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March 2017

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Exhibit: Hot Heads - Inspirational British Millinery, Stockport UK

While traveling and researching in the UK last month, I had the good fortune to check out the current exhibit at the Stockport Hat Museum, Hot Heads - Inspirational British Millinery, running through December 30 and showcasing ten of Britain's most talented contemporary milliners.

Each milliner has a single display case in which three to five hats are shown. Of course Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy had hats on display, and it was lovely to have the opportunity to get up close to their work, but in the world of couture millinery they are everywhere and expected--i was more excited about being able to see up-close the work of a couple lesser-known British milliners: Zara Gorman and J. Smith Esq. Gorman's display includes her acrylic, wood, and leather hats, while Smith's features a topper of fur and bone and a stained glass effect hat. In both cases the designs are striking and inspiring, but in both cases I admit to being a bit disenchanted at the finishing quality upon close inspection. Then again, both milliners are early in their careers and who knows what kind of runway shows the hats had been subjected to before display.

In addition to the displays, a video room loops three related videos featuring milliners Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones. Though i was not allowed to take photographs of the hats on display, thanks to YouTube and SHOWstudio i can share the videos.

Deborah Miller, a workroom milliner at Stephen Jones' atelier, making one of his signature designs.

In the second video, Philip Treacy talks about hatmaking while he creates a "feather salad" hat in real time. In this film, Treacy pulls out a roll of sparterie (aka willow, spartre, etc) and says he buys it from Japan. For all of us eternally on the hunt for a sparterie source, there's a lead! You can watch how he shapes his signature feathers as he talks, and there's some wonderful advice and reminiscence.

The third and final video in the exhibit is Stephen Jones presents "Glamour on a Budget, which is amusing enough I suppose but not nearly as educational from a skilled milliner's standpoint as the two others. It's more of a glimpse into Jones' personality than his craft.

In addition to the featured milliners, there is also a display of excellent designs by Welsh milliner Kate Jones of Milliflorae. Her hat of wood veneer curls won first runner up in the Talenthouse/Vogue/Stephen Jones millinery competition and I appreciated being able to see it up close as well--really lovely! Too bad her website mispells Stephen Jones' name in its splash page slide show...

In general, if you find yourself in the UK a visit to the Stockport museum is always worthwhile--i learn something new every time, even in perusing the permanent collection, and this current exhibit is worth a look for sure!