Live Stream Q&A
15 Q&A Posts
Q. Hi Piers, (and SHOWstudio!) it's wonderful to see all your team working live, I have been watching away over here at my studio and wondered if you could tell me what it is about oriental aesthetics that you love so much as it seems to be a theme that reoccurs in your work. With love from Phoebe (English) xxxx
I think the oriental aesthetic I enjoy particularly comes more through chinoiserie, and its western interpretation, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries. You often see chinoiserie in inlaid furniture and wall paper. I went down to the Brighton pavilion and there is amazing Chinese decor there, but it has been interpreted through a western aesthetic. So it's the interpretation I find quite fascinating. I'd love to explore the history of art there.
One of the other things I like is the symbolism, like we learned yesterday! I love the symbolism and ritual in it.
Q. If you had to make a hat for the queen, what would it be like?
I guess that's the kind of thing you'd ask her! I actually think she is a great hat wearer.
I think I'd rather make her a crown, we could work with Erin and David Morris and create something spectacular!
Q. Do you want to venture into any other accessories or clothing?
Jess was talking earlier about hats as sculpture. We do talk about expanding at times, but at the moment, it is very much about head wear because of the sculptural side to it. Shoes are similar but they need flex and things. One of the things that inspires me is seeing the incredible Flemish portraits of people; dark paintings where girls and boys have pale skin with dark backgrounds, and they sit with a hand placed on a skull or book depending on what they are. So I like the idea of using the head and shoulders to tell a story on who that person is.
Q. Piers do you ever use forms of music for inspiration for your work? If so, what forms of music? Thanks, Nick
Last season I really loved Kiss Them For Me by Siouxsie and the Banshees. It's a glamorous song, but with a tragic story. I definitely listen to music. I run pop videos in my head and think what the girls might wear. I love Kate Bush. And Grace Jones of course. As far as aesthetic is concerned, that's a life long inspiration. That very dry chic sound.
I listen to lots of Laurie Anderson, and eighties radio!
Q. I'm a florist, I also love flowers. Where do you think your love of flowers began and what is your earliest memory of that? Thanks Nick Knight and SHOWstudio, Piers and team for this. It's fascinating and inspiring to watch the creative process.
I can answer that easily. I come from a family of gardeners but my grandmother was a real inspiration, she was a book writer and a sculptress and also trained as a dancer. When I was 11 we moved from Sussex to Norfolk and we moved in with my grandma, and at that time, house prices were very different from south to north, and we ended up with a nice garden. We had cherry trees! Grandma was a book collector all her life and had a librabry of about 2000 books. She taught me about all these wonderful cultural refences. But she also wrote a lot of books about grardening and also folklore. She wrote, 'The Language of Flowers', which is why we called the Live Studio this. My grandma collected hundreds of books of the same name with floral paintings etc, but really they explain how a particualr flower is associated with a particular sentiment.
So there was always gardening going on in my family, we were out in the garden rather than watching telly. We watched things grow year after year and I find the forms of nature very inspiring which leads back to us doing this art noveau project.
Q. You've got a funny little devil like logo. I love it and would love to know where it stems from.
It's actually the lips from a larger illustration! It's always read in different ways! Some people say a heart or a wolf. I like that it is read in different ways.
Q. Who was the most fab person you ever made a hat for?
My grandma. She's 91 and called Stella and she was married to my grandpa for 70 years. He passed away quite recently. It's pretty fabulous to reach that age.
We've done Lady Gaga, Suzanne Bartsch -- she's amazing, an artist, an entrepenuer, she knows everybody -- Dame Shirley Bassey, the Princesses of York.
But my grandma wins on this one.
Q. It seems you have a penchant for fruit. Many of your hats incorporate fruits, and it looks like you're wearing cherries today. What's the story/inspiration behind this?
The cherries started in a collection about youthfulness and early age. I was looking at sexy symbols in eighties airbrush photos -- shiny cherries, strawberries dipped in chocolate, that kind of thing. I did the cute small cherries thinking they would sell and the large ones were for fun. I didn't think they would sell at all. That was when I learned about my customers! We sold 2 small and about 200 large!
Also Kim introduced me to the photographer Brett Lloyd, they championed the huge cherries, and I learned about what people want!
My friend Sian Evans made me the brooch for a Christmas present!
Q. I know it's a basic question, but how did you begin a career in millinery? Didn't you study something else?
Piers: Yes, I studied Graphic Design and Photgraphy at UWE, and I was doing costume making and I guesss my version of styling, though I didn't know it was that!
My mum is a milliner, and worked for the opera house in London, as kids we see her make these wonderful hats, wide brims, velvet ribonns, bows, theatrical full on pieces and we'd see the dress rehearsal, it was such a treat.
Lucy, my sister, and I would do the same as we are doing now. My mum would try her hats on us when we came home from school.
When it comes to my career, it has more to do with luck. I keep lots of scrap books, Nick Knight's Susie Smoking image was in one of them! When I came to London I worked under Andrew Logan, who organised the alternative Miss World, which has featured amazing people, Judy Blame, Leigh Bowery and I worked with him for a long time and he's a brilliant artist. Then one of his best friends is Zandra Rhoades so I started to work for her, and thats how I came into fashion.
I skirted around different aspects of fashion, I didn't have the confidence to put my own designs out there. So when this became a career I was very surprised, but a wonderful surprise. I don't really feel like I'm going into work each day.
