2009: Some of you will have trawled through the many weird and wonderful hats from Ascot this year, and no doubt will have noticed this amazing creation by Louis Mariette:
On behalf of Eclipse Magazine, milliner Chloe Haywood asked him a few questions about himself and his fabulous and groundbreaking designs…
How would you describe your designs/hats?
My style is boldly avant-garde and fabulously adventurous. I love experimenting with new techniques…a bit like a mad scientist! My designs have elements of theatrical drama and much of what I do is unconventionally surreal, but completely wearable. Ladies feel amazing and empowered in my hats…and of course enjoy the attention that they draw!
What made you decide to become a milliner and how long have you been in business?
I grew up in Malawi and Swaziland surrounded by natural beauty. Luscious flowers and amazing animals were part of my daily backdrop. It wasn’t until we got a television that I was exposed Dynasty and programmes where fashion was so prominent and I was immediately taken with clothing and accessories!
My first career was in events management and some of my table centrepieces were outrageous enough to be worn as hats. However, it was when creative director, Michael Dye commissioned me to do headpieces for a fashion show at Milan Central Station about nine years ago with the theme ‘1950s Orient Express’, that I found my calling as a milliner. After the Milan show (my first foray into professional hat design), the entire collection was picked up and stocked at a boutique there! I returned to London and launched a studio and the next thing I knew, Harrods was on the phone, and I’ve been making hats ever since.
Pictured: Jade Parfitt and Erin O’Connor at Qasimi. Photo: EPA
How much would I have to spend to own one of your pieces?
Well, I am the proud creator of the world’s most expensive hat, the £1.5 million Chapeau d’Amour (pictured, right; photographer: Alice Wilby; stylist: Michael Dye).
But the great thing about my collections is that there is a vast price range. Bespoke pieces can range anywhere from £300-£3,000, and my Bejewelled range of sparkling headpieces, tiaras, and jewellery starts at £15 for a crystal-encrusted brooch (pictured below right: Fifi Brooch, £22. Photo: Christopher Dadey).
Your hats have been worn by the rich and famous – what a thrill that must be! How did this side of your business come about?
I’ve been discreetly designing couture pieces for some of the world’s most fascinating women for years and luckily a handful are in the public eye which has catapulted the brand forward. My PR works hard at getting my pieces in key editorial shoots with stylists like Rebekah Roy, Patti Wilson and Lori Goldstein, and photographers including Tim Walker, Mert & Marcus and Mario Testino. As a result, my creations end up on Kate Moss, Amber Valleta, Stephanie Seymour, and on and on. It really is thrilling to see my designs worn and enjoyed by such beautiful and iconic women. I love doing catwalk shows involving celebrities, when Erin O’Connor and Jade Parfitt opened and closed the SS09 Qasimi catwalk show wearing my bejewelled turban headpieces, that was an adrenaline rush!
If you had to make a very special bespoke piece, who would it be for and why?
I would love to see Kristen Scott Thomas in one of my pieces. She is so naturally elegant and stylish, as well as being a fantastic actress. The first time I was drawn to her was in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ when she wore that giant hat, naturally. Carla Bruni would be an amazing Louis Mariette ambassador as well. Her taste is immaculate.
Tell us one thing about yourself that people might not know?
Ha ha! I’m not telling you any of my secrets!
What’s your next collection like? What is the inspiration?
At the moment I am working on a fabulous new range of bejewelled headpieces and accessories. It is a very elegant and stylish collection for astute ladies who want to capture their personality for special events such as weddings, cocktail parties and red carpet walks. A few of my new pieces were specially shipped over to a boutique that I stock at in LA and Paris Hilton purchased several and has been wearing them at Cannes and in Dubai – exciting! I loved putting this collection together. My childhood among the flora and insects is reflected in the rich colours and designs.
What piece would you want to see at which race meeting, and why?
Year after year I design for the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. This is hands-down the most famous race meeting in the world, so I am right where I want to be! I would like to get more involved with Goodwood, but it’s all down to time, and after the exposure I attained from judging on Britain’s Next Top Model, I hardly have any. I’m constantly being asked to judge millinery competitions, make appearances at events and parties and such, but I’m not complaining!
To get your very own bespoke piece, see www.louismariette.com