Hats are the ultimate fashion expression. You can wear anything, however simple, but put a hat on and it becomes a look. It makes you feel so different and presented, and somehow, that carries you.
The great thing about being a milliner is the freedom. There’s such a wonderful variety of styles and inspiration comes from everywhere. I began making hats while studying at Central Saint Martins in 1976, in the era of punk. It was an extraordinary time, with a movement of likeâ€‘minded young people who didn’t feel represented by what had gone on before and had to find their own way. It was about not being mediocre: You wanted to be extreme. I was drawn to millinery because even though I loved punk, I also wanted to rebel against it in my own way and I realised that the archness of a hat could be as extreme as the archness of Johnny Rotten’s sneer.
Being part of a group of creative friends (known as the Blitz Kids) affected the work I was doing. In a way, we were competitive, but we were also very supportive of one another. If director John Maybury had a film opening, we would all think it was our duty to turn up; if Cerith Wyn Evans had an art opening, we had to be there; if BodyMap was doing a fashion show, we would go and help with it.
My greatest muses back then were people I made hats for: Diana, Princess of Wales, and the New Romantics—Boy George, Annie Lennox, Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet. Nowadays, I look to the Duchess of Sussex—an inspirational person who wears hats beautifully—and Rihanna, who has such a sense of fun.
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