Noel Stewart is living proof that the UK remains a leader in contemporary millinery. Another British designer to follow the first wave of “mad hatters” who were at the forefront of the 1980’s revival in couture millinery, his style shares a certain sensibility with the other great hat designers that came out of London. This is not the surprising given that Noel worked for both Stephen Jones and Dai Rees after completing his postgraduate studies at London’s Royal College of Art.
He shares a penchant for irreverent hybrids and tongue-in-cheek humour that we have come to associate with the British millinery world after punk. But, there is also a swooping elegance and love of architectural grand form that is very much Noel’s own signature style. Indeed, architecture and art are very much present as sources of inspiration in his collections.
His SS16 collection is entitled ‘The Jungle’. With fern fronds and giant palm prints popping up everywhere in this year’s look featuring all things tropical, it’s right on the money as usual. Noel’s enjoyment of fusing the forms of different traditional hats to create an entirely new hybrid is a big part of it of course. Jaunty caps in contrast cork and raffia and elegant trilbies all get hand-applied details in a palette as soft and deep as some rare orchid. Great sweeping statement hats with dramatic feathers capable of putting any bird of paradise to shame mingle with downright deconstructionist architectural headgear that nonetheless bring tropical flora into play.
Certainly any woman who understands the power of hats to make a grand entrance and maintain the attention of any social gathering would make a wise move to cast her eye over Noel Stewart’s collections before planning her summer wardrobe. After all, it’s a trick that his celebrity clientele – Keira Knightly, Lady Gaga and Kylie Minogue among them– have all learned, to their benefit.