How did you begin your journey into the world of hats?
I got a scholarship to study fashion design at The Royal College of Art, and while I was there Harrods ran a competition to create a collection for their millinery department. I won and my collection sold out. It was a funny position to be in as a student; supplying hats to Harrods. It started as a hobby but soon became all-consuming as the demand for my hats increased. I suppose you could say it was meant to be.
"I've been lucky enough to work with the best, from Karl Lagerfeld to Valentino and Gianni Versace, but my most memorable projects were with Alexander McQueen."
You have collaborated with many designers, who has been your most memorable?
I've been lucky enough to work with the best, from Karl Lagerfeld to Valentino and Gianni Versace, but my most memorable projects were with Alexander McQueen. Every season he would have a completely different idea. He would say "I'd like to make birds from wood" or "I want the hats to look like they've been found on a futuristic rubbish dump." My all-time favourite collection was one we designed in honour of our mutual friend Isabella Blow. The hats were adorned with lots of butterflies.
You had a hugely creative muse in Isabella Blow - do you miss that relationship?
I worked with Isabella for 20 years and the most exciting thing about her was that she wore hats completely unselfconsciously. She'd wear her favourite hat on the Tube to work and it got the most wonderful reactions, it brightened people's days. That's what people who wear hats are doing; they're just making their day better.
What are your tips on hat dressing for occasions?
Choose your outfit first, because if you find an extraordinary hat it can be difficult to find an outfit that comes up to scratch. Never go hatless - a hat will make you look better than you did before you put it on. They're the new cosmetic surgery but painless. They make the wearer look more attractive - who doesn't want that? It's what everybody aspires to; otherwise we'd all be sitting round in shell suits.
You've worked with Lady Gaga, how was that?
She's lovely. It's exciting to work with somebody like Lady Gaga because fashion is part of her make-up and she is a committed hat-lover. She's the person to make hats for in the pop hemisphere. I've done lots of work with Grace Jones too; I love working with her.