Easter bonnets might not be appropriate for anyone over the age of five, but with spring in the air and the wedding season upon us, the focus is on hats. Increasingly, they’re appealing to younger and more fashion-forward women who want to add drama to an oufit and realise that wearing a timid fascinator consisting of two limp feathers on a headband is beyond passé.
For, remarkably, a generation which has questioned whether a headdress really is essential as occasion wear (note Samantha Cameron’s bareheaded appearance at the state opening of parliament), now seems to have decided that hats can be hip.
“A headpiece can give a high fashion look at an accessible price. The same piece can be worn by an 18- or 80-year-old,” says Sara Lauchlan, owner of Viola, a London fashion boutique. “They will style them differently, but both will look fantastic and unique.” The milliner Philip Treacy, who has been commissioned by some as yet anonymous members of the royal family to design hats for the big day, says the accessory’s appeal lies in the fact that “hats are an inherent part of every culture.”
This increase in interest hasn’t escaped the attention of the British Fashion Council. In February it made “Headonism” – a showcase for milliners co-curated by cult hatter Stephen Jones – a permanent fixture of London Fashion Week.
Among the milliners representing the new guard were Noel Stewart, who counts Kylie Minogue and Keira Knightley as fans. His designs merge architectural shapes, historical references and geographical allusions with modern materials like plastic, rubber cord and mesh. Others featured included hairstylist-turned-milliner Soren Bach whose tough, intriguing autumn/winter 2011 collection includes a trapper hat daubed in paint and a bowler hat covered in textured fur that eerily resembled a brain.
Also taking part in the showcase was Piers Atkinson. Known for creating headpieces topped by two large shiny cherries and worn by fashion editor at large for Japanese Vogue, Anna Dello Russo, and singer Rihanna, he’s causing ripples within the fashion world. His witty and glamorous autumn/winter collection was inspired by the photographer Brassaï and Parisian chanteuse Anne Pigalle and places two glossy black cherries on a patent leather band (£297), a small glitter pillbox and a small flat beret with the word Paris in electrically lit neon.
For this season, Atkinson’s pretty, imaginative nature-inspired styles include veils dappled with cherry blossom, white flowers bunched into a surprisingly feminine balaclava, and small berets covered in foliage and flowers, to achieve a look with the feel of A Midsummer Night’s Dream or a twisted fairytale.