Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chinese Garden

Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen

Philip Treacy (British, born Ireland, 1967) for Alexander McQueen (British, b. 1969). “Chinese Garden” Headdress, spring/summer 2005. Cork. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Alfred Z. Solomon-Janet A. Sloane Endowment Fund, 2007 (2007.307).

Philip Treacy’s hats are exquisite sculptures. Whether it is a poppy sun hat in silk organza with stamens of burnt feathers or biomorphic plastic visors with ocular perforations for the wearer to see through, Treacy’s work is characterized by the virtuosity of his technique and imagination. Like his fellow milliner Stephen Jones, Treacy often does his most astonishing work in collaboration with couturiers, whether Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, or, as here, Alexander McQueen. Like that of many of the designers of his generation emerging out of the London fashion scene, Treacy’s work, for all its originality, is also rooted in his deep knowledge of the history of art, fashion, and design. This Chinese garden refers to the popularity of Chinoiserie in the eighteenth century and to the 1770s fashion for elaborate landscapes constructed in the topography of a woman’s heroically sculpted hair. For his high style coronet, Treacy has cannibalized the decorative shadowboxes of intricately cut-worked cork purchased in Asia, and rearranged them into his own orientalist fantasy.

The “Chinese Garden” hat was inspired by my trip to Kyoto in Japan. I love the idea of wearing a fantasy Japanese landscape on one’s head while dreaming of Japan. The handmade cork figures were acquired from Japan and represent about 150 hours of workmanship.

—Philip Treacy

Comments (92)

  1. Krista Beth Says:

    I find this interesting and beautiful. I love the reference to “1770s fashion for elaborate landscapes constructed in the topography of a woman’s heroically sculpted hair”. This is a creative modernization of that art form.

  2. Laurie Aron Says:

    I like the reference to Marie Antoinette’s, for example, sculpted hair, but I think what Treacy has primarily achieved is a “heroically sculpted” 3D version of the chinoiserie so popular in textiles and wallcoverings of the time in all its delicacy.

  3. Justin Says:

    I don’t really have anything more eloquent to add except that this is definitely one of the most beautiful headpieces he’s ever done.

    I remember thinking before this was posted and before visiting the exhibit that this was actually a piece he did for a Givenchy Haute Couture collection by McQueen circa 1998. There was a nearly identical headpiece in that collection, just a bit smaller and presumably out of different materials.

  4. Christina Says:

    This headpiece is a stunning piece of art. I am not sure how practical it would be to wear it but I appreciate the time it would take to create this detailed work of art. The great thing about this is that it shows how artistic you can be when it comes to designing clothes and accessories and how anything you stumble across can influence you.

  5. Joni-van Isaacs Says:

    This elaborate head piece is so amazing. It has beautiful detailing and fine craftsmanship. Some details are so small, you have to look really close to figure out what is going on in the piece. It is one of the most beautiful headpieces I’ve ever seen and is definitely a fine work of art.

  6. Maritza Chavier Says:

    Is beautiful, the thoughts materialized exactly on the head and like them, in a material vulnerable. Perfect!

  7. Hsui-chien Chan Says:

    I surprise to watch this here. Where I come from, people in long working conditions and not much money have to make this for tourist products. These make me feel surprise because how is “fashion” here exploiting the work of unknown and underprivileged people. The woman says there are “more than 150 hours of work” represented in hat — yes, maybe so, but it is the work of people making no money. How much money does she make with this? Does there any mention of all the people who make this work and but she is the one taking credit for “all its originality” as like this is her own? I feel there needs to be aware of that she is using the work of others to make her own but does not acknowledge this.

  8. Joan P. Says:

    This is gorgeous, like something for a production of “Turandot”. I adore this sort of thing. Of course, I remember the days of strolling past the Bes-Ben store on N. Michigan Ave. just to see what he had come up with!

  9. Evan K Says:

    Wow. Why do they file this type of thing under ‘clothing’ as opposed to art? Nobody would wear that type of thing in public. I suppose it opens up new ideas… but nonetheless this type of clothing is destined to stay in the art gallery.

  10. Janine Says:

    This hat is a dream come true, i really wish that the hats today could be sooo completely extravagant. This hat runs chills down my spine, wow, we all should wear hats like this!

