The Inside Story: Lauren Martin

Royal HatsLauren Martin is an Australian-born milliner who, after training as a milliner, now designs her own vintage-inspired hats from her studio in Bedfordshire. In 2011, she was a milliner on staff at Philip Treacy London- that spring, the atellier was a flurry of activity as the company produced 37 hats for a certain high profile royal wedding. Here are two of those hats she created for the Cambridge’s wedding, described in her own words.

Flashback Friday - to exactly five years ago when this hat made as many headlines as the wedding it appeared at. I was one of a team of lovely milliners who worked for hat designer Philip Treacy in 2011. I think enough time has passed now that the horror of those long hours in April doesn't make me wince! This was on of four hats I worked on with Philip for the wedding, out of a total of 37. He designed them all, and we stitched them. Like it or loathe it, it certainly got people talking. I still can't quite see it the way the rest of the world does - I see 55 hours of sparterie, wire, layers of fabric, thread matching, blocking, more blocking, pressing - and very clean hands! Princess Beatrice later auctioned the hat on eBay for charity. It sold for £81,000. #royalweddinganniversary #milliner #millinery #hat #hats #royalwedding #fbf

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Six years ago today, a wedding took place in Westminster Abbey, and I was involved in the making of four hats that attended it. It wasn't until recently that this photo popped up on Instagram (thank you @mrkevindavies !!) and I saw this fourth hat on it's wearer for the first time. No-one thought to take photos of this very lovely lady when she attended (unlike the other three hats - but that's another story) and I was sad because this hat had as much work in it as the others. Luckily I met this lovely lady when she came to collect her hat, and it's probably going to be my overriding memory of my hat making years in London if I ever attain the age that she did. The inside of this hat has a lot going on, that defies the simple exterior. The straw is the most beautiful fine leghorn from Italy, the flowers from Steyer in Germany, and elegance of the lady wearing it? Purely Mitford! Dowager Duchess of Devonshire (Deborah Mitford). Photo credit Kevin Davies #millinery #royalwedding #devonshire #mitford #debo #philiptreacy #oneofmyfavouritehats

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It’s always amazing to hear about hats described by the ones who made them. Lauren’s work is simply incredible- look at the detail and workmanship throughout the evolution of this astounding historical piece:

Little ray of sunshine...it's certainly warmed up here in Canada! Returned from NYC to find someone had flipped the summer switch to ON. 27 degrees today - far too hot to be outdoors, so sadly I'm trapped at my desk playing with this beauty. As someone who learnt computers in the late eighties, and the basics of digital photography in the nineties and early 2000s, I'm still astounded by how easy and user-friendly photographic technology has become, especially on smartphones and tablets. Amazing apps that would have taken days to load on my poor old 486 and cost hundreds of dollars are now freely available. What's it going to be like in another 20 years?! #costumedesign #costume #millinery #milliner #headdress #headpiece #sketch #workinprogress #sunrays #gold #wirework #elizabethan #havingtoomuchfun

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Having abandoned the idea of any buckram in the headpiece, I remade the whole frame solely in wire (1). I covered the back structure and the base in gold mesh fabric (2), easier at this stage before all the other layers went on top. Getting the right shade of translucent shimmery gold for the back was a case of trial and error. The final combination is tea-dyed silk organza, scrunched up when wet and unpressed, followed by a layer of superfine gold tulle (3). The metallic gold bands followed, with lots of experimenting to get the spacing right (4). After that, I could reattach the smocked and beaded silk organza pieces, also dipped in tea (5). The fabrics I chose had to be light, first and foremost. Natural fibres are also my preference, however the tulle and mesh have better body when made from synthetic. Also worth noting, are the fabric costs. At this stage the materials in the hat probably came to no more than £15, although I do have a large collection built up over the years that I can draw from! #millinery #milliner #costume #costumedesign #costumemaking #costumemillinery #theatricalmillinery #elizabethan #headdress #headpiece #handsewn #handcrafted #creativeprocess #smocking #beading #dyeing #gold #silk #wirework #halfwaythere

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The process behind the hat was not straightforward. After sketching the vague idea in my head, I set about making the structure in wire and blocked buckram pieces. I got quite far and invested lots of hours in the piece before abandoning it and trying another tack. The buckram had no movement, so the shape looked inescapably 'Mickey Mouse'. No matter how much I squished and shaped and concealed - the mouse was there! It sometimes feels a bit drastic abandoning something when you're so far in - in this case, possibly 10-15 hours. But I did get more practise at applying silk satin to concave buckram - not the easiest of millinery techniques! I salvaged some of the structure and the wires - I rarely throw anything away. As soon as the buckram was gone, the hat began to come together. Another thing to note, is the time period this was made over. The photo dates indicate I made most of it between early April and late June last year - but that wasn't full time! I spent a few hours on it every couple days - and I think that pace allows a lot of time to step back and consider things. And if undoing it and beginning again is what's required, so be it! #millinery #milliner #beading #embroidery #vintagetrims #headpiece #handsewn #handsewing #elizabethan #costume #costumemaking #costumedesign #theatrecostume #theatricalmillinery #costumehistory #startalloveragain

