A heady allure
Hat designer Philip Treacy is famous for his sculptural creations worn by British royals, including Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, and Princess Beatrice. Other clients include music stars Lady Gaga and Madonna, and he’s a favorite of fashion labels Victoria Beckham, Alexander McQueen and Chanel. This year, he collaborated with MAC Cosmetics on a collection of makeup for eyes, lips or cheekbones inspired by three of his hats (maccosmetics.com, $16-$35). We talked to him about his inf luences and how to “decorate your head.”
In addition to being worn by British aristocrats, your designs have also been seen on American celebrities, including actors.
I am really inspired by early Hollywood. Is it the mystery, the intrigue hats created in early Hollywood black-and-white films?
Yes. Well, you know, Hollywood invented our perception of glamour. They knew all the tricks to make people look glamorous and beautiful. So the beauty industry has early Hollywood to be grateful to. What specific ways did early Hollywood inform your hat making? For instance, from my understanding, celebrities would use hats even as anti-agers to veil wrinkles.
Sure, you know, lighting designers in early Hollywood who worked on the movies, they knew how to light hats. All that kind of mystery, and drama, and beauty they portrayed onscreen was exceptional. [Early Hollywood] wasn’t afraid of shadows and darkness. It was much more interesting and much more cinematic, don’t you think? …
Marlene Dietrich did so much for the beauty industry. She taught people how to look good and how to sort of wear clothes, and hats, and makeup. Makeup was crucial to early Hollywood because it helped in the illusion business and that’s what Hollywood was about — creating beautiful images and beauty. All those kind of Clarence Sinclair Bull images, was he MGM’s photographer?
He and the other Hollywood photographers at the time, they changed makeup and gave the world their perception of beauty, and, boy, did it work. It made these people legends and icons. I mean there are contemporary icons who use that in the same way, like maybe Madonna, how she has herself photographed, and other entertainers, but early Hollywood really was the birth of all that… I was very influenced by all those major Hollywood stars from that era because they knew how to wear hats. They themselves were masters of illusion. So they used hats to make themselves look incredible, which is the point of a hat or the point of makeup, really. These hats in the MAC collaboration, what came first, the makeup or the hats? The hats came first, and the silver hat is my version of a very famous Garbo image from when she was making “Mata Hari.” It’s one of my favorite hats in the world ever. I made my version of that hat using rapid prototyping, like 3-D printing. So basically, I made the shape and then I scanned the shape into the computer, and then refined it on the computer. It’s an amazing technique. It’s like “Star Trek”.... The hats brought about the beautiful makeup colors. Were the hats made specifically for the MAC collaboration?
Some were [from the archives], but the black piece I made especially for the shoot. I wanted something to highlight the eye. You look at the piece, but all you really look at is the eye and how beautiful Val Garland’s makeup is, who did the makeup on that day. Each [hat] was chosen to accentuate the cheekbones, or the lips, or the eyes. What hats look best on different face shapes? For example, if you have a round face, what shape of hat looks best on you?
I don’t know the answer to that because a big part of the success of a hat on somebody is its sympathy to the personality of the person. So it’s very difficult to generalize.
Every hat has its own personality and it’s the combination of the hat and the personality of the person that makes the hat great…. A hat is a kind of prop to accentuate your best features. When people try hats on at my studio, it’s important we try lots and lots of different hats on. I can tell immediately what is the best one. You see a lot of millennials wearing hats, at least in the States, particularly casual-style hats. Certain regions and groups in the U.S. have a hat-wearing tradition. Where do you think hats in America are headed?
People do really wear hats, even in America. I have a fantastic audience in America for my hats. So when I travel in America working with the stores I work with, like Neiman Marcus or Saks, the women love the hats but keep saying, “I wish we had somewhere to go in them.”
People since the beginning of time, they’ve always decorated their heads in some way and always will.... The hat is the ultimate glamour accessory.... I’m just trying to preach it to people of the world.
THREE TREACY HATS that inspired the MAC collection, clockwise from top: An Art Deco-inf luenced piece highlights the cheekbones; a pink and green hat calls attention to the lips; and a black lace mask frames the eyes.