Propeller Head

There are many reasons to be jealous of Dita Von Teese. Perhaps my most coveted was her front row seat at last month’s Philip Treacy show at London Fashion Week.

Philip Treacy at London Fashion Week

The show marked the avant-garde milliner’s first show in London in twelve years. Beyond the phenomenon of Treacy’s incredible art-for-the-head, there were a whole lot of notable points about this show: that it was opened by Lada Gaga, declaring Treacy “the greatest milliner of all time”; that it showcased some of Michael Jackson’s most famous stage outfits (and music); and that in a time when they often have difficulty getting work, Treacy’s runway was cast exclusively with black models.

As if that weren’t enough to leave the audience wide-eyed and giddy, enter collaborator Moritz Waldemeyer, an East German technology/art/fashion designer now living in London. Waldemeyer created two hats for the show: one in partnership with Treacy, the second, of his own design.

Philip Treacy Shroud Hat

Philip Treacy’s “Shroud hat” was developed by Waldemeyer using 6000 LED lights programmed with animated sequences. The structure fully cloaks the model but is supported only by the head. When the lights shine directly out onto the audience, the shroud appears to float.

Treacy-Waldemeyer Shroud Hat

The piece itself is an intricate mesh of threads woven around a specially designed styrofoam core. The threads are soaked in resin, which when dry are rigid, allowing the creation to be complex, but still lightweight.

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

For Waldemeyer’s own design, he created the “Virtual Reality” headpiece. The “hat” is actually a propeller encircling the model’s head. The end of each blade is finished with LED lights. When in motion, the hardware disappears, giving the illusion of a wide, unattached, halo of light.

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

Waldemeyer's LED lights

Waldemeyer refers to his contributions to the show as “Millinery for the 21st Century”. On the merger of his lighting and fashion design: “It has long been my aim for the technology to disappear, to dissolve it into the surface of the work, so that the light effects themselves become the focus”.

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

How long, I wonder, until Tyra Banks gets a wobbly second generation version of the “Virtual Reality” headpiece? I very much look forward to season 457 of “America’s Next Top Model”, when Tyra has the girls in 8” stilettos, centrifugally-forcing their way down a mylar balloon runway, bobbing atop a pool of dumpster juice.

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

Fabulous, avant-garde hats off to Philip Treacy and Moritz Waldemeyer for a well-lit future.

Waldemeyer-Treacy Virtual Reality Hat

That Hat!

A few weeks ago, I happily came upon the opening night reception for Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles current exhibit, THAT HAT! 100 Years of Hats in Fashion. While I’m always game for an impromptu show of vintage hats, my unclad dome wished it could have showcased something from my teetering towers of hat boxes at home. It’s not every day that I’m in a roomful of aficionados, but I resisted the urge to grab something off the wall and slap it onto my head. Most of the assembled guests seemed to have planned ahead and dressed for the occasion.

Bonnets, top hats, toy hats, cloches, a pith helmet, a calash from the late 1700s and fascinators galore. Fur, feathers and felt, found in well over one hundred hats, over a span of what’s probably closer to 175 years. It’s a nicely curated, very comprehensive little show of American popular fashions. Fantastic examples of a wide variety of millinery which rival the several delightfully creepy wax mannequins donning them.

 It’s really interesting to see how the beauty standard has changed over the past 100 years. The mannequins’ physical appearance change almost as much as the fashions of each decade. Beyond the obvious hair and makeup styles (or use of) – height, face shape, coloring and expression all dramatically morph too.

Fun fact: Strands of hair on wax mannequins, including the eyebrows and lashes around the glass eyes, are individually inserted using a hot needle.

Fun fact 2: Wax mannequins are difficult to come across (production tapered off in favor of fiberglass after WWI) not just because many melted beyond recognition in hot attics, but also because rats would often chew on their extremities. Wee!

That Hat! 100 Years of Hats in Fashion is showing at Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, 2982 Adeline Street in Berkeley, California from April 7th until August 4th, 2012.


Photos by Jeremy Brautman.