"It was an incredible honour to work on something as extraordinary as the royal wedding – a very happy, positive occasion. My approach to each project varies. Of course the royal wedding was an exceptional project, but ultimately it’s all about pleasing the designer or the customer and making something beautiful, flattering and elegant.
I’m currently working with Georgio Armani to develop some ideas for his couture show in Paris in July. It’s exciting to work with the world’s most prolific designers and I’ve been lucky to work with all of them, from Ralph Lauren and Valentino through to Alexander McQueen and Chanel.
Glamour is an international currency and, no matter where they are from, people respond to a hat because it’s the ultimate glamour accessory. When you design a hat for someone, it has to reflect their personality. People like the fantasy aspect of looking wonderful, so I have to work with the customer to make sure they end up being happy with a design and feel a million dollars in it. This is the whole point of wearing a hat. It’s not just an inanimate object that you plonk on your head: the way the hat is worn and its angle can totally change the proportion of the face.
I became a hat designer because I love to work with my hands; it’s very therapeutic. The most important thing about hat making is that you start with a two-dimensional material and turn it into three dimensions. It’s like making something from nothing.
Isabella Blow has been my greatest inspiration. I loved how Isabella wore hats; it was almost as though she wasn’t really wearing one at all. She was always irritated when people asked if she was wearing a hat for an occasion. I loved the fact that she wore them for breakfast and in bed. She knew how to have a good time in a hat. She didn’t stand around posing, she wore them and just had fun. Lady Gaga wears hats in a similar way. She is very nice, young and talented, and also peculiar. People like to pretend to be eccentric, but she really is.
My dream project would be to design hats for the Rio Carnival. The carnival queens are unfazed by scale. I love the idea of spectacle and entertaining people with visuals, so to design for the Rio Carnival would be the ultimate.
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I’d like to think I’ve helped to bring hats into the mainstream. I have a very Warholian perspective on fashion. It should be enjoyed by everyone. There’s no deep, psychological meaning to a hat. It’s just a little bit of magic that brightens your day.
From hats to hotels
Initially, I wasn’t keen on the idea of interior designing a hotel, as I thought I knew nothing about it; however, it’s all about choice and combining beautiful things to create a mood. Like millinery, you have to think in terms of quality, proportions, shapes and materials.
For me, a good hotel means service, atmosphere, comfort and taking people into another dimension. The biggest compliment I get about the g Hotel is that people dress up when they go there. I love personality in a hotel.
One of the best places I’ve ever stayed is a tiny little property in Madrid called Casa Madrid. It only has five rooms and is so charming – just like staying in someone’s house.
The Ritz Hotels all over the world are wonderful. I also love the Lanesborough and Claridges, but it’s hard to beat the Ritz dining room in London – it’s a movie set.
I’d love to return to hotel design in the future. It was a great experience that showed me you can apply what you’ve learned in one medium to another. It’s fun to reinvent things. Architecture is something that really interests me, too. My favourite building is the Houses of Parliament. It’s a magical place – a fusion of fantasy and business."