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Photo by Leigh Keily

Piers Atkinson on Skype

'Headonist' milliner Piers Atkinson talks about his head pieces in a Skype chat with Dazed Digital

Milliner Extraordinaire Piers Atkinson has just shown his A/W10 collection ‘It Is Later Than You Think’ which tells a tale of Tragedy, Despair, Murder and Redemption, a very different story to his previous collection, Sex On The Brain! S/S10, which is packed with Pop-Art, Colour and Sex. As this S/S10 Collection hits the shops, most noticeably for the launch of Tokyo’s star boutique SISTER’s new shop in Shibuya, Piers and I have a chat on Skype about the moustache and his favourite pieces of the collection.

Dazed Digital: What was the inspiration for ‘SEX ON THE BRAIN’ S/S10?
Piers Atkinson: I was feeling horny and was just laughing at that phrase and thinking about the tradition of Victorian men who, mother tells me, had erotic nudes painted in the silk linings of their top hats. . . and I realised I literally had ‘sex on the brain’.

DD: Who and what inspires you?
Piers Atkinson: A guy called Danny inspired the moustache pieces in the ‘Sex’ collection. I met him at Ryan Styles & Johnny Woo’s nightclub, he smiled at me and I was transfixed by the gold glitter in his blonde moustache… That was it - I couldn’t think of anything other than golden moustache. So, a cross between him, amateur-porn websites and 80’s airbrush-art posters of glossy lips and cherries. The AW season was inspired by watching Poirot and Midsomer Murder practically on loop. I love this camp approach to the most terrible act. So the woman in this collection is a widow who has murdered her husband for whatever reason - perhaps he dug up her petunias - and she has got away with it. It’s those widows’ veils which hide any guilty glances. Both collections are about warding off our own unfathomable mortality, from hedonistic indulgencies (S/S10) to emblazoning ourselves with totems of death (A/W10). Next season this theme continues.

DD: How long did it take to grow your moustache?
Piers Atkinson: Eight to10 days for a full-blooded, bushy number.

DD: How do you begin work on a new collection?
Piers Atkinson: Usually I have one or two simple ideas, a theme which I want to explain like sex, cherries in 80’s airbrush art and the golden moustache! Then I just draw lots of ways you can combine and interpret these themes, this leads to more ideas, research and yet more ideas! I keep drawing in my book, working and editing and refining ideas but still the collections seem to come out pretty large, about 40 pieces. One day I’ll manage to do a 10 piece collection again, like my first!

DD: What is your favourite piece from S/S10?
Piers Atkinson: I think the moustache and pearl balaclavas are pretty shocking and make me laugh, and I just love those two huge, glossy cherries!

DD: What is your favourite piece from A/W10?
Piers Atkinson: I love the ‘Schiap’ and the ‘Crawford’ – they are both so chic and very simple!

DD: Have you sold any of your pearly veils?
Piers Atkinson: No, I haven’t sold any but let’s just say I did make one private order for a very influential fashionista who is a fan. There was, however, an uncomfortable moment when a very respectable buyer attempted to try it on at my stand at LFW and I had to intervene but she just kept asking me to explain why. I kept quiet!

DD: Where can we buy your pieces?
Piers Atkinson: In the UK from Viola in Bayswater, and Machine-A in Soho, where they sell the more trendy pieces. In the US, I'm championed by Susanne Bartsch who is a fabulous socialite in NY and LA. She seems to be a one-woman promotion-machine and she sells the hats in her shop in Astor Place and has lots of articles written about her – so she and my hat made front page of the NY Times recently! And in Tokyo I’m at Sister – I love selling in Japan, and then I am very supported by Alan Journo who has a famous and eccentric shop in Milan!

DD: What is the greatest advice you have ever been given?
Piers Atkinson: I probably got my best advice during my early 20’s but, like everyone at that age, I ignored it. Something along the lines of, ‘Go with your dreams and believe in your talent’.

DD: If you were a hat what would you be?
Piers Atkinson: Probably a slightly moth-eaten, but well loved, trilby…

DD: What has been your favourite hat made to date?
Piers Atkinson: I made two hats when I was 20. One was called 'Sian de Leer and Fleur de Lys' and was made out of plaited string – they were the Ugly Sisters and I still love those hats. From my collections; the Flora all-over fake-flower balaclava or the neon mouse ears. But recently I was commissioned by Kim Howells to make a royal blue version of the Persephone from A/W10. I always enjoy being given amazing references by stylists for their shoots, and recently got fantastic moodboards from Jacob K and from Robbie Spencer who are both really wonderful and inspirational to work with.

DD: If you were not working in fashion what would you be doing?
Piers Atkinson: I would be writing and illustrating spooky and theatrical children’s books.

DD: Best memories so far?
Piers Atkinson: My new flatmate moving in. Showing my collection at LFW. Stocking in NYC, Tokyo, London and Milan and kissing in Oxford. I have had so many exciting things happen with the hats; showing at the V&A, showing at LFW on the runway with NOKI and Ashish, and this season with J Maskrey, working with Judy Blame, having Lady Gaga wear my pieces, seeing my first ever editorial as a DPS in Vogue shot by Nick Knight and styled by Kate Phelan. It’s all a bit like a dream come true….

DD: What does the future hold for Piers Atkinson?
Piers Atkinson: Well, that’s the thing…we don’t know what the future holds do we? The Great Uncertainty. We can only hope, plan and dream. Life is a bit out of my control I have to admit – things just happen to me that I can’t turn down. I put ‘stuff’ out there and things happen. I hope to go to NY and Tokyo and see what happens there. I’d like to have a grand love affair. I’d love to design and maybe write a movie. I’d like to win the lottery…

Art Director - Thomas Lohr
Makeup - Abigail Johnson using M.A.C
Featuring - Piers Atkinson and Kim Howells