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Don’t Forget Your Hat: Noel Stewart Adds Drama To Winter Wardrobes

[Above: Lady Gaga, Kate Moss & Naomi Campbell in Noel Stewart hats. Below: the designer]

As temperatures drop, chances are you’re pulling out your trusty wool beanie. Functional? Sure—but where’s the fantasy?

London-based milliner Noel Stewart is celebrating the 10th anniversary of his business this year, and if you’re craving some whimsy in your headwear, look no further. The man has created avant-garde toppers for the likes of Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, and he collaborates with designers like Marc by Marc Jacobs, Erdem, Gareth Pugh and more on runway creations. Stewart, who trained under the famed Stephen Jones, even had his work immortalized in an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum called Hats: An Anthology. How’s that for credentials?

Barneys New York has been with him from the beginning, so to celebrate this milestone, we caught up with the man to talk hats. (Oh, and if you’re just looking looking for something to keep your head warm—not all of us can be Gaga, after all—Stewart makes those, too. Happy hatting!)

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What did you envision for your brand when you first launched 10 years ago?
All I knew was that I wanted to design and make hats that were exciting and different but were still flattering and desirable. I also knew I wanted to collaborate with designers, as I love the freedom of the catwalk.

Why hats?
I love all the possibilities with hats that you just don’t get with other aspects of fashion. It’s so completely unique.

Do you feel like you’ve had an ‘I made it’ moment? 
Not so much ‘I’ve made it,’ more like ‘Whoa, that’s a milestone.’ Having my work in the V & A exhibition, Hats: An Anthology, which also went to The Bard was extraordinary. Having your work in a museum is quite something. Seeing my hats in Barneys Madison Avenue was definitely a major feeling of success—it was years before I got to New York to see them, so it was a bit of a pilgrimage in the end. My first show with Hussein Chalayan was very special, as was the first time I worked on Marc by Marc Jacobs.

Is there anyone who’s made a particularly big impact on you in your career?
I’ve learnt something from everyone I’ve worked with, but Roksanda Ilincic has been a guiding light in many ways. We have collaborated on many collections but she has always been so inspiring both personally and professionally. She has always believed in me and trusted my opinion, which means a great deal.

1. Felt Trilby 2. Helmo earflap cap 3. Felt Trilby with cobalt band

Is there anyone you haven’t dressed yet that you’d like to see in your hats?
So many people! Cate Blanchett, M.I.A., Santigold and Amanda Harlech, to name a few.

What are some of your favorite hats you’ve made throughout your career?
It tends to be the most recent ones. I loved the pieces I made with Gareth Pugh this season, really romantic but hard at the same time. The Chalayan hats were also pretty special: half hat, half sun visor. I also love the simpler ones: The Helmo cap, which Marc by Marc Jacobs used and is stocked in Barneys currently, is a constant fave. As is a hat from Fall/Winter ‘08 called the shadow veil, which is a graphic little cocktail number.

Why do you think people love hats so much?
There is a unique freedom of expression with hats that is pretty extraordinary. Also, commissioning a hat is one of the last truly luxury experiences left. Hat wearing can be so much fun; you meet exciting people and go places you’d never go un-hatted. Equally, you can hide from the world with the right hat. It’s up to you and the hat you choose.

Where do you see yourself in another 10 years?
With a little shop of my own doing much of the same—just bigger, better, wiser and older!

SHOP NOEL STEWART

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