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One of the best things about not having a deadline for a project is having time to 'let things marinate'. I don't always trust my first ideas, nor do I always trust my eyesight! So I'm very often found pinning things together, however haphazardly, and snapping a photo - the lens shows things my eyes miss. I can also get a better idea of contrast, balance and scale. It's nice as well, to be able to play with an idea, leave it for a while (sometimes minutes, sometimes months) and come back with a fresh mind. Sometimes I'll think 'hmmm I got that right!', other times it's more 'what was I thinking?' It's also why I have at least twenty or so projects on the go at any one time. Some just need their final beads, others aren't even sketches on paper yet. But slowly, some of them edge towards completion. Here are various images where I'm playing with ideas. As you can see, not everything makes the cut! #millinery #milliner #hats #hatmaking #hatmaker #beaded #gold #creativeprocess #smocking #braid #artsandcrafts #handsewn #sewing #silk #dyeing #costume #costumemaking #costumedesign #trialanderror #letitmarinate

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Day 18: Favourite Hat As if I could ever choose a favourite! It's impossible. If the house was on fire and I was allowed to save one hat, this would be it. She's still not finished, but she's probably got the most hours I've ever spent on a hat of my own design. This hat takes inspiration from many places. I loved Nicole Kidman's Indian headpieces in Moulin Rouge, and I adored Cate Blanchett's ensembles in Elizabeth. But what really got this headpiece started was a length of tatty gold braid that was the springboard for everything else. All the other materials took their cue from the braid, which is the trim outlining the main shapes. My proudest achievement with this piece is its lightness - you can balance it on your little finger - and also it's construction - none of it touches the wearer's head, apart from the integral wire headband. It literally floats above your head, like a halo! I think this stems from the fact that whenever I do wear a hat, I get a massive headache, so I tend not to wear them... #thevintagefashionchallenge #millinery #milliner #headpiece #costume #costumedesign #costumemaking #theatrecostume #theatricalmillinery #costumemillinery #elizabethan #gold #metallic #smocking #beading #embroidery #vintage #vintagetrims #needanexcusetowearthis

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Photos from social media as indicated
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11 thoughts on “The Inside Story: Lauren Martin

  1. Fascinating post! Debo’s hat is wonderful — how is it that she wasn’t photographed at the wedding? I’m not sure I understand the thinking of having a “lot going on” inside the hat besides the fun for the designer and the wearer.

    The costume piece is dazzling! Is that for a stage or film production? Interesting to hear about the use of coffee and tea dying.

  2. I absolutely hated that hat that Beatrice wore – more suited to Ascot than at a royal wedding. Yet, in the fullness of time, I can appreciate the workmanship and details.

    Debo’s hat was wonderful! And the cheeky little grin she has while wearing it is just priceless.

  3. Fascinating! behind-the-scenes stories are so interesting. And I will never tire of seeing/ reading about P Beatrice’s justly famous Treacy wedding hat.

  4. Whatever you think about PB’s “toilet seat” hat, the workmanship is absolutely stunning. No visible seams here, unlike some of the Queen’s hats. I’d love to see inside these hats.

  5. What artistry! Fascinating article. I’m inclined to agree with James B that Beatrice was the wrong person to weat that hat. The late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire was immediately recognizable. She looked fabulous!

  6. Such amazing craftsmanship. I always thought Beatrice’s hat was a work of art, just not necessarily on her, and not on that day. It’s a real shame, as she obviously wanted to go for a fashion forward look, but was just ill advised. It’s stunning though – and 55 hours!!

    And my love of Debo is only more amplified! Doesn’t she look fabulous and what a lovely hat for a lady of great years, so adventurous. I met her (briefly) about 10 years ago when she was doing a book signing. Just wonderful to hear that Mitford drawl. Sigh, I love the Mitfords!

  7. What an amazing story of hat-making! I am so impressed with all the hours that went into making this hat. I saw the Mickey Mouse look of the buckram immediately. What a good lesson to learn (in whatever profession you are in) to know when to shelf it and start over. Thanks for sharing!

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