Piers Atkinson often ends his sentences with an exclamation mark in the same way his over-the-top hats punctuate a woman’s wardrobe. “They are all FABULOUS!” says Atkinson, when asked what it’s like to design oversized fruit headpieces and studded leather titfers for Anna Dello Russo and Rihanna. Thanks to his celebrity clientele, says the British milliner, the world is quickly catching on to millinery. And now Atkinson, who launched his first line of hats in 2008, is busier than ever. This May, he plans to open a pop-up shop at St. Martins Lane Hotel in London with a special collection of top hats and umbrellas made in collaboration with London Undercover. Rumor has it that Kate Middleton wants Atkinson to design her a hat too, just in time for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration in June. BULLETT asked Atkinson about the royal commission, where he finds inspiration and his sense of humor – exclamation marks included.
BULLETT: What are some of the perks to your job as a milliner?
PIERS ATKINSON: Well, it tends to bring the more eccentric, confident and fabulous people my way. But that’s because of the style of my hats. I’m sure that the type of person who rocks up to wear Mary Katrantzou is a different type than those who wear Gap.
Recent collaborations, such as the “Headonism” initiative during London Fashion Week, had you cast alongside some other well-known milliners like Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones. What do you think sets you apart from your peers?
I’m not sure. Maybe my style is more overtly pop and humorous?! They are both incredibly skilled craftsmen, so maybe I make up for that with impact?
How has your multidisciplinary background in photography, graphic design and illustration helped in you becoming a better milliner?
I think that coming to hats from an oblique angle, using the photography and graphic skills from my past experience, has helped my work explain itself. Also, the work that I did in costume props and theatre gave me a different approach to what you can and can’t put on a hat!
Where do you often look for inspiration?
History, allegorical tales, fairy stories…Basically, I’m interested in archetypes, clichés and the human story!
One of your next projects is to reportedly design Kate Middleton’s hat for the Diamond Jubilee celebration. Can you share any details with us?
Well, that would be lovely wouldn’t it? She is in an incredibly chic style icon, so I wouldn’t say “no” if I was asked!
From a stuffed lion on a beret to fuchsia cherries mounted onto a canary yellow headband, your headpieces are witty and often outrageous. How important is it to maintain a sense of humor when designing?
For me, it’s crucial. Life is nothing without laughter, because so much of it is awful. Isn’t it?
If you could wish for anything, be it personally or for your brand, what would you wish for?