Fenwick’s Bond Street store has long had a strong millinery department, especially in the run-up to the summer season, and has established itself as a source of designer hats that comply with Ascot rules, often inviting the milliners themselves to come to advise clients. Now this relationship has been formalised with the Royal Ascot Millinery Collective, sponsored by the racecourse itself, in which eight exciting hat design names are taking part. Some are familiar, both from previous years at Fenwick and for their established reputations – Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones, royal favourite Rachel Trevor-Morgan and Scottish designer William Chambers.
There are fresh names too, picked in association with Jones – who also curates Headonism, the millinery section of the London Fashion Week exhibition – for their ability to make Ascot-appropriate hats. One, Lady Laura Cathcart, comes from a racing family and knows instinctively what is practical for the occasion as well as beautiful. Each designer has created a one-off piece, on display in the store, and the variety of their inspiration shows just how much thought and work goes into the design of a stunning hat.
Flowers inspire styles as different as Chambers’ airy pink bouquet floating on transparent black crin (£895, fourth picture) or Trevor-Morgan’s dense halo of silk petals in rich purple and burgundy (£1,465). A shady, flat-brimmed hat can be Edwina Ibbotson’s oversized, modern, pom-pom-trimmed boater (£1,620, first picture) or Laura Apsit Livens’ demure, satin-trimmed matador style (£720). Cathcart references “the Ascot social butterfly”, with bright insects atop a practical straw pillbox (£425, third picture), while Harvy Santos chooses birds with a plume of bright feathers above a net “cage” (£620, fifth picture). Treacy’s hat (£1,485, sixth picture) seems scarcely earthbound, a wave of sculpted straw soaring upwards, joined by Jones’ ethereal haze of feathers (£1,380, second picture).
Each hat can be replicated on a bespoke basis, but to ensure other racegoers have not chosen the same one, it might be wise to check with the designer. Most of them are doing client days at Fenwick in the run-up to Ascot, to show their full collections, offer style advice and take orders, which can be completed in a few days. No appointment is necessary to meet Ibbotson (May 31, 2pm-6pm), Cathcart (June 1, 2pm-6pm), Trevor-Morgan (June 2, 2pm-5pm), Santos (June 3 or 15, 11am-4pm), Apsit Livens (June 7, 11am-4pm) or Chambers (June 8, 11am-4pm). The store also hosts other seasoned Fenwick favourites – Piers Atkinson (June 9, 1pm-5pm), Vivien Sheriff (June 10, 1pm-5pm) and Noel Stewart (June 13, 11am-4pm). A better opportunity to find the perfect Ascot hat is hard to imagine.