Antonia Pearce interviews Rachel Trevor-Morgan, milliner to Her Majesty The Queen….
Who or what originally inspired you to train as a milliner?
I originally wanted to do theatre costuming but my mother always wore lots of hats so that gave me the idea. I rather stumbled into a millinery apprenticeship and absolutely loved it from the word go.
What are your influences and who inspires you?
I have inevitably been very influenced by Graham Smith with whom I served my apprenticeship. His designs were elegant and understated and his hats had a flawless finish. My greatest inspiration now comes from the 40s and 50s – The Golden Age of Couture.
How do you prepare for the rush in demand just before Ascot?
I don’t think one is ever quite prepared! All our hats are made to order so we can’t really stock up. This year, we had a phenomenal Ascot, our busiest yet – basically, you have to put your head down and work hard.
Ascot is a hat’s annual ‘‘moment.’’ On what other occasions should a woman wear a hat?
As often as possible! Obviously, there are lots of other occasions such as weddings, Henley, and the Derby, but we must be careful not to lose the art of hat wearing. These days, I think it is easier on certain occasions not to bother and therefore to miss out on the ‘‘Hat Effect’’ – hats prompt a response like no other accessory and can give the wearer presence and confidence.
How do you match a bespoke hat with a dress? What is the fitting and planning process like?
When you come in for an appointment, it is best to bring along sketches and swatches of your outfit or the outfit itself if possible. We would then have a chat about the occasion and I try to get an idea of what kind of hat or headpiece the client has in mind. Then we try on lots of different shapes and sizes to see what works. You must take into account what is going on with the outfit, how busy the fabric is, what the whole silhouette will look like. Having found a shape that works, we then discuss possible trimmings, once again very much taking into account the outfit and fabric. There are normally one or two fittings to make sure we are on the right track and that everything is working together. We normally request a 4-6 week lead time.
What is the most unique material you have ever used to create a hat?
One year I made a mirrored hat for Ascot, a fairly classic shape but covered in tiny mirror squares like a disco ball.
Who would you most like to wear one of your hats, and who of fame or notoriety has worn one of your hats?
I am always seeking good ambassadors for hats. I would love to make hats for Carla Bruni – her style is so effortlessly chic. As for an existing client, I would have to say The Queen, no one has worn more hats than she.
Hat etiquette – is it rude to keep a hat on indoors?
I suppose that depends on the hat but in general for women it is not rude – only for men.
Do certain styles of hats have a symbolic social meaning?
It may have been so in the past but not these days – the only issue is one of quality and style.
What is luxury?
In hat terms, luxury is having a hat designed for you as an individual by someone who will take the time to create what you want. It is walking out with a beautifully crafted and perfectly designed hat to compliment your personality and outfit.