  11. lilly Says:

    it’s not my fave in this whole place. :)

  12. Satenik Says:

    how did you get CHinese Garden from a japanese inspired theme?

  13. Frankie Says:

    That would be cool if we all wore different hats like this around town… haha
    either to express our culture or just to make a statement. I bet you people would not have the guts to walk around with this on their heads anymore.

  14. lauren Says:

    It is very detailed and beautiful but a bit inpractical. It seems if you put it on your head you will fall over.

  15. Avery (6) Says:

    It is a beautiful headband. It looks like moose’s ears and it looks like a village on a head.

  16. Petite Maoiste Says:

    my favorite thing in the whole show - it brings memories of the late, gorgeous exquisite Isabella Blow

    I wish there could have been greater discussion of the critical reception of the clothes and about the donors, inconsistently included in some labels

    despite your wish to make this accessible and un-intimidating, the label copy is extremely scholarly, uses foreign words, and makes art historical references that many visitors might not be familiar with

  17. Laura Says:

    Truely I think it looks like Mickey Mouse ears. It would be amazing for a sculpture but not on a person’s head.

  18. Candi Joy Rodriguez Says:

    This thing would scare the heck out of my horse…..or else he would think it was something to eat.

  19. owen (6 1/2) Says:

    It’s pretty cool. It reminds me of moose ears.

  20. Ruby Says:

    Imagine having that on your head!!!!!!!

  21. hi Says:

    you gotta have alot of guts to wear this

  22. Alexa Says:

    It’s beautiful. The design is intriguing and lovely. It is very creative to make a wearable headpiece like this, as opposed to a sculpture or other form of art. I’m not sure I would wear it, but I appreciate it as a piece of art. Its style makes me think of a painting, but it’s wonderful that the artist thought to make it a headpiece. I love it, I love it, I love it!! Wonderful, beautiful, great!

  23. elena Says:

    wonderfly amazimg intricate designsbut what were they thinking:that on a headband as a headdress?

  24. Maisie S. (age 8) Says:

    To me it looks like a tree, and each branch is a different story.

  25. annie Says:

    I am surprised that no one mentioned or emphasize the beauty of oriental style incorportated in this head piece. I have seen many of Philip Tracy’s design, but this one is beyond my expectation. The detail carving, the elegant composition and the innovative concept all combine together to create this narrative story line for the head! wow, ncie work buddy!

  26. Jesse Says:

    wow. amazing. fascinating. unbelievable. How in the world could someone make that? Such a beautiful design.

  27. lynnmu Says:

    A la Celestial garden lulu

  28. alex Says:

    The head dress is nice, but i think it will look much better as a centerpiece.

  29. Eliza Says:

    This headdress is just amazing. I would love to go some where and see some one where this beautiful creation! Who created this is just an amazing designer and artist all in one!
    -_^ people this is a great piece of art and fashion!

  30. Vicky Says:

    seriously, who would wear that?

  31. claudia Says:

    it’s soooooo cool!!!!!I love it!

  32. Jessica Says:

    Very strange. Everyone would stare!

  33. Annabel Says:

    this scultpure is absolutely beautiful and ornate.
    I could do with one in my House!

  34. Megan Says:

    I agree with Jessica :-b

  35. Cheryl Pugh Says:

    I love the headdress. So delicate and cool!!

  36. Erin Says:

    This headpiece is exquisite and intricate which really shows amazing sculpting. This is definitly an artpiece and I really never thought that such a headpiece was possible and it would be nice as a sculpture in your house but it really is more spectacular used as a headpiece in a fashion show. Overall, Bravo!! Masterful Work!!

  37. Rachel Says:

    Philip Treacy was born in Co. Galway, Ireland. Why on earth would you call him British?

  38. Tink Wong Says:

    This head piece really caught my attention, mostly because of its inspiration relating to Chinese culture (being Chinese myself). I remember having a carved cork garden displayed in my house when I was 3, so it was really interesting to see this decorative piece used as a headdress instead. It is also interesting how such a delicate object was used for the head, since traditionally headdresses usually portray status. In Chinese culture, traditional gardens or landscapes are closely related to Taoist poetry and intellects. However, one thing which slightly boggled my mind was the fact that the inspiration of Chinese gardens was taken from a trip to Japan. I understand that this inspiration was a representation of the spread of Chinoiserie, but this still seamed odd that a Chinese garden was considered a Japanese landscape.

