Hat Designer Philip Treacy is the craftsman responsible for this years prestigious BRIT Awards statuette and we caught up with him to find out more.
The BRIT Awards are infamous for being cloaked in all sorts of controversy but none more controversial than when they decided to re-design the long-standing BRIT statuette. For the last few years The annual BRIT Awards ceremony has handed over the reigns to a selection of hand-picked British Designers to re-evalute and overhaul the original BRIT winner’s trophy.
Damien Hirst, Vivienne Westwood and Peter Blake have previously added their signature styles to an already iconic piece of musical memorabilia. This year it’s in the hands of Philip Treacy who’s simple black, glossy design is transformed into something very special with it’s very own illuminated mohawk, in true Treacy fashion.
Philip Treacy is undoubtedly the most extraordinary hat designer of recent times. Originally from Galway, Ireland, the creator graduated from The Royal College of Art in London a little over twenty years ago and has since seen his career catapult him to the forefront of British fashion and internationally recognised throughout the industry.
He’s made hats for everyone and everything. His contact book is awash with A-listers who are queueing up to get a Treacy halo to adorn their heads.
Fashion houses including Chanel, Givenchy and Versace, Movie stars and even Royalty are clients. His career almost certainly started off in good stead with his debut collection being modelled by supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell during their catwalk reign in ’93. In 2007 his devout imagination and preeminent body of work gained the designer the Royal seal of approval when he received an OBE for his services to the British fashion industry. We caught up with him to have a chat about the awards, music and his muses.
How were you approached to be involved in such an exciting project?
They approached me and asked me to come up with an idea and because the BRITS statue is so iconic I thought that a kooky hat would work well on it. I like the idea of it being so simple and sophisticated with a hint of punk.
Where do you begin with a project like this? How does the process begin?
I hate moodboards so I never use them. Sometimes the first ideas you have are the best ideas and you can become obsessed with these kinds of projects so sometimes its best to go with your initial instinct and i’m glad I did. I always work alone on my designs. I thought a complex hat design wouldn’t necessarily work on the statuette and I wanted something really pure. If you look at it from certain angles you can barely see that it’s wearing a mohican at all. It was so much fun to work alongside the brilliant technical team on this too because their help made it happen. I’m completely honoured to be part of it.
Where did you find your inspiration behind the design?
I’ve used that shape and form many times before with hats with mohicans, for people like Grace Jones and Sarah Jessica Parker. I thought it would be ideal for this piece as it gave it that slightly modern Art-deco feel.
Have you always been an avid fan of the show?
I’m a fan of music and we live our lives by music. It’s our everyday soundtrack. I’m very lucky to have worked with some of the most iconic musicians in the world.
Do you have any personal favourite moments from previous shows?
I always remember when I first met Ms Gaga (Lady Gaga) and she asked me to make her a telephone to wear at the show but Alexander McQueen had died the week before and I didn’t feel like it was appropriate for her to sing ‘Telephone’ so she sang a ballad. I got to sit with her in her dressing room and prepare her for the show and i’d never been (to The BRITS) before so it was fascinating to see the whole BRITS world in operation. It’s quite an impressive organisation. It’s complete entertainment and entertainers are great to work with. This year i’m quite looking forward to seeing Lorde perform.
You’re heavily inspired by music. Do you have any favourite bands or Artists?
Not really. I like lots of different types of music. I love Elvis Presley, Roxy Music, Boy George, Grace Jones, ’70s disco and Country & Western. Music has the ability to transport you and take you to another place. Music will always have that ability. I just set out to make hats, not to make hats for celebrities.
You’ve worked with some of the biggest superstars on the planet. Ever found yourself starstruck?
Of course! When you eventually get over how starstruck you are you have to remember you’re there to do a job. We all grew up with Top Of The Pops whether we admit to it or not.
Would you like to get more involved with creating pieces for movies?
It’s all a visual communication. I’ve worked on a few Harry Potter films but i’m open to every opportunity.
How do you react when you see one of your creations splashed across the press?
It’s great to get to make a gold mohican for Sarah Jessica Parker. These people are larger than life and It’s interesting to interact and design for them. You learn from every experience that you work on. Sarah Jessica Parker is very intelligent and she herself is a creator. She is creative and is very generous with her creativity when you work closely with her.
How long can it take to create one of your designs?
Sometimes it depends on the project. It can take a very long time or no time at all. Sometimes you’re not given that option as you’ll have a few days to get something ready. It depends on the complexity of the project.
Have you ever made a hat that you wish you hadn’t?
No, ha. Every piece has hints of my signature style. You make a lot of different things for all type of reasons and it’s all interesting. It’s all very different.
Is there anyone you haven’t made a hat for that you’d love to work with?
That’s a tricky question because if I say no i’d sound arrogant. I’ve made hats for everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Ms Ciccone. There’s always someone interesting who comes along. Thats the nature of fashion. Theres always someone new to work with and that’s exciting. It’s always so much fun to work with Versace, Karl Largerfeld and all of these people who are so iconic in popular culture.
What were your thoughts on the Isabella Blow ‘Fashion Galore’ exhibition?
She invented me. We lived together and I made the hats and she wore them. I loved the exhibition but it was also quite frightening. It was quite strange being stood there and watching your life go by in an outfit or a hat. It was a very unusual experience for me. It felt like there were three people in the room and two of them were dead. That’s showbusiness.
Did you catch any of the shows this season at LFW?
I saw the Vivienne Westwood show and I love her. It’s like going to visit the Queen when you go to see Vivienne Westwood. There are a lot of clothes these days and a lot of them just look the same. That era of personality Designers is quite different now. I always find fashion more interesting when a Designer has a distinctive style.
The 2014 BRIT Awards will take place tomorrow evening at London’s O2.
Watch the show live on ITV from 8pm on Wednesday 19th February.
For outside the UK it’s live streaming on http://www.youtube.com/BRITs
Words: Shane Hawkins