The world of millinery is as theatrical as it is elegant. We speak to Abu Dhabi based Tori Single from Vivienne Morgan Millinery about her artistic headpieces, her inspiration and Dubai World Cup…
How long have you been a milliner and what got you interested?
I distinctly recall turning the pages of Vogue magazine in 1999 and seeing a photo taken by Herb Ritts in Death Valley of a model wearing a fish skeleton headdress by Stephen Jones. That image has stuck in my mind ever since. Years later, my mother gave me some millinery lessons with Rose Cory, milliner to the late Queen Mother. I then did an internship in London with the avant-garde designer Piers Atkinson. Being a milliner gives me the freedom to combine fashion styling with art and creativity. There are no limits on shape, style or materials when it comes to hats.
How does millinery translate to the Middle East? Why do people look to the UK for millinery inspiration?
London and the UK has been the centre of the fashion world in terms of millinery for such a long time. I think fashion in London is more extroverted and original and avant-garde compared to other fashion capitals and therefore people are more likely to wear a quirky hat, plus it’s also etiquette to wear millinery to a wedding in the UK. Since I’ve been living here, I’ve noticed people have been looking to the likes of the Duchess of Cambridge and Queen Rania and admiring their fashion style and hats and observing that they too can wear hats here. People in the Middle East usually want to start off with something a little subtler such as a headband, but we also have Dubai World Cup once a year where there is a chance to go to the extreme. Anything goes.
How would you describe the Vivienne Morgan Millinery style?
It’s all about wearable pieces of art. Two things are key for me: firstly, that I create original hats or headpieces, which sometimes appear to defy gravity or challenge the traditional interpretation of a hat, and secondly, that such headpieces are designed to flatter the wearer and complement their beauty. All the designs are underpinned by traditional millinery techniques and hand-craftsmanship that is the very essence of Vivienne Morgan Millinery.
Where do you find your inspiration for your designs?
From books on fashion, photography and design. In particular, Tim Walker photography books never fail to inspire me. I also keep a scrapbook of ideas for designs or materials, and sometimes I’ll look back at a design I started a few years ago and a brainwave will suddenly come to me as to what materials I can use to create the desired shape.
Which famous milliners and fashion designers do you admire and why?
There are two collaborations that never fail to inspire me, being McQueen’s collaboration with hat maker Philip Treacy, and Stephen Jones’ work with the brilliant John Galliano. Together these collaborations produced such powerful, original and fearless designs. They were, in my opinion, responsible for the most memorable catwalk moments of the last few decades.
What advice would you give to someone who is hesitant about wearing hats?
Lots of ladies who come to my studio have never worn a hat before, other than perhaps a sunhat. It’s crucial to find the hat shape and style that suits you, whether it’s a large brimmed hat, an asymmetric headpiece or a floral crown with veiling. I’ve not yet failed to find a headpiece to suit my clients.
Where do you source your millinery materials from?
Whenever I travel I am always on the lookout for haberdasheries and vintage shops. I buy silks and stamens for flower making from some local haberdashery shops in Abu Dhabi that resemble Aladdin’s Cave. The vintage feathers and veiling tends to come from Paris. And I source the millinery hardware from the UK. Sometimes I even scour children’s shops for kitsch ponies or dinosaurs.
What styles to you think will be popular at the Dubai World Cup this year?
Crowns and Tiaras. They are a key piece for 2016 and they are a strong feature in my SS16 collection. It makes millinery more accessible. Dress designs are more intricate now and detailed with sheer paneling and lace so you need a hat that doesn’t overpower your outfit.