Philip Treacy

His creations have graced the heads of some of the biggest names on the celebrity scene. Diana Rigg waxes lyrical over "the wit, the audacity, the sigh of feathers, the glow of velvet" of his work, Boy George is a fan he owns a cheeky red devil number, complete with horns - and the Duchess of York is just one of a number of British aristocrats to have sported his headwear.

Young Irish milliner Philip Treacy has come a long way from his roots in the Galway village of Ahascragh, with its population of just 500. Born the second youngest of eight children to a baker and housewife on May 26, 1967, Treacy studied at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin before moving to London to attend the prestigious Royal College of Art in London. There he specialised in hat design, fashioning his first efforts from bits and pieces picked up in local flea markets.

His graduation show in 1991 caused a fashion sensation, and it wasn't long before his innovative and outrageous confections caught the attention of some of the world's leading fashion designers. His sculptured headgear was soon topping off catwalk creations by the likes of Chanel, Valentino, Versace and Rifat Ozbek. That year the young designer established his own company, Philip Treacy Ltd, and went on to win the title of Accessory Designer of the Year at the British Fashion Awards in 1991, 1992 and 1993, and then again in 1996 and 1997.

When, in 2000, he was invited by the Chambre Syndicale, the governing body of French fashion, to participate in the Paris haute couture shows, he became the first millinery designer to do so in 70 years. It was a tremendous honour and marked a major milestone in the career of the young Irish lad who had never seen a city until he was 17. Although he has designed signature, one-off pieces for clients such as Madonna, Celine Dion, Joan Collins and Goldie Hawn which bear a price tag of £1,000 upwards, Treacy is equally adept at practical rain hats as demonstrated in the range he created for British chainstore Debenhams.

His designs for the Chanel show in 1998 featured demure little cloche-style efforts with outsize Sixties daisies, but he is best known for his enormous, gravity defying sculptures and surreal extravagances which have a habit of provoking fashion writers to new adjectival heights. "A Day-Glo blue sea anemone on viagra," enthused one Time magazine reporter, attempting to describe a spiky number sported by Alek Wek at a 1999 show in New York.

Today, Treacy's work has moved beyond the bounds of mere headwear, earning itself display space at both London's V&A and the Met in New York.
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