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July 30 2012

Hats on: London statues get makeover

Hatwalk has millinery stars including Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones design headgear for famous sculptures around the capital

It was in the dead of night that 21 hats were placed on some of London's best known statues in, organisers cheerfully agree, one of the more wacky arts events to take place this summer.

By Monday morning, two were missing: the baseball hat from Shakespeare in Leicester Square was thought stolen while Beau Brummell in Jermyn Street had his multicoloured turban removed by Westminster city council cleaners.

The setbacks hardly dimmed the enthusiasm for an event described by the deputy mayor for education and culture, Munira Mirza, as one of many "bonkers, mad, wacky" things happening in London as part of a project called Surprises.

The surprise in this case was seeing a fetching Philip Treacy number on Sir Henry Havelock in Trafalgar Square, a Spam-themed hat on Franklin D Roosevelt in New Bond Street, and a giant orange fedora on Francis, Duke of Bedford, in Russell Square.

Curated by millinery superstars Treacy and Stephen Jones, a total of 21 emerging and established designers took part. A "hatwalk" trail has been created from the Duke of Wellington near Hyde Park in the west of the city, to the Duke of Wellington outside the Bank of England in the Square Mile.

Some might say it is disrespectful to put on General Sir Charles Napier a hat which would not look out of place during Ladies' Day at Ascot. "Yes, that is something we were absolutely conscious of and one has to be very careful," said Jones. But he said the Olympic opening ceremony, with the parachuting Queen, had shown this country's talent for both showing respect and not taking things too seriously.

Jones admitted his first reaction on hearing of the project was: "Oh Lordy!" He added: "But then I thought what a fantastic idea. It is a bit like the arrogance of youth – what you don't know can't kill you."

Organisers had to get a myriad of permissions to stage the event. "In retrospect, we had no idea of the complexity and the problems we were going to face," said Jones, who created a Brighton Pavilion-themed hat for George IV.

It is not yet known what will happen to Shakespeare in Leicester Square, whose baseball hat, designed by Paul Bernstock and Thelma Speirs, was stolen in the early hours of the morning.

Would-be thieves will have more of a job trying to get the most out-of-reach hat in the project, the union flag and Olympic torch-inspired bicorn on Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square. It has been created by the company which made his original hat, Lock & Co. Chairman Nigel Lock Macdonald said: "Locks are very proud of their history and making another hat for Nelson over 200 years after we made the original has been an unexpected honour."

The hats will – hopefully – stay in place for four days before being auctioned off for charity. The Hatwalk event was commissioned by the Mayor of London and is part of the London 2012 festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad.


guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds




July 09 2011

Philip Treacy

The milliner to the stars talks about the royal wedding, Isabella Blow and Lady Gaga wanting an internship…

You are collaborating with Tate Liverpool to curate Conversation Pieces, about art that has inspired you. How much has painting influenced your hat-making?

Totally – you need to know about the past to work in the future. I like futurism but I also love exquisite, beautiful things. We are all art historians. Tate wanted me to curate an exhibition from their archive – but I stretched it a bit. I would go to someone's house and ask: can I borrow that? And I'd leave with a £1m Damien Hirst that looked like black sugar and turned out to be black flies in a frame. I love Damien Hirst. And Andy Warhol. And I have some personal pieces in the show, too, like an 1850s sleigh from Russia that I bought from Sotheby's – it is my Ferrari – with old Russian shoes in the back of it.

How many painted hats are in the show?

None – but there are three photos of hats. [He points to a black-and-white Stephen Meisel photograph of Isabella Blow, his great friend, model and muse, who killed herself in 2007. She is wearing a horsehair helmet.] Meisel made her look incredible – like a 1920s Lartigue. Isabella belonged to the 20s – we were lucky to have her in the 21st century. When have you ever heard of someone in the fashion business having a heart? She was fun, unbureaucratic, generous. And she had a good heart. She introduced me to everything I know.

You must miss her…

Yes – every day. She invented me. We were like Bill and Bert. I made the hats, she wore them…

And didn't she have one of your hats on her coffin?