  39. Emma Says:

    Wow, this is a really intracite piece. I really loved the cranes on it. There was so much detail! I think that it’s amazing someone built this. I really love this headdress.

  40. sadie howe Says:

    love this hat-amazing-I would certainly wear it!

  41. laura Says:

    this is the coolest museme ever

  42. siena Says:

    this is a very delicate headpiece. it looks very hard to make

  43. Sydney Says:

    Why would anybody wear it? Mabey the Japeneese would wear it for roayle dances, but you wouldn’t wear it in public.

  44. Says:


  45. Sydney's Sister Says:

    I totally agree with my sis, Sydney. Who would wear it and where, other than to a stupid and crazy hat party?

  46. Kristen R. Says:

    This is really a beautiful piece of art. How would you keep it on your head though? You would be wobbling around like a windy forest.

  47. Christine Chang Says:

    This is such a beautiful piece. I definitely recognize this piece from Alexander’s show. I like how tracy took the concept of Chinese garden and made such an intricate piece. I feel the strength in details and the intricacy relates to the oriental ism and the Asian background. However, Japanese estatic in art is very simple and bolder compared to Chinoiserie. I would never respond to this head piece as an Japanese inspired in terms of the craft work and the complexity. After hiring 300 people design and make this head piece I’m starting to doubt about the clarity of the concept. This piece also reminds me of the estatic movement where as nowadays people only care about the beauty of the visual instead of the meaning or concept.

  48. barbra casenovia Says:

    this is soo pretty i would so wear it to my school like everday ommmmgggggg.

  49. nico Says:

    super cool very original.

  50. Pierson Says:

    This is a must-see. Up close, you can see the exquisite detail

  51. Mr. Stu Says:

    Sooooo Frou Frou, no real person would ever wear any of this stuff

  52. maighdlyn Says:

    Wow! can you imagine wearing this to work?

  53. Octavious Says:

    I love people, and any one who wore this would be me hero for life, although i would destroy the world if it was ever broken, so think about that before you wear it, then get back to me. Just thought I would throw in me two cents, I love you with a passion only few will ever know, thank you.

  54. Natalie Says:

    Looks like a tree.

  55. KATIE Says:


    NO WAY!!!

  56. Natalie Says:

    How would they make this with all the details and everything its beautiful!!!!!
    It would go well with “The birth of Venus”. They’re both nature-y.

  57. Gina-bean! Says:

    This hat is sooooooooooo awesome!
    I wonder how long it took to make it???

  58. Sarah Bernhart age 8 Says:

    I think this headpiece is so beautiful! I would love to be able to try it on!

  59. Munesh Singh Says:

    I luvv this.i would giv this to any of my girls and i garantee you that they would love it…

  60. mosammet Says:

    i totally love it. omg auhhh

  61. Clairey Says:

    This “hat” is beautiful as a scultpure, but the exhbitionist tone it embodies is disconcerning. The creator explains that he loves the idea of one wearing what he is dreaming as a hat on his head. Literary the dreams of the person is displayed on their head. Fashion has bared everything taboo- but I believe that dreams and imagined wishes should be left to the mind and heart. There is something sad in the way that a person’s dreams can be contained by a hat. Dreams are expansive. I do not want to portray my dreams to the world in this way; for the beauty of dreams are always growing and changing. Once your dreams are defined and out their to be judged by the world, they tend to be changed by the world’s response. There is something too definitive, literal and static about this hat in relation to dreams. There should be a line drawn where it is fashionable to be such an exhbitionist and I would rather my body be exhibited and judged than my dreams.

  62. carter Says:


  63. NagoyaRob Says:

    I must agree with one of the previous posters…WHY is it called Chinese Garden??? The last time I checked, China and Japan are just a little bit different.

    It would be a beautiful wall hanging, but I think it is kind of stupid as a hat.

  64. Hannah Says:

    Wow! I do not see a practical use for this headband but the craftmanship and extradornary attention to details makes this one of the most intresting head pieces here.

  65. Victoria Says:

    Like wearing a piece of fantasy on one’s head

  66. david greenspoon Says:

    love the dresses

  67. meimi1995529 Says:

    I really love this head dress and I would love to wear it and see all the reactions I get. The detail in the cranes is amazing. The details in the houses, trees, and birds is just beautiful. It looks as fragile as origami designs.

