A Royal Ascot Milliner – and it’s official!

I’ve been going to Royal Ascot for years but last year was unquestionably the highlight of my Ascot career when I watched the races (and enjoyed a champagne lunch) from a box opposite the finishing line as a guest of Royal Ascot having been invited to be an official milliner of the Royal racing week alongside such world renowned milliners as Rachel Trevor-Morgan (The Queen’s milliner) and Stephen Jones.

I had the pleasure of seeing Leo Fenwick again in the box, an old pal of mine who now helps to run his family’s famous Bond Street department store, long synonymous with the best of British millinery and chicest fashion.

The idea was to create a Royal Ascot Millinery ‘Collective’ featuring some of the most exciting New Generation British milliners – others included Edwina Ibbotson, Harvy Santos and Edinburgh based William Chambers – working with designs by such long established iconic millinery names as Morgan, Jones and Philip Treacy (who didn’t appear).

Sitting between milliners William Chambers and Harvy Santos at the Royal Ascot Millinery Collective lunch

The idea of the Millinery Collective is to create a special Royal Ascot hat collection which is promoted and sold by Fenwick in Bond Street. I chose one of my favourite hats. decorated in fragile feather red butterflies, from my latest ‘Butterfly Collection’ which I am now expanding with some new additions for Summer 2017 as it was such a success.

As I was quoted as saying of my Butterfly hat in such magazines as Town & Country, Women’s Wear Daily and the FT: ‘The hat I’ve designed is decorated with red feather butterflies on a black woven straw base. It evokes the spirit of the Ascot social butterfly as well as the English summer season she bright young social butterflies’.

Millinery is a strange craft. Milliners tend to spend hours alone in their studios and don’t often mingle or meet with other milliners. So it was genuinely nice to meet and talk with couture artisans like Rachel Trevor-Morgan who makes literally dozens of hats every year for Her Majesty.  It must have been quite a feeling sitting in the box seeing the Queen wearing one of her own creations whilst sipping a glass of champagne.

Ascot isn’t usually that glamorous for milliners. You are in a state because your greatest fear is bumping into a client you have just made a hat for the week before – only to find they are wearing a different hat and different outfit by another rival milliner.

People call you in the middle of lunch and summon you to their box or car wanting an emergency hat repair. For two out of the least three years, I’ve been lucky enough to watch the racing from perhaps the chicest private box at Royal Ascot: the Rosebery double-decker bus, (decked out like 5 Hertford Street private club on wheels) co-owned by a friend of my husband called Simon Davis and parked close to the winning post in Car Park One.

Red feather hat from my Butterfly Collection for Royal Ascot and Fenwick

Not sure where I am going to be lunching this year. But living in hope of receiving a good lunch invitation in the next month or so – and not forced to picnic in the back of your car. Fishing for lunch has always been part of the Royal Ascot fun.