Despite its status as one of London’s leading department stores, Harvey Nichols has never sold smart occasion hats – until now. Recently appointed fashion director Paula Reed is a keen hat advocate and last year helped co-ordinate the Hatwalking project, which convinced well-known milliners to design headgear for landmark London statues. She decided that the start of the British social season was a good time to test the market, using the store’s first-floor gallery – a space surrounded by the kind of international designer dresses that naturally partner hats.
As an influential former magazine fashion director, Reed found it easy to persuade British millinery’s best names – from doyens Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy (disc hat in second picture, £530), through younger stars such as Piers Atkinson (The Swoop in first picture, £615) and Pip Hackett, to newer names, including Victoria Grant (Emerald City in third picture, £630) – to contribute limited-edition and one-off pieces exclusively for the pop-up, which opens officially on Wednesday May 15 and continues until Thursday June 6. Most models are indeed hats, rather than mere fascinators, and comply with the Ascot Royal Enclosure rules (which are clearly set out in Royal Ascot’s newly updated style guide). Harvey Nichols’ sales staff have been specially trained to advise on picking the best style for a particular outfit, occasion or body shape. They will encourage customers to try different styles and outfits, and can arrange a limited amount of customisation, such as added veiling or trims.
Victoria Grant, whose latest range of graphic, statement hats is based on a collaboration with artist Antony Micallef, has a nearby studio and will be on hand for customers wanting personal appointments. Meanwhile, Piers Atkinson, who ran his own pre-Ascot pop-up last year and says that both bespoke and ready-to-wear occasion hats are a fast-growing part of his business, has created a special Season range in black and white, as a homage to Cecil Beaton’s My Fair Lady costumes and reflecting this summer’s monochrome style. If the pop-up, where prices range from about £200 to £1,200, proves a success, a permanent millinery department may very well be the lasting result.