Jessica: I moved to England to study Fine Art, and went on to work in architecture. There's something about doing fine art and fashion, sculpture and millinery, all those thigns joined up. Stephen Jones said a hat really is a sculpture. It just has to sit on your head. I love process based art forms and craft and technique, something that is age old and has a history to it. You find all those thing in millinery. It does take form abit sooner than dress making. It's much more immediate than dress making. I have some punk rock tendencies where you want it now. It was a winding path but got here in the end.
Lizzie: Theres no correct route to millinery, theres no degree as such in millinery. Normally people will study something else. I have a degree in womenswear and worked in the fashion world for 6 years before I moved to millinery. With fashion the idea can come quite diffuse. With millinery it s a much more concentrated expression of your idea. The only thing that has to happen is it stays on your head so you can be free and have that artistic part of it. It's a hands on skill.
Jessica: We'd consider ourselves milliners and artists.
Q. Wow. SHOWstudio. This is quite a departure for you. Pink!!! Piers, we are loving the color addition to SHOWstudio's black/grey/white palette. Why did you choose pink?
Because SHOWstudio said we can have it any colour we want! So we could have gone neon!
Our last collection was based on the silver screen and the Hollywood era, so there were lots of blacks and whites and reflective materials. We felt the endless grey and black became monotonous and we wanted a slightly more romantic tone. We did a piece called 'Oh My!' and a shop in Japan ordered it in black and pink and it was such a lovely combination. So that came through and it ended up being a prominent part of the collection.
We also knew were going to make black hats and we wanted these hats to span last season and next season so that was partly why too.
Q. You have used many surprising materials, starting with neon light and finishing with plastic. How do you choose the materials you work with? Is there any material you haven't used but wish to?
I would actually love to use fur, but I don't agree with the fur trade. It would be great if you could grow it! Or get it some other way. Even all the leathers we use are by products
In the same way I'd love to use the plumage of rare birds, but obviously, I'm not going to! Only if you could digitally print them, or grow them!
Even the straws we use to make hats is very limited. The old ones are so fine they are like silk. I'd like to go back in time and use traditional hat materials.
And also glass would be nice. Ursula Andress wore this gorgrous hat piece in a Matthewe Barney film, though that goes into the realm of dangerous head pieces! Maybe toughened glass. That would be great.
Q. Are your hats only about aesthetic beauty or are there any statements that you strive to make with your work?
Piers: I do like to be slightly rebellious. I think a lot of people in British culture are generally very polite on the surface but can be rebellious underneath, so I do like putting sexual or naughty elements into certain hats.
I wanted to write things in UV in hats so you can't see them, except if you went to a night club or something, then they'd be graffittied!
I got into it because of the fashion magazines really, they're a hyper glamorised reality, girls wearing dramatic gowns, makeup, hair; so I do want to reflect some of that in an actual wearable piece.
You talk to people when they try on hats and they feel silly and then they stand differently and it's rewarding to seeing someone in your hat. It's a choice, do I wear a hat or not.
Q. So often you challenge the definition of a hat, creating very conceptual headwear. What has been the most outrageous and innovative thing that you have done?
When I worked in PR I learned about communication and to think about who I am making a hat for. When I'm thinking about hats, I think who would wear this - so from ladies at ascot to disco roller booth performers! One thing I felt strongly about was creating things you can wear in your hair that aren't necessarily hats. There are lots of things that can go in the hair, but are not necessarily hats. It's about creating head decoration that balances on the head.
I like the laser cut perspex that we use. That is something I enjoy using. It came from working with neon, I wanted to suggest a similar effect that could be slightly more practical.
We also made the paparazzi veil, we laser cut a milliner veil in reflective material, so if someone takes a picture, all they see is the veil.
Q. I can't pick a piece of work of yours and call it my favorite, as so many of them are remarkable. Do you have a piece that's your favorite? The one you're most proud of?
Piers: It's really difficult to chose, but reallly for me it's the first collection. The neon collection. I just thought, what was the most attention seeking material! I spoke to a neon artist called Darren West and we just put the neon on a head dress. I also spoke to others and devised backdrops and a support system, and we made the red mouse ears. That was then shot by none other than Nick Knight.
I bought the copy of Vogue it appeared in and opened it and got a real rush. It was a ground breaking moment for me.
Lizzie: I like the large wired pieces from the last collection Directors Cut with the flowers, the ones that really inspired these new pieces.
Jessica: I'd say the classic cherries; they come in all colours, and are glittery and sparkly!
Piers: Our factory that made them closed down, so that was a drama. But now we have a new range of cherries which are improved and they've been relaunched.
Philip: The large feather swirls, and the pink poofs.
Q. You're work is extremely, extremely exciting. What's your work process? How do you get inspired? How does the creation start?
Piers: I think that it usually starts from a few hats we make from the previous season. Right at the end of the Spring / Summer 13 we used some really large black coat feathers, and we did some hats covered in these, and they had a slightly witchy feel and we were all talking about that and that has lead to the mood of the next season. And then really doing the research. We've been looking alot at Art Nouveau. We've been looking at Alphonse Mucha, and his compositions.
It's a combination of recent collections, research, trial and error, and it's like what we're doing today, it feels like we're sampling for the next season.
Jessica: For the past three collections you were drawing on personal experience- they were based on three important people in your life.
Piers: Yes, so there are themes that run through more than one collection. The previous 9 collections were in threes, they were based around the three women I grew up with - my mum, my sister and my grandmother - there's something pagan about using such a group.
It's an organic process. We're making pieces here that we've never made before, so that's why there is so much discussion and trial and error. Which is why we do start sampling early on. For me, the collections do step from one to the next.
Our lookbooks help to tell our story too. We work with various people: writers, photographers, hair and make up all help to tell our stories.