Head lines

A Stephen Jones hat for Donna Karan

And so to London Fashion Week. The British Fashion Council on Friday celebrated millinery designers with Headonism, an industry-only installation at Somerset House showcasing the latest looks from up and coming names including Piers Atkinson, Emma Yeo and William Chambers, hosted by star hat man Stephen Jones.

Friday also saw the opening of Head On, an exhibition, open to the public, at the London College of Fashion in central London. The show sets out to explore the role of hats in contemporary fashion by recreating complete looks from recent catwalk shows and examining the partnerships between milliners and designers – as well as looking beyond the runway to examine the role of hats in contemporary society.

The show’s curator Gemma Williams says: “It is no longer a social stipulation to wear a hat; when people do, it is a choice. That is a new space, which is intriguing.”

Inhabiting the space are designers such as Jones, who has worked with Christian Dior, Comme des Garçons and Donna Karan; and Noel Stewart, who works regularly with Hussein Chalayan and Marc Jacobs. New British designers are also in the spotlight, including Lara Jensen, whose jewelled designs that stretch across the face have caught the attention of Karl Lagerfeld and Lady Gaga.

“There is a wave of London hat design that has seen the rebirth of millinery on to the catwalks, into the pages of editorial and back into popular culture,” says Jensen. “The recession is a perfect environment for hat design to flourish. Hats and headpieces have long been worn to signify wealth and status and in an economic downturn they have been fashionably worn to this effect.”

A dress by Yiqing Yin combines with a hat by Paul Stafford

Williams says: “Historically, hats have been considered within the context of an ensemble. Now, as the “robe” look created by Paul Stafford demonstrates, headpieces can be more than just hats. Stafford’s design looks more like a piece of clothing with fabric flowing from the head to the floor and shows just how things have moved on from the traditional piece of moulded felt – as does his work for Chinese designer Yiqing Yin: a vampish red dress suspended from a wire frame.

Then there’s Katsuya Kamo, whose creations sometimes resemble hairdos themselves. His longstanding collaboration with Junya Watanabe resulted in spring/summer 2013’s silver hats based on hairstyles, as featured in the exhibit. Also included are designs from House of Flora, which specialises in wearable art and angular architectural hat designs. It collaborates with hair stylist Neil Moodie and produces millinery for designers such as Givenchy. On display is a House of Flora hat based on the “Marcel Wave” hairstyle from the 1920s, a headpiece that looks just like wavy tresses, albeit in bright yellow. “I was told the other day that people wear hats to explain what they can’t say with their faces,” says the label’s designer, Flora McLean.

Williams adds: “Through examples like these, we are hoping to illustrate that there is more to millinery than novelty. Millinery itself can dictate trends and silhouettes.”

‘Head On’, London College of Fashion, February 6-March 23, www.fashionspacegallery.com

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.