MAI­SON MICHEL

Priscilla’s World

Prestige Hong Kong - - CONTENTS -

FROM CRE­ATION TO CON­SUMP­TION, THERE’S A UNI­VERSE TO CON­SIDER WHEN IT COMES TO PRISCILLA ROYER’S VI­SION FOR PARISIAN MILLINER MAI­SON MICHEL. ZANETA CHENG DIVES IN TO SEE WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT

To fix any hat of qual­ity – say, it’s a lit­tle wonky here, or gets a deep fold there – you have sim­ply to mas­sage it, says Priscilla Royer, cre­ative di­rec­tor of Mai­son Michel. Mas­sage the hat, work the crease out of the ma­te­rial, and make the form more flex­i­ble so that the shape is no longer bro­ken. “That’s when it be­comes your hat,” she ex­plains. “It’s a bit wob­bly and it gets wonky but it’s re­ally your hat, your head shape, the way you carry it and pinch it at the front. You have to live with the hat in a way. Work with it so it be­comes your own through­out the time that you have it.” Lis­ten­ing to Royer talk hats, there’s an un­der­cur­rent that seems to flow right through the con­ver­sa­tion. Whether it’s about con­sumers or crafts­peo­ple, when Royer dis­cusses hats, she’s re­fer­ring less to the art of millinery than sim­ply talk­ing about let­ting go. As for those who hold on to the idea that they don’t have a head made for hats, Royer is dis­mis­sive. “Ev­ery­one has a hat head,” she says. “It’s a ques­tion of find­ing the right shape, also trust­ing your­self with your style and em­pow­er­ing the whole hat-wear­ing thing.” So what even is a hat head? Royer points to the fe­dora and the cap as sta­ples, but ar­gues that the only hat head is the one to which one’s hat has al­ready ac­cus­tomed it­self – if only the wearer can re­lax his or her pre­con­ceived no­tions that the head is in ser­vice to the hat and em­brace the idea that the op­po­site is the case, and is care­ful to pre­serve the ac­ces­sory’s orig­i­nal shape. “Try hats the way you try sun­glasses,” she says. “Just swap them a lot in front of the mir­ror. Have a bit of fun. You say, ‘Oh, this is me, this is not me,’ and once you stop laugh­ing, that’s when you’re happy about the hat on your head.” Al­though an un­wit­ting teacher, Royer prac­tices what she preaches. Hav­ing trained as a fash­ion de­signer at the pres­ti­gious Stu­dio Berçot in Paris, Royer worked her way up to de­signer at Vivi­enne West­wood be­fore start­ing her own award-win­ning brand with her sis­ter. She then cast that aside to try her hand at millinery, tak­ing over the reins at Chanel’s Métiers d’Art ate­lier, Mai­son Michel. In the three years since, she’s brought a con­tem­po­rary flair to the mai­son’s of­fer, as well as mod­ernising tra­di­tional tech­niques, in­tro­duc­ing men’s lines and, most im­por­tant, ex­pand­ing the idea of what hats can be. “Be­fore I ar­rived, hats were very much as­so­ci­ated with the mu­sic scene – rock ’n’ roll and par­ties,” Royer ex­plains. “When I ar­rived, I in­tro­duced a more ur­ban idea of hat wear­ing, like more caps and bucket hats. I opened the way so that it be­came more about cities than par­ties.

“I wanted hats that would help peo­ple feel great – not just be­cause a celebrity is wear­ing it, but for them to ap­proach the hat in a more per­sonal way that’s rel­e­vant to them­selves. I work more with larger archetypes, like the girly girl or the geeky guy. There’s no muse. I re­ally try to be up to date and to be in re­al­ity. I look at what they need or what they wear or what they could need to wear, say, the beret, which is huge now and very flat­ter­ing.” Why cling to a dream when re­al­ity al­ready holds in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­ity? “You can’t get tired of mak­ing hats. There are al­ways ideas,” Royer says. “One sea­son you can work on PVC plas­tics, an­other on nat­u­ral woollen rib­bons and the hats won’t look the same at all. There’s the fin­ish­ing of the felt you can work on. There’s Panama straw or raf­fia straw and it’s not the same fe­dora at all. The com­bi­na­tions are in­fi­nite.” Spring/sum­mer 2019 ex­plores the depths of the sea and the crea­tures therein, from right at the top down to the very bot­tom, the ocean floor. Light blues, gold and beige mir­ror the re­flec­tion of the sun at the wa­ter’s sur­face. Slightly deeper depths show the corals and aquatic life – fish in all their myr­iad neon colours. Fi­nally, deep sea – rock bot­tom, where it’s pitch black and ma­te­ri­als glis­ten and shine to make them­selves seen, which trans­lates to patent leathers, re­flec­tive rib­bons against dark straws and neo­prene. It’s a medium she’s had free rein to work with, with­out the con­straints of mor­phol­ogy and pat­tern-mak­ing typ­i­cal to fash­ion de­sign. “I was se­duced by the idea that you can fo­cus on ma­te­rial, colours and shapes with­out re­ally think­ing of all the dif­fer­ent things you do in cloth­ing. In a way it’s very fo­cused on the so­ci­o­log­i­cal as­pect – per­son­al­i­ties and style – so it’s more to do with sil­hou­ette, the mes­sage you want to give to the world, the mood of the day. “For hats, you only have a few styles and three sizes, so it makes it easy. There are so many vari­a­tions to the typ­i­cal base­ball cap, beret, boater hat, fe­dora, things like this. And it re­flects ev­ery­one and what makes them dif­fer­ent, spe­cial.” Where she needed to mas­sage a lit­tle was in the ate­lier it­self. Métiers with a legacy of savoir-faire and craft of­ten have dif­fi­culty adapt­ing to the present, be­ing never quite able to dis­card or dis­rupt the tra­di­tional way of cre­at­ing the ob­ject. “I can’t be out of date so I live in the now, but the Mai­son Michel prod­uct is some­thing where you need to con­sider the ar­chive and the crafts­man­ship,” Royer says. “You have to con­sider that the peo­ple who make the hat have an­cient ways of mak­ing the hat, so you have to move slowly with them and make them un­der­stand the world is ac­tu­ally dif­fer­ent. That the way of mak­ing hats be­fore is prob­a­bly not as ap­pro­pri­ate to what we need to­day. “So we’re mov­ing to­wards more sup­ple and flex­i­ble ma­te­rial. We have wa­ter­proof felt for the rain and a [Hat on the Go] that we can roll. It was just out this sum­mer and made from a pa­per straw from Ja­pan – which you ac­tu­ally can roll. You have it in a pouch, it can go in your bag and then you travel with it. We re­ally work to­gether as a team to move for­ward.” At the end of the day, mov­ing for­ward is a mat­ter of com­ing to terms with when to re­lin­quish con­trol and how to pick the right bat­tles. Royer ex­plains, “You have to know that your hat can’t be per­fect for­ever. You have to work with it and if the brim gets a lit­tle bit wob­bly, it’s fine, it’s a part of it. For the ones that need to stay very flat, like the boater hat, we place a spe­cial wire in the brim so it won’t be any trou­ble. But there’s re­ally no need to be too pre­cious.”

THIS PAGE: MOD­ELS IN MAI­SON MICHEL AND ITEMS FROM A/W 2018-19 OP­PO­SITE: PRISCILLA ROYER

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