  68. jd Says:


  69. ian Says:

    philip is irish. not british!!!!!!

  70. k@met Says:

    i think it is strange to be wearing a garden landscape on the head

  71. billybobjoe Says:

    how long do you think it took to make it?!

  72. KaT :-) Says:

    WHAT A HOT HEADPIECE!!!!!!!!!! ya know

  73. Candice Says:

    as cool as they are,
    who would wear them??

  74. marissa-and-scott-rock Says:


  75. Kay Says:

    This was one of my favorite pieces of the exhibit. The detail on this beautiful headdress is so amazingly executed.

    Also, great exhibition show. I’m currently taking an exhibit design course at RISD right now, and this show has definitely been a treat. The lighting on the pieces alone are what makes this exhibition exciting. Thank you!

  76. sadie reuter Says:

    beautiful but probably hard to wear.

  77. Natasha Says:

    I think the dress would look great on that woman thats the kinda thing I would picture her in! Its well put together and looks so great and formal!!!

  78. alex Says:

    this is very intresting…. Its beautiful and looks like something that would be worn at a costume party but in a very elegant way

  79. beth anne Says:

    Ummmmmmm……. i would soooooo get an unfantabulos headahe. :(:(:(:(

  80. michaela Says:

    what a faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaancy headband. i think it should be painted, it would look cooler. also it reminds me of the elaborate headpeices the french used to wear on top of their wigs (circa Marie Antionnette)

  81. Ericka Syhre Says:

    Growing up with a mother who loves interesting hats, this one truly takes the cake. It is very interesting and makes you think where in the world you could ever actually wear that without people thinking you’re completely nuts. Not everyone lives in a “fabulous” world.

  82. krissi Says:

    im wearing this right now as i blog…. envy me :)

  83. morgan Says:

    you people are insane, this isn’t interesting or beautiful to put on the top of your head. it makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

  84. Michelle Says:

    Wow, not really a headdress, but a beautiful sculpture. I’d love it as a centerpiece or for the mantel. But in answer to the person above, it was only meant to be worn on the head for the fashion shows or as a “statement.” I don’t think anyone would wear it to the mall.

  85. rebecca Says:

    its so interesting and colorful I LOVE IT!! it so creative and fun. I wouldn’t want to wear it but wouldn’t it be fun to just try to walk in this stuff? Haha well enjoy!!

  86. Cheez-it Says:

    Are you sure this is a hat? I’m not completely sure. It looks more like something I would see at a japanese botanical garden. I wouldn’t like to wear it, but it is cool and creative.

  87. Lena Says:

    This headdress took my breath away. It is the intricatness of a carved bone sculpture and the elegance of a detailed headdress that have come together to form this delightful headpiece. I would love to see more of these in runway shows and on the streets of today’s world

  88. Olivia Says:

    This Chinese Garden hat is exquisite in its intricate design. I love the idea that whatever you are thinking about is shown in the hat that you wear. . . This is a funny idea. Visible thoughts! Fantasy, other-worldliness and eccentricity are shown here to the highest degree. Loves it!

  89. Lilia Says:

    i would love to walk through the garden but i don’t think i would ever wear the Chinese Garden hat.

  90. Victoria Benet Says:

    I personally see this piece as the antlers of a moose from a far but when you get close you can see the true beauty of it and the pure wood carvings. What a shame it was wasted in a head piece. Although fashion is supposed to be over done and edgy this statement really doesn’t go through to me.

    Thanks Much!!
    Viki Benet :)

  91. Melissa Says:

    OMFG! i love all fot the clothes in here. it is amazing. i lvesd everything.some clothes were so beautiful i could not stand not looking at them. all of the clothes and dressesds gave me an inspiration to dress better. lol! Thanks for a great experience!!!!!!<3333 M

  92. zannestar Says:

    I smiled when I saw this. It’s not about being wearable or practical, but vision. The whole exhibit reminds me that in America we’ve changed the meaning of “couture” and fashion, and many think that things mass created are couture and “fashion” when in fact, they are not. It’s refreshing to see so much creativity and passion in one place. I like seeing designers that think about the body and attitude rather than what’s trending.

Comments are closed.

E-mail It