Born one of seven boys and an elder sister in the mid sixties, Philip Treacy was raised on a chicken farm in a small town of County Galway in Ireland, where he discovered his fascination with feathers and what could be done with them. At seventeen he ventured to city life, graduated from the Royal College of Art student.
Philip Treacy is tall, blond and handsome, boasting a boyish charm. Donning simple jeans and crisp blue shirt he welcomes me into his elegant four story Belgravia home.
‘You’ll have to forgive me’, he apologizes with expressive blue eyes and a beguiling smile, immediately making me feel comfortable with this acclaimed icon of fashion, ‘but I have been working until three this morning on my new collection.’
We sit at his glass dining table set on a pylon base work of art by Tom Dixon. “I love the mixture of young and old”, he explains. The table faces ceiling to floor French windows. The bright sunshine seeps through a potpourri of colorful summer plantings. He tells me he loves the light. It is his favorite spot in the house to think, to work, to draw and entertain.
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Philip Treacy is cultured and eloquent. He possesses exceptional sensitivity and perception toward people.
FB What came first the home or the store?
P.T. The store came first. People who come either have very extravagant interiors or minimalist interiors. The store is like a tiny gold box. It is minimalist but the emphasis of the product within makes it quite maximalist.
FB Is that what you did with your home?
P.T. I don’t really like so called designer-living minimalist white spaces. They are beautiful to look at on a picture, but quite difficult to live with. I like to collect things, specific things without being very explicit, as my choices are very nonspecific. I choose that which appeals to me whether it’s a picture, unique lamp, beautiful photograph, sculpture or any other piece of art. I believe I would call it eclectic. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I like a mixture of exoticism and homeliness.
FB There is an explosion of color in each room.
P.T. I love living with strong, beautiful colors. The phenomenal feature of colors is that they make me feel good. Colors change and lend different moods at different times, according to the diverse light during the course of the day and night.
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Philip Treacy crowns the international elite with plumes of glory. His millinery creativity is sought
after by the world’s most celebrated designers.
I glanced down for a moment at the gleaming dark oak floors.Mr. Treacy notices and continues…
"When I first found my home it had lemon walls and industrial grey carpet throughout. Everything looked to apposite. I redecorated according to my style with a pallet of strong colors. I removed the carpet to display beautiful old oak floor boards, few which open up offering a fractional peak of light from the floor below. It lends a certain charm which I like."
There are small, colorful dog beds in the dining and living room. Phillip Treacy has a passion for all animals especially his two Jack Russell’s. Like their predecessor, Mr. Pig, who recently died, they go everywhere with him. He explains…
“There is nothing more heart fetching or endearing than the devotion of an animal. The love of an animal is particularly touching because it is so true and unconditional. Their thought process is simply black or white with no grey. They love you or they don’t."
Treacy’s considers his home as his favorite place to be.
FB Do you enjoy entertaining friends as well as clients?
P.T. I love to entertain but my heavy work and travel schedule don’t allow me to that much. To entertain is to be on your stage. Not that I actually perform for people, but people are charmed by this place which takes on a very different and rather dramatic appearance at night than it does by day.
He says no to entertaining clients. ‘Just friends as they understand my schedule.’ He smiles.
FB Did you buy your home after or before the store?
P.T. After the store. I never looked for a place close to the store. It just happened by accident. It seemed ideal, though many advised me against it. They felt I would be attached to my work, unable to separate myself and never leave. But I don’t want to be separated.
FB Do you design at the store?
P.T. I used to have a studio in the basement of the store. We outgrew that. I have a larger studio in Battersea now, across from a dog pound.
Which brought up the late Jack Russell, Mr. Pig.Phillip has just acquired a new Jack Russell following the death of his beloved Mr. Pig. Mr. Pig would follow Philip to work and sit like a window dressing in the window. People would think him a toy until he would snarl at approaching customers, unable to understand why they should be allowed to enter what he believe to be his property. Phillip Treacy reasoned, this was not just home, but a place to sell hats. Mr. Pig gruntingly complied…..He became a know fixture to the store. His appropriately lavish funeral was attended by an illustrious crowd.
F.B. What would you call your greatest creation?
P.H. As a designer your greatest creation is your next one, which is what makes you go on. Whatever you feel was the best, there always that which makes me feel I should have or could have done something different. You learn from everything you do, which is the nature of wanting to continue.
On his favorite creation: It is a 17th Century Dalian or Sailing ship hat. Treacy had seen old renderings of ships in women’s hair. It was a costume designer’s dream. The idea for this hat was inspired and created from a chapter in Olivier Bernier’s book, Pleasure and Privilege, called Rule of Fashion about life in France in the 1750’s. The chapter described a British Fleet Admiral, D’Estaing, losing a famous battle to the French Fleet. In celebration, women in Paris wore ships in their hair to go to the Opera. Today it would be the latest Gucci jeans. It was not an object of ridicule rather an object of collaboration. Treacy explains, “I loved the emotion attached to this.”
F.B. What was the hat made of?
P.T. It’s made from satin and the bone of the feather. The sails are paradise feathers. The rigging is made from the feather bones which is what you strip away from the feather and that which remains.
I asked how his expertise and artistry started with feathers.
P.T. I grew up with chickens, geese, pheasants and hens. Whenever the bird would be killed, I was given the feathers. It became part of my subconscious. They are a living material of such indescribable texture because they offer the most incredible color and patterns. Feathers have an allure that supersede other material. They make people look wonderful because of their airily weightless and delicate nature. They are also stronger than people think. These birds spent their life on a barge surviving all sorts of rough weather conditions. Feathers are nature’s perfection.
F.B. Your favorite client?
P.T. Prince Charles’ wife, Camilla. She loves dogs especially Jack Russell’s. She owns some, herself. The first time I met her, she had made an appointment at the shop. She arrived early. As I approached, I noticed Mr. Pig kneeling and staring adoringly at somebody. He did not like many people so I knew immediately I liked this person though I had not even met her yet.
F.B. If you could start all over, what would be your choice profession?
P.T. I would like to be a confectioner, making exotic apparitions of deserts. I do that anyway, except people don’t eat the hats. It must be wild spending hours making something that is consumed within moments. I love to work with my hands. That is why I make hats. Working with your hands and creating something from nothing is the most gratifying feeling. It’s like food for the soul. You start with a two dimensional material and turn it into three dimensions. That is why I love making hats.
Mr. Treacy likes reading biographies. Most of all he enjoys starting his day reading his newspapers in the bath. He maintains it’s a popular culture holding a plethora of information to learn from.
F.B. On a lazy day what do you for relaxation?
P.T. I enjoy walking my dogs. I love roaming around London and its historical landmarks with the knowledge that people have been walking these streets for so many hundreds of years. I love St. James where the famous ‘Locks’ hat makers have been for generations.
Written by Francesca Bowyer
All Photographs © & ® 2008 by Francesca Bowyer