A pheasant hat. Isabella believed a good funeral is like a great wedding. But when you go, you go. You only go once. She loved this pheasant. She said: "I want to be buried in it." So we buried her in it…

Does a person carry off a hat or a hat carry off a person?

A person carries off the hat. Hats are about emotion. It is all about how it makes you feel. I like hats that make the heart beat faster.

Were you hurt by the rude things said about the hat you designed for Princess Beatrice at the royal wedding (turkey twizzler, lavatory seat, pretzel)?

I felt hurt for her. She is only 22 and there was a little bit of bullying going on. I didn't give a fuck about 140,000 bloggers. In the future, we'll look back and think she looked wild.

Is a hat's design dictated by a person's character?

Of course – Princess Beatrice is Queen Victoria's great, great, great, great granddaughter and looks like Queen Victoria. I thought of her as a beautiful, exotic, Victorian doll. I thought I was making a hat with a bow on it.

The wedding was the Philip Treacy show with more than 30 of your hats - what did you think of the wedding?

I hadn't slept for three days but it was incredible – a populist moment of emotion. I couldn't be more Irish but I celebrate Britishness through hats. When I met the Queen, at a design evening at Buckingham Palace, she asked: "What do you do?" "I make hats, ma'am." She said: "Am I the only person who wears a hat these days?" And I said: "Ma'am, you have kept hats alive in the imagination of people all over the world." When you meet the Queen, you are not supposed to ask questions. But I thought: what the hell. So I looked her in the eye and said: "Ma'am, do you enjoy wearing hats?" And she stood back and said: "It is part of the uniform."

You were famous for your dog, the late Mr Pig. You wouldn't be without a Jack Russell, would you?

Jack Russells are the most interesting "people". Now I have Archie and TJ. I bought this miniature Jack Russell and called him Tiny James. But he started unexpectedly to grow and grow and now looks like a goat. He's gorgeous.

Is it true Lady Gaga wants to do an internship with you?

She plans to. She's already visited me. This is what happened: one Monday morning, four burly bodyguards arrived – Lady Gaga's security team – to check out the security of the building. I looked at them as if to say: what?! Who is going to take a pot shot at Lady Gaga? Anyway, she is young, talented and peculiar – which I like. The Brit awards were the next night and she said to her people (I loved this): "Can somebody buy me some brown underwear for tomorrow?"

Let us go to the village of Ahascragh in County Galway where you were born and, aged six, started sewing. What did you sew?

At home, I had seven brothers, one sister. I sewed clothes for my sister's dolls although she was grown and gone away. I was a weirdo but didn't think I was a weirdo…

Did you know, as a child, you were gay?

Of course. You know. It is nature not nurture.

The Irish have got something special. What is it?

Romance. I love the romance of what I do, although because of Isabella, Lady Gaga and Grace Jones, people think I have crazy customers. Sometimes I get more enthusiasm from the housewife who wants a hat and believes in it.

But you get enthusiasm from the stars too…

A couple of years ago, I got a phone call: would Mr Treacy make a hatpin for Elizabeth Taylor? I said: "Might Miss Taylor like a hat to go with the hatpin?" and the answer was: yes. I went to see her at the Dorchester. I didn't know whether I was going to be dealing with a very tricky person but she was a sweetheart. I thought it would be entertaining to do a hat show on her in her room – because, after all, she is an old lady. I tried 25 hats on her. She kept saying: "Which hat can I have"? And at the end I said: "You can have them all." I gave her 25 hats. She said: "I must do something for you in return." But I'd got my return just by hanging out with her.

And you just did the hats for Kate Moss's wedding…

For her mother and mother-in-law. Kate Moss's hair is her hat. I love Kate Moss. Fashion is about illusion and Kate is a brilliant illusionist. People think these people are nightmares but she has goodness – as does David Beckham. We read bullshit about people. My favourite thing about my job is that I get to make up my own mind. "Monsters" often turn out to be the nicest people.

Conversation Pieces, co-curated by Philip Treacy, is at Tate Liverpool from Friday until 19 August


guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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