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.