Milliner Philip Treacy has always existed in a lovely protected bubble of fashion eccentricity, or so it seemed. Creating hats for his muse and even landlady (he used to live in her basement while he was getting started) – Isabella Blow, plus catwalk shows and attending genteel fashion soirees by night. ‘Controversial’ would hardly be an adjective you would use in relation to him. Then Prince William decided to make an honest woman of Kate Middleton, as was, and before you could say “head octopus” all hat hell had broken loose. Princess Beatrice’s beige Treacy creation with its wibbly wobble protuberances drew almost universal mocking and condemnation, and the whole saga culminated with a facebook frenzy and the sale of the offending hat on eBay for £80k, (Phew!) So how did the milliner feel about the reaction?
‘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.’ He told The Observer yesterday.
And went on . . . ‘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.’
You tell ‘em Philip! He then went on to recall a fascinating story about the time he met the Queen, who is of course a stalwart hat-wearer. ‘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."’
God Bless you ma’am. And what of the other ladies in his fashionable life, like his mentor, Isabella Blow?
‘Isabella belonged to the '20's – 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 . . . She invented me. We were like Bill and Bert. I made the hats, she wore them…’ He explained how it came to be that Isabella was buried with a Philip Treacy hat on her coffin; ‘[It was] 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…’
And one last eccentric hat wearing lady? Surely he has something to say about his most infamous contemporary customer, Lady Gaga?
‘She plans to [come and do an internship at Philip Treacy]. 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?"
Surely Gaga is Phillip’s match!
- Naomi Attwood