Kate Middleton’s Influence Leads to Increase in the Millinery Industry
Typical associations of British fashion range from Doc Martins to school boy blazers; however, in light of recent royal proceedings, the object receiving the most attention is the fascinator. There were roughly 2,000 people in attendance at the royal wedding last April, but the televised event drew in additional hundreds of millions of viewers from around the world. Anglomania set in, and everybody wanted their own souvenir from the morning’s festivities. The obsession crossed traditional generational barriers as both young girls and their mothers found themselves infatuated with the romanticism of a modern day princess. As younger, more relatable people filled the role of royalty, classic notions of intrigue with all things royal turned into profit for the fashion industry.
Royalty has been bewitching people for thousands of years, but it wasn’t until recently with the explosion of social media, that people could actually emulate it. With a constant feed of everything Kate Middleton wears, anyone with a computer can find a way to mirror the new princess’ image within minutes. Fascinators, a sort of hybrid between a hat and a headband, are one of the most eye-catching statements of Middleton and of royalty at large. Thanks to what many are calling “the Kate effect,”
fascinators have found a steady increase in sales.
As with all formal royal events, dress codes are not something to be taken lightly. Along with the various other draconian requirements, the wedding invitation specifically mentioned that all women should be wearing hats to the ceremony. While some of the older women in the room, the Queen included, decided to wear more conspicuous versions, the younger, more fashion forward guests took the opportunity to express their own style through their head wear.
When thinking back to the royal wedding, the first thing to comes to mind is the new Duchess of Cambridge walking down the isle in Sarah Burton’s impeccable work of craftsmanship. The next are the mixed feelings about Pipa stealing her sister’s spotlight in a curve hugging (white!) dress, also designed by Burton. Then comes Princess Beatrice of York’s bow-shaped, salmon-colored topper. The avant garde shape of this fascinator (is it a pretzel? a female reproductive part? or, really just a bow?) has become a symbol of sorts for the wedding. Custom designed by famed milliner Philip Treacy, the hat was so over the top and ridiculous that it wouldn’t even fit into Beatrice’s town car, forever imprinting in my mind the image of Beatrice leaving Westminster, head tilted uncomfortably to the side as she waved towards the sea of photographers and tourists. So memorable was that “unique sculptural celebratory headpiece” that the original sold to an anonymous bidder on ebay for $130,000. For those who missed their chance at having the real thing, copies can be found at specialty boutiques and year-round Halloween centers at prices ranging from knickknack to investment pieces.
Kate Middleton isn’t exactly a risk taker when it comes to fashion. She has been known to stick to very chic, but also very safe, options like simple shift dresses and comfortable boot cut jeans for day, and classically pretty floor length gowns for night, all of which she frequently compliments with a wide array of intricate headpieces. While her garment choices lack the originality of her royal predecessors, the confidence and air of regality in which she wears and accessorizes them makes her all the more suitable for her new position as a bona fide style icon.
A former accessories buyer for Jigsaw, Middleton finds her niche within her accessories. She is always one to make a lasting impression by means of her choice of fascinators, having the unequivocal knack for finding an appropriate options for absolutely any occasion. Some of her most memorable choices include a mustard-colored feathery skimmer to match her similarly yellow nipped-waist dress at a friend’s wedding, a wide brimmed black hat with black feathers which she wore cheekily tilted to the side of her head at the wedding of Harry Meade and Rosie Bratford, and a ten gallon cowboy hat which she paired with fitted jeans and a white oxford shirt while tour in Canada.
It is rare to see average folk wearing statement hats, predominantly because they are notoriously difficult to pull off if not styled correctly. This is wear Middleton comes in to save the millenary industry. By setting an example of how headpieces can be worn to compliment your look rather that overpower it, she inspires her followers to introduce the intricate pieces into their own style mantras. “[Middleton] has worn the style on several different occasions.” Dan Rentillo of David’s Bridal explained to CNN. “She’s showing women that this is a great accessory that can change up your look.”
As Google releases their yearly statistics, there was a reported 50% increase in searches conducted for hats in the U.S. and a 67% increase for fascinators. While the potential customers of fascinators are obviously a limited variety, Middleton’s influence is clearly reflected in online sales. A recent search for fascinators on Etsy came up with an astounding 36,000 results. The sales of bridal hats have overtaken those of both veils and tiaras in America, Australia, Malta, and the U.K. Harrods, the most influential department store in the U.K., has undergone a major expansion in their millinery department to account for the new demand. 2011 has proven to be a big year for headwear, and its all thanks to Middleton. “It’s because of her.” James Sackor, manager of e-commerce for retail store Belfry, lamented to WSJ “Seeing her in that head-wear just adds a new element to fashion that people maybe weren’t so sure about before. Now you can see it become more mainstream.”
The rise in hat sales has translated into high fashion this season as more hats have graced the runway than any season since the death of Diana. Gucci sent out large floppy hats similar to those wide-brimmed versions worn in the ‘70s. Louis Vuitton gave their rendition a tough military spin, perhaps acknowledgement of Will’s involvement with the military. Hipsters found new styles at Dolce & Gabbana in the form of the classic punk rock fedora. Burberry, the brand encompassing all things British, kept their toppers classic with the flatter silhouette of pageboy hats in a plethora of feline animal prints. Anna Sui sent out ironic knit versions of farm animals, complete with buttoned eyes and pom-pom noses. John Galliano’s inspiration was more straightforward, in fanciful shapes and girly styles, Galliano’s could easily be imagined onto the head of Middleton herself.
Middleton’s effect of the rising popularity of hats is undeniable. As long as Middleton continues to mesmerize the world with the grace and charm that she inevitably infuses into each new millenary decision, it is all but guaranteed that fascinators are here to stay.