Most of us only dare to wear extravagant hats at Royal Ascot or a country wedding, and that’s a shame. London, with its up-and-coming milliners and traditional hat emporiums, is a headwear lover’s dream. For all things feathered, frothy, and jaunty, we have picked out ten of the best hat shops in London to take your wardrobe to the next level.
One of the best-known British milliners, Stephen Jones has worked with designers (John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood), members of the Royal Family (Princess Diana frequently sported his pieces), and celebrities (Boy George) – even the Victoria & Albert Museum has his creations in its collection. Londoners and tourists can see more at his Covent Garden boutique.
The go-to name in avant-garde hat making, Phillip Treacy’s SS 2013 collection includes pieces inspired by Native American headdresses, Balinese helmets, African masks, and feathered headgear a la Carnival. Aside from his boundary-pushing pieces, he’s also designed headgear for Sarah Jessica Parker, Isabella Blow, and Princess Beatrice (that Royal Wedding confection? All his.)
The ubiquitous department store doesn’t skimp when it comes to the headwear department at its Bond Street flagship: arguably the most extensive in London, Fenwick’s selection of hats comprises hundreds of name brand pieces. A favourite of local designers (millinery designer Piers Atkinson recently sang its praises), the department’s buyer Lecia Finch stocks seasonal pieces for Ascot and beyond.
Natasha Moorhouse Millinery
London-based couture bespoke hat maker Natasha Moorhouse studied with the late Queen Mother’s milliner before opening her own shop in Clapham. Her hats are not for the faint of heart (or head): characterised by wide brims, lavish feathers, and funky shapes, Moorhouse’s designs are one-of-a-kind. Fashion-forward brides should also browse her wedding collection.
This relatively new Soho upstart has an amusing claim-to-fame: it once famously repaired a customer’s fedora after it had been wrongly mistaken for lunch by his dog (teeth marks and all). Aside from miracle-restoration, Atelier stocks brands like Christy of London and City Sport and fashions bespoke headwear for men and women.
The favoured hat shop of the retro gent, Hetherington Hats is London’s top supplier of black silk top hats. With a stock of over 700 toppers for sale (or for rent, for the fair weather race fans and grooms-to-be out there), Hetherington Hats helps customers kick it like the Victorians by steaming each piece to its respective owner’s head to ensure a perfect fit.
Pip Hackett Millinery
Citing influences ranging from film noir to flappers to Victorian Romantics, Pip Hackett’s couture hats are the ultimate special occasion pieces. She’s collaborated with Thierry Mugler, has had her designs on the big screen in “Girl With A Pearl Earring,” and has a resident piece in the V&A.
Though its Luton location makes it a bit of a trek, Walter Wright is one of the old guard of London hat making. Milliners for over 300 years, the Wright family officially established their business in 1889. Today, their collection of women’s headwear includes everything from hound’s-tooth-print fedoras to feather-crowned fascinators.
Lock & Co
The favourite milliner of Kate Middleton, Prince Philip, and Prince Charles, Lock & Co is also one of London’s oldest. Founded in 1676, Lock & Co’s famous St. James Street shop is also where the bowler hat was dreamed up in 1850. Today it turns out everything from tweed hats and riding caps to straw boaters and couture pieces.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking hats are only worn by the rich and famous. Bernstock Speirs’s trendy Brick Lane shop outfits the fashionable young men and women of today. One of its most popular new designs? A striped knit beanie, covered in black netting.
Words by Claire Bullen