Talks Top Hats at Royal Events!

Upscale Living Magazine - - Features - | By An­gela Sara West

Celebrity Mill­ner Talks Top Hats at Royal Events! An­gela Sarah West

The Beckhams were there, the Clooneys, too… and the bride was be­ing called “the most pow­er­ful wo­man in fash­ion”… As Royal wed­ding hype reached fever pitch across the globe, An­gela Sara West chat­ted with celebrity milliner and de­signer ex­traor­di­naire, Louis Mariette, who com­mented on the Royal wed­ding for NBC, about break­ing fash­ion bound­aries, splurg­ing on Swarovski, and what’s hot in hats and head­pieces for the wed­ding and rac­ing sea­son.

Famed for his fab­u­lous fas­ci­na­tors, be­spoke hats, and sen­sa­tional be­jew­elled head­pieces, he’s known for cre­at­ing the most ex­pen­sive hat ever made and de­signs for fa­mous faces, in­clud­ing Joan Collins, Kate Moss and Lady Gaga.

As the of­fi­cial milliner of count­less quintessen­tially English events, he’s not only adorned celebri­ties and su­per­mod­els with his deca­dent de­signs for opu­lent oc­ca­sions on the so­cial cal­en­dar, but also co-hosted the BBC’s coverage of 300 years of Royal As­cot. He’s lent his cre­ative cre­den­tials and flam­boy­ant fash­ion wis­dom to Bri­tain’s Next Top Model, too, in his role as a judge on Liv­ing TV’s hit model mak­ing show.

Based at his ate­lier in Hert­ford­shire, Eng­land, the iconic milliner has been break­ing bound­aries with his fab­u­lous de­signs for over a decade. The self-taught milliner is much in de­mand by brides, celebri­ties and lead­ing brands, in­clud­ing Air Part­ner Lear­jets, the Plat­inum Guild, Swarovski, Boucheron, Links and Rolls Royce.

Spe­cial­is­ing in “mag­i­cal, fan­tas­ti­cal and ex­u­ber­ant” be­spoke cre­ations, Louis is a firm favourite with the fash­ion press, of­fer­ing a ready-to-wear and bridal col­lec­tion of hair ac­ces­sories and hats which cap­ture his play­ful and cre­ative, yet el­e­gant, spirit. Whether for a wed­ding, a high-so­ci­ety party, or sim­ply an every­day ac­ces­sory, Louis’ ex­tra­or­di­nary haute cou­ture cre­ations in­spire an in­stant sense of ex­cite­ment, with head­pieces that are sim­ply out-of-this-world. His al­lur­ing be­jew­elled col­lec­tion com­prises a show­stop­ping ar­ray of hand­made state­ment pieces adorned with ex­quis­ite crys­tals in­spired by na­ture, in­cor­po­rat­ing beau­ti­ful flo­ral and wildlife de­signs, while his ready-to-wear iconic hats ex­ude the glam­ourous beauty of the past, uniquely de­signed to in­spire a wo­man’s in­ner el­e­gance.

Style, el­e­gance, glam­our… Wel­come to the won­der­ful world of Louis Mariette!


Louis’ pas­sion for fash­ion and de­sign be­gan at an early age. Born in Malawi, he grew up in Botswana and Swazi­land, and his ex­otic South­ern African child­hood has hugely in­flu­enced his work. With na­ture as his play­ground, Louis en­joyed ex­plor­ing the flora and fauna, col­lect­ing semi-pre­cious stones, seed­pods, cac­tus flow­ers and beads and trim­mings from lo­cal tribes. The de­light­ful pal­ette of colours and tex­tures pre­sented by in Africa’s wildlife is brought to life through the ex­otic el­e­gance of his in­cred­i­ble de­signs.

“My child­hood in Africa con­sisted of a myr­iad of daz­zling in­sects, birdlife, ex­otic flora and fauna. Un­be­known to me, this was the cat­a­lyst of an over­ac­tive mind and plays a piv­otal role in my de­signs to­day. I love the free­dom to ex­press!”

Louis’ love of travel takes him all over the world, where he sources hand-em­broi­dered fab­rics, an­tique em­bel­lish­ments, por­cu­pine quills, feath­ers, hand-

dipped painted resin flow­ers and semi-pre­cious stones. He draws in­spi­ra­tion from unique des­ti­na­tions. “I have been ex­cep­tion­ally priv­i­leged as I have been to some un­usual lo­ca­tions. I was once in the re­mote Hi­malayan king­dom of Bhutan. I was in­vited to some rare fes­ti­vals very rarely wit­nessed by Western­ers. The headwear and cos­tumes were stun­ning, with un­usual tech­niques used, such as braid­ing wool into hand­wo­ven fab­rics. It was very fas­ci­nat­ing and in­trigu­ing.”


