The hats of Philip Treacy are not only up to date in London. Women from all over the world buy the extravagant creations from his boutique in Elizabeth Street and his cutting-edge millinery has also graced the catwalks of the world's most famous fashion designers. The eccentric designer concentrates solely on women with poise and naturally international stars in the glittering world of show business. His feather sculptures have turned heads at the wedding of the season 1995 - when Prince Paul of Greece married Marie-Chantal Miller in London - and luckily for the milliner there are many other opportunities to get women into hats in England. High society ladies love being a little avant-garde in their hat wear - especially at events such as Ascot or when they simply want to capture attention in a frivolous, daring or elegant way.
Philip Treacy sees clients only by appointment. My first impression: a chain smoking young men who looks like he just woke up and forgot to wash his hair. Put people fall in love with this unusual boy because he is a softly spoken Irish fellow with a very dry wit and a lot of charisma. While my TV-team is fascinated by his boutique's baroque decor that includes a prancing circus horse and spiky gilded chairs, he tells me his life story. Born in County Galway, Ireland, in 1967, Philip first studied at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin. A scholarship to the Royal College of Art brought him to London in 1988 where he graduated in 1990 with First Class Honours with Distinction. An invitation to show his portfolio to Chanel in Paris resulted in a commission to collaborate with Karl Lagerfeld on Chanel's 1991 summer couture show. For several years Treacy continued to crown both their couture and ready-to-wear collections. By the end of 1991, a ready-to-wear range was being sold at Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, while Harrods and Harvey Nichols supplied London customers.
Where, in your family of seven brothers and one sister, did the passion for hats begin? It's not very usual for a boy...
I was always making things.
I started sewing when I was about five. I remember being with in school and the boys did woodwork and the girls were sewing. I thought: 'Why can't I do that?' So I started making dresses and hats for my sister's dolls.
I love to work with my hands and to make a hat is a fantastic craft - the very essence of making something from nothing.
"Give him a pin, he makes a sculpture. Give him a rose, he makes a poem", said Versace. "He has the spirit of modern millinery" says Karl Lagerfeld, who discovered him. Since "Kaiser Karl" put Philip's hats on the catwalk, his name has become well-known in the business and leading fashion magazines fight for the attention of the shooting star. The red-haired man gathers his inspiration from all kinds of areas and adds to his creation whatever catches his eye. He designed a saucy straw hat with a feather worn as a monocle for Royal Ascot and once he even added a copy of a three-mated barque.
I just love beautiful, weird designs for women who like to stand out from the crowd. And I like feathers. All kind of feathers...they are light as air and it is possible to make feathers dance!
I call my hats "Haute Couture Hats". Even during my studies at the Royal College of Art, I was already working for famous names like John Galliano and Victor Edelstein and my hats also appeared in the musical "My fair lady".
Can you reveal some of your customer's names?
Boy George, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, Diana Rigg, Serena Stanhope... I also created a hat for one of Mick Jagger's tours and his ex-wife, Jerry Hall, is also a client.
He is pretty vague about it, worried that I will witter on endlessly in my TV show about how many rich and famous clients he has. He tells me that of course he has rich and famous clients such as the Princess Michael of Kent and the young royals and of course the ones he mentioned before..., but says that to go on about it is to miss the point. He really just wants to show me a video of his last show.
"The craziest thing about Treacy's hats is that you can actually wear them" - wrote the TIMES. "People think I'm going to make something insane", he says to me while he shows me around his workroom downstairs, "but I'm trying to make beautiful, modern hats - not crazy ones".
Me, too, I can't resist to buy an "original Treacy" hat - a small little something covered with multicolored feathers, like paintbrushes in an artist's palette. Every hat is a work of art. There is also an interesting accessories collection which Philip launched in 1997, including gloves, handbags and scarves. You have to take your hat off to Philip Treacy's skill, for which he received special recognition from the British Fashion Industry - several times he was elected best Accessory Designer of the year.
In 2002 he won the Moet & Chandon award for luxury and exhibited the hats he had made for Isabella Blow in the exhibition "Philip Treacy meets Isabella" at the Design Museum in London. Philip is now taking his aesthetic into new disciplines, using his sculptural forms as a medium for other objects, such as glass wear and furniture.
69 Elizabeth Street, London SW1W 9PJ, UK
Tel: ++44 (0)207 730 3992; Fax:
+44 (0)207 824 8262
* This special feature "Philip Treacy" has been one of more than 200 VIP-Portraits, produced by Nathalie Gütermann for her TV-Shows 'Nathalie's Lifestyle' and 'Nathalie's Art of Living' that were broadcasted between 1990 - 2003 in Germany and in 15 countries world-wide. The content has been updated with actual information in 2004 for Nathalies-Lifestyle.com © 1990 - 2004. The reproduction or other use of any text, photographs, etc. needs the prior written permission of the Chief Publisher.