JOURNALISM

Prestige | Runway | MILLINERS | Spring/Summer 2013

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AHEAD OF THE FIELD

With Royal Ascot just three months away, London's young milliners look as though they’re already odds-on favourites. ALISON CATCHPOLE celebrates their individuality and innovation.
 

PIERS ATKINSON

This year, Atkinson celebrates his 10th anniversary as a milliner. With humour as one of his trademarks — Vogue Nippon’s Anna Dello Russo is a fan of his oversized “cherries” headband — it’s no surprise to learn that his brand philosophy is to “push boundaries politely”.


What attracted you to millinery?

 

My mother is a milliner, so I know what hats are about, and then one of my first jobs in London was doing PR for Zandra Rhodes, so I learned a lot about fashion from her. After I’d been working at London Fashion Week for quite a few years, I plucked up the courage to design a small collection of my own.


What’s the place of the hat in the modern wardrobe?

 

Our hats are for showing off in; we make great party hats. For indoors or busy parties we make small hats with the trim up on top so our customer can move easily and confidently. The larger ones are for outdoor events: summer garden parties or, of course, the races.


What’s the best way to store a hat?

 

Lots of my pieces are actually on hairbands so they’re tougher and don’t crush like some of the others. The best way to revitalise a hat and trim is to waft it over some steam and it should, with any luck, spring back into shape.

Did you do anything special for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee?

 

We made some hats for the fabulous Princesses of York for the Jubilee celebrations; they looked wonderful.


What have been the defining moments in your career?

 

Seeing my first editorial in Vogue and my work becoming part of the permanent collection at the V&A Museum. We also just did a fantastic project with Showstudio online, the pioneering live media website.

 

J SMITH ESQUIRE

Smith — known as Justin — is a graduate of the Royal College of Art (where he now also teaches) and has a reputation for creating edgy yet timeless couture pieces.


What attracted you to millinery?

It was a natural progression for me to move into millinery. I used to do lots of avant-garde shows within my hairdressing career, so when I opened my own salon, I started to make a few hats.


What’s the place of the hat in the modern wardrobe?

Hats are very important for anybody who wants to complete a style; you can transform a look with the change of a hat. They’re fun, practical and can be that cherry on the top.

 

How have modern techniques and equipment changed what a milliner can achieve?

My work and techniques as a milliner are very much based around the traditional — that’s what I love. The challenge for me is to keep these long-running techniques alive, but continue pushing the boundaries, in technique and in aesthetic. I love taking a traditional style and twisting it to create something new and unexpected.

 

What’s the best way to store a hat?

I have all my hats on coat hooks on the wall; I love looking at them and choosing which one to wear for the day. When travelling, wearing it is always the best way, or invest in a nice hatbox. People will always be intrigued, and it makes a great talking point. Also, I make great fold-up hats.

 

What have been the defining moments in your career?

Selling a piece of my work to The Museum at FIT in New York would definitely be one; showing at the V&A’s Fashion in Motion would be another.

 


MISA HARADA


The Japanese milliner, based in West London’s Notting Hill, designed the veil for Jennifer Aniston’s wedding to Brad Pitt and counts Mickey Rourke, Britney Spears, The Scissor Sisters, The Rolling Stones and Janet Jackson among her clients.


What’s the place of the hat in the modern wardrobe?

I see the hat as a must-have item to finish your outfit.


How much of your work is still traditional?

Almost everything we do at Misa Harada millinery is still very traditional. Each hat is hand-finished at our studio in London and our customers appreciate this. As for our commercial lines, I work closely with our manufacturer to improve performance. For example, our spring/summer 2013 soft hats are all foldable so they can be carried in bags.


What’s the best way to store a hat?

Fragile pieces should be wrapped in tissue paper. I travel with an actual drum case to enable me to carry five or six hats. I can also check it in when I fly.


How do you develop your sources of inspiration into something that hits the shop floor?

I always seem to develop a kind of obsession or a feeling for the coming collection and I try to execute it in detail. This can mean be a long journey of soul-searching until I’m confident with it.


Where are your favourite places to go in London?

I love my neighbourhood restaurants and shops in Notting Hill, and the Tate Modern.


What have been your defining career moments?

Making a wedding veil for Jennifer Aniston was very exciting. It’ll be great if I get to make the next one.

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