Louis’ il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer kicked off in ho­tel man­age­ment be­fore he be­gan a party and wed­ding plan­ning busi­ness. His first show as a de­signer, com­mis­sioned by renowned stylist Michael Dye, was in Mi­lan. The rest, as they say, is hat his­tory…

Louis’ tal­ent, charisma and in­fec­tious joie de vivre has since cap­tured the imag­i­na­tions of top stylists and cre­ative di­rec­tors, with his de­signs grac­ing the pages of fash­ion shoots and adorn­ing the win­dows of Har­rods and Swarovski. His ex­cep­tional pieces have been ex­hib­ited at The New York Public Li­brary, dec­o­rated the mod­els on for­mer Lon­don Mayor Ken Liv­ing­stone’s of­fi­cial visit to In­dia, and made ap­pear­ances at count­less high-so­ci­ety events, while de­signer col­lab­o­ra­tions have seen him work­ing with Man­ish Arora, Qasimi and Ni­c­hole de Carle.

Louis is glob­ally-renowned for cre­at­ing the world’s most ex­pen­sive hat. Com­mis­sioned by Har­rods, the stun­ning £1.5m Cha­peau d’Amour is made from rare plat­inum and studded with di­a­monds. “It was made out of love, an as­pi­ra­tion to chal­lenge my­self and cre­ative ex­pres­sion. It got attention, so I guess it was an im­por­tant role for my millinery.”

How does it feel to have be­come a go-to brand? “I never view my­self in such a way. When you have a busi­ness, it is like a cher­ished tree you want to see grow, and with this came a few un­ex­pected op­por­tu­ni­ties and fan­tas­tic life ex­pe­ri­ences. This in­cluded be­ing in­vited to

No. 10 Down­ing Street, when the Blairs and Camerons were in office.”

With a dis­cern­ing eye for de­tail which is sec­ond-to-none, Louis’ de­signs are the epit­ome of el­e­gance and per­fec­tion. How does it feel to have worked along­side some of the world’s most pres­ti­gious names? “If your brands can com­ple­ment each other then it makes sense to col­lab­o­rate. I once stitched a Boucheron jew­ellery col­lec­tion into a head­piece. I was as­signed an el­e­gant room to work in, com­plete with a body­guard. I never was too sure if it was to keep in­trud­ers out or to keep me in!!!”

His favourite fash­ion shows and de­sign­ers? “The first time I saw an Arka­dius show with all the drama was won­der­ful, and I love the re­fined el­e­gance and calm­ness of the De­signer Wed­ding Show in Bat­tersea in Lon­don.”

Louis has many style icons. “What draws my pas­sion are ladies who have made the most of their public sta­tus by help­ing, or rais­ing aware­ness of, is­sues. Queen Ra­nia of Jor­dan… An­gelina Jolie… Lily Cole…”

“There are many ladies I would adore to de­sign for. I love the pos­i­tive en­ergy of Kylie Minogue, the tal­ented ac­tress Kristin Scott Thomas, the stat­uesque Nicole Kid­man, Thandie New­ton and the avant-garde Tilda Swin­ton.”

His favourite cre­ation? “Prob­a­bly the Princess Nep­tune hat en­crusted with scal­lop shells. This was sub­merged un­der­wa­ter and pho­tographed by Zena Hol­loway at the gi­ant wa­ter tank at Pinewood Stu­dios where a Bond scene was filmed!”


In-de­mand milliner Louis is a su­per­model’s dream. He has de­signed for nu­mer­ous fa­mous fash­ion faces, cre­at­ing be­spoke mas­ter­pieces for Kate Moss, Jerry Hall and Jodie Kidd. “Jodie was so easy-go­ing. I did chuckle to my­self as through­out the shoot she was drip­ping in hun­dreds of thou­sands of cou­ture dresses, jew­ellery and ac­ces­sories. How­ever, the high­light of her day was when a de­liv­ery ar­rived con­sist­ing of a new pair of her polo boots. Once a horse lover, for­ever one!”

