Milliner Philip Treacy on glamour, his M.A.C collection and how Sarah Jessica Parker treats fashion like makeup

By Susan Catto

Like makeup, hats can feel intimidating, and beloved milliner Philip Treacy - who has crafted a collection of cosmetics for M.A.C - knows this all too well. “Women are afraid of hats but they shouldn’t be,” the designer tells Hello! Canada. “They just need to find the right hat for them, a hat that makes them feel good and happy and cheers them up and makes them look beautiful.”

That’s a lot to ask of a hat – or a hat maker — but if anyone can deliver, it’s Philip. His creations are prized in royal circles (he’s said to have designed 36 hats for guests at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), sought by celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Lady Gaga, and incorporated into the couture collections of designers such as Alexander McQueen and Dior.


Philip with socialite Daphne Guinness at the Hudson's Bay in Toronto. Photo: © Getty Images

In his collaboration with M.A.C Cosmetics, the Irish-born designer, 47, has created dramatic makeup must-haves that brings his out-of-the-(hat) box sensibility to fans who might not have the occasion (or the budget) to wear his toppers. “I have a very populist approach to fashion, which is why I love that you can buy a lipstick and feel part of the experience,” he says.

Philip sat down with Hello! Online at Claridges hotel in London to discuss the new products and memorable moments with his celebrity clientele.

What’s the signature of a Philip Treacy creation, be it millinery or makeup?
Glamour. Glamour is a currency that works in every culture all over the world. They want to be glamorous in the United Arab Emirates and they want to be glamorous in Chile and in New York and in London. It’s an international constant.

Your client roster is full of famous women. What have you learned working with them?
I have a diverse collection of people that I’ve been associated with, but primarily they are all strong women who have a fearlessness in them, but are very gentle, sweet, kind people. They are fighters because it’s hard to operate in that arena and be judged. You learn when you work with them that actually they are very human people who are in extraordinary situations – but their skin is as thin as ours. People think when you have notoriety and fame that [you can take any criticism] to your face, straight up, and that can be hurtful.


Sarah Jessica Parker's Philip Treacy mohawk at the 2013 Met Gala. Photo: © Getty Images

Is it especially fun working with someone as fashion-forward as Sarah Jessica Parker?
I love her because she’s a really, really nice person. She’s a very gracious person. She occupies a very unusual space in people’s imaginations. She made famous a character who loves fashion, so as a result she can get away with things that most people can’t. Also, she treats fashion like most people treat makeup. She just puts it on and enjoys it for the evening and then ... “Next!” She genuinely likes it and is respectful of the people who put a huge amount of effort into helping her.

Was there a moment when you said to yourself, “I’ve made it”?
I suppose when I designed Prince Charles’s wife’s hat for her wedding. I was invited to the wedding and Mrs. Parker Bowles came down the aisle toward Prince Charles in something I had made for her and I thought, “Times have changed – for all of us!” [Laughs.] It was very exciting because I like her very much and I’m a great fan of hers.

Were you always a royalist?
I grew up in Ireland and we were obsessed with royalty. Our family loved the royals, we loved the Queen. Royalty are not celebrities. They inhabit a magic all their own.

Take a look at some of the collection's headpiece-inspired must-haves:

"I've known a lot of strong women who use their makeup like they're going into battle. It's like, 'I'm ready to go!'" Left: M.A.C Philip Treacy High-Light Powder in Blush Pink, $37, select M.A.C locations,

"I'm very influenced with these colours by [late friend and mentor] Isabella Blow. She liked very pink pinks and dark reds." Left: M.A.C Philip Treacy lipstick in Hollywood Cerise and Cardinal, $19 each.

"You need makeup with a hat. If it's a very strong concept, you need strong eyes. Otherwise you disappear." Right: M.A.C Philip Treacy FLuidline in Royal Wink and Blue Peep, $19 each.

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