THE MAD MILLINER
Philip Treacy is one of the most talked about milliners of modern day and with Royal Ascot just around a corner you can be sure a Philip Treacy headpiece will once again take centre stage.
Artist, milliner, genius, mentalist, whatever you think of Philip Treacy OBE there is no
denying his success and influence in the fantastical headwear world.
Adored by the elite of the celebrity world, Treacy’s creations have been worn by everyone from Grace Jones to Victoria Beckham, Lady Gaga, to Naomi Campbell and of course Princess Beatrice for the royal wedding and Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, his hats are not just hats… They’re masterpieces!
Born in County Galaway, Ireland on the 26th of May 1967, Phillip Treacy was the second
youngest to a family of eight children. The family home sat across the road from the village church and as a small child, Treacy would watch the wedding celebrations come and go from the church. “They were the equivalent of a fashion shows to me. The dresses that people wore, I couldn’t believe them, they were incredible. It seemed so glamorous to see these creatures appear in these extraordinary clothes, as we didn’t have much glamour where I come from”
Treacy’s love affair with textiles began at the tender age of five whilst at school boys did woodwork and the girls sewed and I thought ‘Why can’t I do that? In the family home he would use his mother’s sewing machine to make his sister’s doll dresses knowing that if he was ever caught he would be in a lot of trouble.
However surprisingly his father stated “if it makes him happy leave him!” In 1985 he moved to Dublin to study fashion at the National College of Art & Design, where he took a summer job with Stephen Jones in London before winning a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, in London in 1988 there he specialized in hat design, fashioning his first efforts from bits and pieces picked up in local flea markets.
While a student he started to work with established designers such as Rifat Ozbek, John Galliano and Victor Edelstein. Graduating from the Royal College with first class honours in 1990, Treacy set up a workshop in the basement of Isabella Blow’s house on Elizabeth Street Belgravia. Isabella or Issie at that time was the style editor of Tatler magazine and was to become a huge influence in the meteoric rise of Treacy.
In 1991 the young designer established his own company, Philip Treacy ltd, and was summoned to Paris to meet Karl Lagerfeld, chief designer at Chanel. “I was 23 and I’d just left school, I didn’t know whether to call him Mr Lagerfeld or whatever. I was totally intimidated but Issie was exactly herself. She just walked into the house of Chanel and said: We’d like some tea please.” Philip went on to design hats for Lagerfeld at Chanel for ten years. The first hat he designed was the twisted birdcage, photographed by Patrick Demarchelier and worn on the cover of British Vogue by Linda Evangelista. Treacy won his first British Fashion Council award as British Accessory Designer of the year.
In 1993 Treacy 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 his first professional fashion show shows in New York in 1997 and 1999 followed and since then he has gone on to show once a year the autumn / winter collections both in London and in New York.
Obsessive or not, Treacy creations are unique and in demand from the elaborate,constructed and surreal – to the spaceage hennins and face-framing curlicues that he has made for the singer and his long-term friend Grace Jones, to the Daliesque galleons, Pop Art and trompe l’oeils favoured by the style set.
Everyone wants one and with Royal Ascot just around the corner I am sure the newspapers will once again be filled with images of his wonderful creations.
His illustrious fashion career has included 10 years of creations for Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel Haute Couture, sculptural hats for Alexander McQueen’s White Haute Couture collection at Givenchy in Paris, and designs for Ralph Lauren, Valentino, Rifat Ozbek and Donna Karan. Treacy has also made his mark in the movie and music world designing hats for films including the Harry Potter series as well Sarah Jessica Parker’s whimsical headpiece for the film première of Sex and the City. His statement making pieces are the headwear of choice for the likes of Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Elizabeth Hurley.