Talk­ing of horses for cour­ses, as the of­fi­cial milliner for The In­vestec Ep­som Derby in

2011, Louis fash­ioned a beau­ti­ful hat for British su­per­model, Erin O’Con­ner, who was the face of the ar­che­typal English rac­ing event. His cus­tom­made cre­ation for the oc­ca­sion was based on the lilac-breasted roller bird, one of his favourites in Botswana.

Now busy cre­at­ing hats for the wed­ding and eques­trian sea­son, which high-so­ci­ety events is he most look­ing for­ward to? “Year after year, I de­sign for the Royal En­clo­sure at Royal As­cot – more de­tails soon! Cartier is al­ways a lovely event, re­laxed and so­phis­ti­cated and un­pre­ten­tious. I have never done Hen­ley… time to get a boater on head and Pimm’s in hand!”

Fresh off TV screens, where he com­mented on the Royal wed­ding for NBC’s Megyn Kelly To­day pro­gramme, Louis was burst­ing at the seams with ex­cite­ment dur­ing THE event of the year. “The Royal wed­ding was millinery eye candy!!! I am a great be­liever of the Roy­als and what they do for char­i­ties and the rich his­tory that we have in this coun­try. Of course, the millinery in­dus­try they sup­port is fan­tas­tic.”

“Meghan was the luck­i­est lady in the world as Her Majesty gen­er­ously opened her private col­lec­tion of tiara jew­ellery to adorn her for the big day, lend­ing her Queen Mary’s di­a­mond ban­deau tiara. Imag­ine the his­tory every piece has… It was a great day for Bri­tain and Amer­ica and, of course, a spe­cial day the world could watch. I wish them both well - they are the per­fect match!”


Cur­rently work­ing his mar­vel­lous Mariette magic on his amaz­ing an­nual As­cot hat, what does Louis think the Queen will wear at this year’s rac­ing event? “Her Majesty favours hats with a high crown and small brim, which are very much ap­pre­ci­ated by press pho­tog­ra­phers as you can see her won­der­ful fea­tures. Much time goes into cus­tomis­ing and co­or­di­nat­ing the colour pal­ette of the hat and out­fit. It’s al­ways re­fresh­ing to see her and such a high­light as she al­ways gets her en­sem­ble spot-on per­fect!!!”


With the wed­ding sea­son in full swing, what should brides-to-be and their guests be look­ing to wear head­piece and hat-wise on THEIR big day?

“When it comes to brides, my be­jew­elled head­pieces in frosted crys­tals are the el­e­gant un­der­stated way to look grace­ful walk­ing down the aisle. Ei­ther with or with­out a veil, and the head­piece per­fectly coif­fured with a hair de­sign, it is a mem­o­rable piece to own. My choice of millinery are cock­tail hats with unique dec­o­ra­tive em­bel­lish­ments. The main rea­son be­ing that ladies spend a lot of time, pas­sion and money on their hair. There­fore, the syn­ergy of hat and hair is a ‘bon mar­riage’.”


What’s hot in hats and head­pieces? “Head­bands are the rage. Es­pe­cially when made with semi-pre­cious stones within in­tri­cate jew­ellery cre­ations. They are pop­u­lar be­cause you can ac­ces­sorise them with both cou­ture out­fits and ca­su­al­wear for both day and evening­wear. Hats don’t fol­low trends as much as main fash­ion. Milliners tend to create from a mood and feel­ing that they are ex­press­ing at the moment. Each cre­ation is unique, I love that as­pect.”


· Don’t be a shrink­ing vi­o­let; a hat is the most prom­i­nent ac­ces­sory so let it be an ex­ten­sion of your per­son­al­ity.

· If you visit a hat de­part­ment, staff are there to as­sist and they know their job. Take their ad­vice on the cre­ation that is fram­ing your look well, the an­gle that flat­ters, along with com­pli­ment­ing colours. Take your time un­til you feel the de­sign is for you and try on as many as pos­si­ble.

· Most ladies think hats don’t suit them. To­tally not true. When you put on “the” one, you will know in­stantly that it be­longs to you!


The highly-ac­claimed hat-maker rel­ishes push­ing the bound­aries of his craft, de­scrib­ing his style as “Ro­man­tic, el­e­gant, es­capist and avant-garde.” Un­usual em­bel­lish­ments are his favourite ma­te­ri­als to work with. “Semi­precious stones, ob­jects that I have per­son­ally sourced around the world… they are my love and ex­plor­ing for them is such a thrill. I once found gi­ant snail shells from a palm for­est on Bird Is­land that I used on a head­piece that Alec Wek wore.”

