, Anna Molinari and Versace. Was during this year that Philip won his first title of British Accessory Designer of the year at the British Fashion Council Awards(that he went on to win also in 1992, 1993, 1996 and 1997).

Not far from that moment, Philip started designing hats for the High Street and presented the first of his annual catwalk shows at London Fashion Week.
Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Stella Tennant strode down the catwalk for the first professional Philip Treacy fashion show: “I phoned up Christy Turlington to say that I was having a show and would she do it for me? She agreed and the rest followed on. Naomi Campbell’s agent called the next day. Kate Moss complained that I hadn’t asked her. London was in a lull then. The media went crazy when all those girls did my show and it completely changed perceptions of the hat.”
Since 1997 he also has gone on to show once a year the autumn / winter collections both in London and in New York.

After the opening of his own shop at 69 Elisabeth Street he could recognize that “It doesn’t matter how much people pay for them: everyone wants to look a million dollars in a hat”, because his customers are everyone, “from the young girl who’s saved up for a £150 rainwear trilby to this very distinguished gentleman of about 70.He comes in every summer to order 20 Couture hats to entertain the ladies who will be staying on his yacht”!

But Couture is his highest expression. As a matter of fact if he is known as one of the most famous milliner on the international scene is thanks to his unique creations that we’ve seen on celebrity heads like Sarah Jessica Parker or Lady Gaga and in many “Royal occasions”: the Royal Ballet,  Royal Ascot, where he usually presents his Couture designs in the Bessborough Restaurant, and recently at the Royal Wedding where he had the opportunity to put hats on noble heads!

Actually he is so appreciated by the Royal Family that in 2007 during his first solo in Ireland he was appointed as an honorary Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by HRH Prince Charles and HRH the Duchess of Cornwall. The honour was conferred on Philip by Her Majesty the Queen in recognition of his service to the British Fashion industry.

Philip Treacy is the perfect representation of what we call specialized craftman. He started very young as a HOBBIST, but then he extended his top-level production ,creating unique pieces and limited edition of few pieces, aboveall for a very special and selected public !