Couture millinery is having a moment. With a new focus on individuality and elegant dressing, headwear has found itself back in the spotlight, with the trend shifting away from small delicate pieces towards bolder structured designs.
Here, Elite speaks with milliners Misa Harada and Sarah Cant about the recent rise of the traditional craft as both occasion and everyday wear, followed by a sneak peek at some of the most exciting millinery collections for Spring/Summer 2014.
Just what is it that is so captivating about millinery? If you’ve ever seen Grace Jones command the mic stand in a Swarovski crystal encrusted Philip Treacy bowler, then you probably already know.
As London based designer Sarah Cant, HNC in Millinery Director at Kensington and Chelsea College, puts it: “Hats do something. They’re the reason why fashion designers who don’t even sell hats will use them on the catwalk. Because they lengthen the line out and they sell the clothes.”
“The joy for me as a milliner is that you have the curve of the head, which is the size of the palm of the hand and then anything can happen on top of that; anything above that. It’s very exciting,” she adds.
Of course, in everyday life, even the most sophisticated fashionista may have little use for the kind of outrageous creations that music icon Jones sports (as recently featured in ‘Philip Treacy’ by Kevin Davies (Phaidon, USD$59.95), a book charting Treacy’s rise in glorious technicolored images).
Nonetheless, the popularity of couture millinery is growing, thanks in part to widespread media coverage of the hat-loving members of Britain’s Royal Family and fashion embracing popstars such as Lady Gaga.
Global milliner Misa Harada, who has dressed the heads of pop icons Britney and Janet and worked with everyone from Thierry Mugler to Yohji Yamamoto, concurs. “I think it’s obviously the interest in young royals, from Kate Middleton to the princesses. They look pretty in hats and also they get a lot of press coverage and the Queen, the Jubilee – all that sort of thing encouraged British millinery.”
Indeed the UK and London are right at the heart of this growing trend. Millinery has a long and impressive history in Britain, thanks to its taste for formal occasion wear.
As Cant notes: “I think the UK generally still has quite a love of dressing up and the ritual of dressing up. When you have occasions, there’s a real desire – and maybe a nostalgia – for other times when hats were worn more.”
These social calendar highlights – from the races at Ascot, to weddings and summer garden parties – are the ideal setting for Cant’s eye-catching sculptural pieces, which are imbued with a sense of simple elegance and refinement.
Harada’s philosophy on the other hand, is that there is no occasion unsuited to a chic and sexy hat; so long as it complements your entire look.
“For me, wearability is the most important thing,” she explains. “You should feel special by wearing my hats and if you can wear them almost all the time, then that’s great.”
Of course while it may have British roots, it’s not just within the UK that the recent trend for designer headwear is exploding; it’s a certified global phenomenon.
“It’s very nice to see the world of millinery bubbling away quite vigorously at the moment and that does mean a spreading out across the globe,” says Cant. “It’s really good to now see some London department stores carrying American designers. And someone like Misa Harada, who is spanning the globe very successfully.”
So what trends can we expect to see for Spring Summer ‘14 and beyond? Both designers agree that, for the forthcoming season, it’s either ‘go big or go home’.
“We’ve had so much of people wearing fascinators,” says Harada, “and I think it’s people reacting against that really. The hats are getting bigger and a bit more dramatic. Statement hats, with more colors and shapes.”
“Millinery is having quite a good moment,” adds Cant. “It will never be what it was 70 years ago, because we aren’t how we were 70 years ago.
“You know, we have a much more casual lifestyle. But I do think compared to the 1990s, when a lot of milliners struggled, it’s actually very very healthy and I think there is a real taste for elegant dressing.”
Read on to discover some of the best millinery collections for SS14, from both established and up-and-coming design talents.