His ubiq­ui­tous use of Swarovski crys­tals adds high-spir­ited sparkle to his show­stop­ping pieces. “Swarovski crys­tals are ob­jects of infinite beauty and clar­ity, de­liv­er­ing a kalei­do­scope of colours that bring my Louis Mariette be­jew­elled head­pieces to life. The light re­flects and il­lu­mi­nates these in­tri­cate­ly­cut crys­tals, mak­ing them per­fect for the most cut­ting-edge cat­walk.”


This im­pres­sive hat-maker to the stars has fea­tured in nu­mer­ous high-end pub­li­ca­tions, in­clud­ing Vogue, Van­ity Fair and Tatler, and has also starred as a TV judge on Bri­tain’s Next Top Model, along­side model-turnedTV pre­sen­ter, Lisa Snow­don, and for­mer su­per­model, Huggy Rag­n­ers­son.

“Be­ing a judge on Bri­tain’s Next Top Model was so ex­cit­ing and fun! I al­ways tried to mo­ti­vate the girls to stay on top of their dream and reach their goals by stay­ing pos­i­tive, no mat­ter what! It was an emo­tional roller­coaster of fab­u­lous­ness, out­ra­geous­ness, gor­geous­ness, tantrums, di­vas, cat­fights and amaz­ing fash­ion. If I could bot­tle all this up, I would have a hit per­fume! It was a mag­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence that I cher­ish and I am grate­ful to have had such an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity.”

He says the show was a jour­ney of learn­ing about the mag­nif­i­cent en­ergy and pos­i­tive en­thu­si­asm the girls had for mak­ing a ca­reer for them­selves. “It was full of joy, laugh­ter and tears every day, as you saw girls get­ting closer to their dreams. What I wasn’t ex­pect­ing was the emo­tion I would feel when the evic­tions ar­rived. I guess they all knew the deal, but it still came as a blow.”

“What also gave me my cre­ative adren­a­line was meet­ing the huge tal­ent out there from de­sign­ers, pho­tog­ra­phers, makeup artists, hair stylists… you name it. As well as be­ing flown to Ar­gentina, one of my highlights was when they recre­ated the un­der­wa­ter shoot. I was both ex­cited but ter­ri­bly ner­vous watching each girl sub­merge into the wa­ter, be­ing given only one shot to get it right. You need nerves of steel, and trust me, it is so much harder than it looks!”

Louis also fea­tured on Chan­nel 5 TV’s How The Other Half Live, where Ea­monn Holmes and Ruth Langs­ford ex­plored the lifestyles of the su­per­rich and show­cased Louis’ much-loved Cha­peau d’Amour. “Firstly, be­ing el­e­vated high up in the Shard in the Shangri-La ho­tel Pent­house is a treat. Be­ing trapped in a pent­house with Ruth Holmes is like hav­ing your feet tick­led! She is out­ra­geously fun and a true pro­fes­sional.”


Along with spec­tac­u­lar headwear, Louis de­signs unique jew­ellery. “I be­gin the process my­self by hand draw­ing a very tech­ni­cal de­sign. As the cre­ation is pro­duced by my team, they have to know each crys­tal style, colour shade and colour of plat­ing. The pieces are made and I give the fi­nal okay on de­sign be­fore it goes to plat­ing. The only op­por­tu­nity to ad­just, it is a cru­cial stage as the items are in their “raw” state be­fore crys­tals and plat­ing are ap­plied. After this, there is a qual­ity con­trol check, stress test­ing and the crys­tals are metic­u­lously pol­ished.”


With sev­eral ex­cit­ing projects in the pipe­line, what has been the high­light of this in­spir­ing milliner’s amaz­ing ca­reer so far? “Be­ing awarded “Best Ac­ces­sories” by the Tan­zan­ite Foun­da­tion. They flew all the winners in the se­lected cat­e­gories to New York to an awards cer­e­mony at the in­cred­i­ble New York Public Li­brary. It was a spec­tac­u­lar un­veil­ing, con­sist­ing of thou­sands of vi­o­let can­dles (match­ing the Tan­zan­ite stone) fes­tooned down the en­trance steps and tribal dancers with co­pi­ous amounts of bub­bly and fri­vol­i­ties…. a joy­ous New York evening ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Hats off to him!


Watch this space for Louis’ amaz­ing hat for Royal As­cot!

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