Piers Atkinson, chosen by Clare Waight Keller at Pringle of Scotland
Tell us about your rise to prominence on the British scene.
It’s been a very exciting few years – I’ve been both very flattered by all the attention on both the press and buying side, but I’ve also been panicking a bit as I’m not used to the business and production side of things. However, I used to work with both Zandra Rhodes and Andrew Logan so I have a big bank of inter-industry friends to call on when I’m struggling.
What was it that first inspired you to experiment with millinery?
Well, my mum was a milliner at the National opera House – she was always making these beautiful period hats at home, and my grandma was an artist so the creative side of things always just made sense. When I moved in with Zandra I met some amazing creative people such as Mandi Lennard and I went on to set up the Daily at LFW. I originally made 9 hats and they were immediately shot by Nick Knight for Vogue, so I stuck with it! It was a pretty fortunate way to start.
Would you say that there’s a fundamental approach to millinery, which will always result in a successful hat no matter the adornment?
I was talking to Lucinda Chambers (the Fashion Director at Vogue Britain) about Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy. With Philip’s hats, they seem to sit across the head, they’re ‘placed’ onto the head, whereas with Steven’s hats there is an organic sense of humour to them – they almost pop-out of the head. I wanted to create something similar to Stephen, something that accentuates and works with the line of the body.
Who would you cite as your key fashion world influences?
I really find inspiration in the history of fashion. I love Jean Paul Goude’s photos of Grace Jones and the work of the jeweler, Schiaparelli – to name but a few.
Your work is playful with a high-art edge, are you influenced by the art world?
Yes I do – I’m not really influenced by the current art world as such, but as an artist would reference various elements of the creative world, I do the same. I certainly like to reference cultural stories. The past few seasons have had a focus on pop-culture, which I love. I’ve also done quite a bit of work with the writer Michael Nottingham who writes these arch essays to accompany my collections. I like to present my work as a whole package - look book, model, hat, essay et al.
In that sense, it seems that the images and look book shots you produce are just as important as the hats themselves, would you say this was a fair assertion?
Absolutely, the look book is the final product, but the hats are a definite part of it. As a whole, the collection is entirely wrapped up in the look book. I studied photograph and graphic design at college and I look to bring every element of what I do together – the look book is the ultimate manifestation of my process.
How would you best describe the British fashion industry?
Our role as British creatives is very influential. There are a large amount of incredible young designers out there – some are high flyers and some are slow burners. It would be great if we had the commercial backing afforded to designers in Paris and Milan. Is it something to do with society? I don’t know, but if you’re going to spend thousands on a frock, you’re most likely to go to a Parisian house. We have a fantastic level of innovation but we need a proper financial backdrop – the industry needs strike a better balance between the commercial and the creative.
Do you intend to continue showing in London?
For now I have an awful lot to learn about the industry. The British Fashion Council were incredibly supportive last season with the Headonism event, but it’s difficult to know where things will be next year. I would love to team up with a big name designer – like Steven Jones with John Galliano. That said, I also have an idea for a film buzzing around in my head…so we shall see.