Philip Treacy: When I was six I went to weddings. We lived across from the church. I thought weddings were the most amazing things. I would see weddings happening at the church and I thought ‘wow, what’s going on? Everyone looks great’; all the cars were decorated in streamers, there was confetti, there was somebody arriving in white looking amazing and there was this ceremonial great sense of occasion and excitement – and that’s why I do what I do… because of weddings.
When you design something for somebody who’s getting married – no matter who they are – it’s such an important moment in their lives that you feel the weight of the responsibility of the request. I had worked with the Duchess of Cornwall – who was then Mrs Parker Bowles – previously. It was a thrill to design a headdress for her because it was a momentous, historical moment for everybody concerned. The process was really quite simple because the Duchess left the headdress to me and she put her trust in my ability. The inspiration was to draw with feathers something that encapsulated the spirit of the occasion. So really, when I’m using those materials I’m drawing with them - I treat them as one would draw with a pencil, except I use the shape of all the feathers (which are all cut by hand, and all shaped by hand) to follow that direction. It was based around the fact that it was all balancing on nothing, so it looked like it was hovering on the side of the head, but it actually came full circle. It looked a bit like wheat, or all things perfect and natural.
I work for many types of people, from twenty year-old girls who have never worn a hat before, to a mum going to a wedding , to a pop star, to a movie star, to a member of the Royal Family. The difference with the latter is that we see it, a lot, continuously, forever, so it was important that it flattered the wearer.
Selina Blow came via Isabella Blow, who was my great friend, and mentor and muse. Selina’s not a shy and retiring bride, she’s not afraid of a strong hat and people that are fearless can get away with more. Some people can make the most extraordinary hat look like a little pillbox [hat] and Selina has that possibility. When you design something for somebody you design something that works with the personality of the person. Also, you are gently encouraging them to go maybe a little step further than they’d planned to go, whereas Selina didn’t really need any encouragement at all, she was encouraging me!
Hats are part of special moments in people’s lives and there is no more special moment that when people get married. Weddings embody a fantasy moment in everybody’s life – whether it’s the person getting married, or the family – so it’s not really just ‘something’ that’s on their head, it’s ‘everything they’ve dreamed of’ on their head.
SEMINAR: Explore the personal style, work and legacy of Isabella Blow, one of fashion’s most courageous and imaginative muses. Born into the rarefied world of the British aristocracy, Isabella Blow was blessed with a talent for spotting fashion genius and her discoveries included Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy and Hussein Chalayan.
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