Tip-top milliners

Sophisticated styles from Jane Corbett, Jess Collett, Noel Stewart and Rosie Olivia

Jane Corbett straw and organdie Lemon Lily hat, £2,400
Jane Corbett straw and organdie Lemon Lily hat, £2,400 | Image: Giles Penfound

While there are plenty of milliners whose prime aim is to draw attention, not always in the most pleasing way, to the heads beneath their creations, the ones I most admire are those who understand the art of flattery. Rosie Olivia, who started in a small way at Fenwick a few years ago, has been growing steadily in popularity and this year is being given pride of place. Her hats have appeared at the smartest of aristocratic weddings, for she knows how to charm and please without being predictable or overly conventional. This season’s modern, sculptural, sophisticated designs are mostly intended to perch on one side of the head. I like particularly the fine red straw one with a black decorative flourish (£469) and an enchanting explosion of burnt peacock feathers on a black saucer (£799). If you prefer a floral touch, another divine black saucer is trimmed with an ivory silk flower (£349).

Rosie Olivia Millinery straw and goose-feather Delta hat, £469
Rosie Olivia Millinery straw and goose-feather Delta hat, £469 | Image: Matthew Stansfield
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If it’s proper glamour you’re after, look out for Noel Stewart’s creations. He has designed hats for Roland Mouret, Viktor & Rolf Menswear and Roksanda Ilincic catwalk shows, as well as spending time working as Stephen Jones’s assistant at Christian Dior Couture, John Galliano and Louis Vuitton, and his fans include Keira Knightley, Florence Welch and Kylie Minogue. For serious eye-catching allure, it would be hard to beat his big cream straw hat swathed with tulle and flowers (£649) or his straw saucer embellished with tulle and a leather bow (£389).

Rosie Olivia Millinery straw and peacock-feather Oslo hat, £799
Rosie Olivia Millinery straw and peacock-feather Oslo hat, £799 | Image: Matthew Stansfield
Jess Collett Milliner velvet and palm-straw Mai hat, £260
Jess Collett Milliner velvet and palm-straw Mai hat, £260

Jess Collett is another name to watch. She has been making hats for a small, devoted clientele (including the Countess of Wessex) for years, but has just launched her first full collection, Japanese Garden, which is inspired by a lovely screen her grandmother gave her. All her hats are bespoke and are available online or by appointment at her Notting Hill studio. She mostly favours the “small is beautiful” school of millinery, with lots of straw-tipped saucers. Perfect for weddings would be Rosa, a grey floral explosion (£360), or Azalia, a pink flower surrounded by a burst of feathers (£385). If a chic monochromatic design is more to your taste, there is Mai, a black and white fan on a simple black saucer (£260).

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Finally, Jane Corbett is a much-admired milliner who specialises exclusively in bespoke hats, some of which have been seen on much-photographed heads (Carole Middleton wore one to her daughter’s wedding). But this summer her one-off couture pieces will be available at Harrods. Her sophisticated and elegant designs (example, £2,400) are mostly in neutral colours, and her love of couture shows in the great detail to be found in the trimmings.

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