Milliner Lady Laura Cathcart has been designing hats from her Shropshire-based studio for five years for clients including Elizabeth Hurley. A part of the Royal Ascot Millinery Collective, Cathcart has worked with brands and British designers including Grace Wales Bonner, Amanda Wakeley and Beulah. We sat down with the milliner during Royal Ascot to talk about crazy hats, collaborations with fashion designers and Elizabeth Hurley.”
WWD: What are your thoughts on Royal Ascot and being part of the collective?
Lady Laura Cathcart: Royal Ascot is like the Paris Fashion Week of the millinery world. To be part of the collective this year with icons like Philip Treacy feels a bit like saddling up in the Royal Ascot paddock next to Frankie Dettori. But I am very excited to be part of the greatest millinery fashion show on earth ! Ive been coming to Royal Ascot for years but this feels very special.
WWD: What was your experience like collaborating with British fashion designers?
L.L.C.: They are all so different. Amanda [Wakeley] and I did a pre-Ascot event at her flagship Mayfair store, which was all about getting London’s “social butterflies” in the mood for the summer. We served pink rose Champagne and invited mainly a society crowd. Amanda has such a great instinct for fashion. I’m working closely with Natasha Rufus Isaacs at Beulah this year as my London “showroom” is based at Beulah’s lovely chic shop on Ebury Street in Belgravia, so it’s a natural partnership. We have quite a similar vision — ultrachic but affordable elegance — and my hats complement her classic and contemporary fashionwear. I designed some funky hats for Grace’s [Wales Bonner] graduate fashion show launch that got her noticed — it was fun doing something more “cutting-edge” as millinery isn’t all about pill-box hats and mother-of-the-bride classics.
WWD: Will you be working on any upcoming collaborations?
L.L.C.: I’m looking forward to seeing the drawings for Beulah’s new collection as I’d like to create a few hats that are designed for certain outfits. I’m also looking at collaborating with a luxury shooting-wear brand or gunsmith to create a truly eye-catching new couture shooting-hat collection for women. I want to create a signature shooting-hat range that stands out from the tweedy hats and is the perfect present for shooting types who want their wives and girlfriends to look superchic whilst standing by their pegs in the winter rain.
WWD: What is the craziest creation you have designed?
L.L.C.: I’m quite fond of my wacky new “Rabbit Ear” hat that the actress Charlotte Radford has just shot for my “Into the Woods” winter campaign. She looks like a cross between Marilyn Monroe and a cartoon character from Bugs Bunny. Wild and fun.
WWD: What is your most memorable?
L.L.C.: I think my new Butterfly House collection is really different and unusual. The hat I’ve designed for the Royal Ascot collective is all about the summer season being when London’s society butterflies come out to play and spread their wings.
WWD: What was your experience like working with Elizabeth Hurley and “The Royals?”
L.L.C.: Elizabeth has worn my hats a few times, including at my wedding. She loves a hat and is the perfect kind of client as well as a friend. She very kindly suggested to the costume department of The Royals that they “call in” some of my hats and I was delighted to see an Instagram from Elizabeth showing that the hats were actually being used in various filmed scenes, including a scene set in the royal stables. I love that it so “camp” — I’m keen to do more work with costume designers and branch out into more TV and film work. I love period dramas and would love to do more period hats.
WWD: When you are not designing hats, what else are you working on?
L.L.C.: I also do interior design projects and enjoy researching historical millinery techniques. I also help run a quintessentially English tea room at our house in Shropshire, which serves delicious Victoria sponge cakes in my millinery studio. So the hat blocks have to make way for cake stands and homemade scones.
WWD: Can you tell us about some of your upcoming projects and plans?
L.L.C.: Both my brand ambassadors are actresses, I’d like to work more with costume designers and do more TV and film millinery work. I’m working on a new Elizabethan hat collection over the summer.