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Hats off to London as Lord Nelson gets a 2012 makeover

Today, as a special one off, Londoners and visitors are waking up to the capital’s most iconic statues reimagined, adorned with breathtaking, bespoke headwear that celebrates the best of British millinery talent.

As part of the visual spectacular that is HATWALK, commissioned by the Mayor of London, in partnership with BT, Grazia magazine, the British Fashion Council and the London 2012 Festival, Trafalgar Square’s most famous resident, Admiral Lord Nelson, gets a new hat for the first time in 200 years.

Lock & Co, the oldest hatters in London, established in 1676, and famed for making Nelson’s original bicorn hat, has created an updated version complete with Olympic torch as a nod to a summer like no other in this city. Nelson is one of 20 well-known statues from William Shakespeare to Winston Churchill, currently starring in the millinery extravaganza across the city.

Curated by world renowned British milliners, Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy; HATWALK brings together 21 emerging and established designers to showcase British millinery at its very best. Culminating in Trafalgar Square, the project celebrates London’s standing as a global capital of millinery, but also emphasises the city’s important and rich heritage by bringing these illustrious but sometimes overlooked statues to life in new exciting ways. Once the fantastic display has finished all of the hats will be auctioned off to raise money for the Mayor's Fund for good causes.

HATWALK is part of Surprises, which sees pop-up performances and once in a lifetime experiences spring up at locations both familiar and unusual across London throughout this summer like no other. Other Surprises include SACRILEGE – a life-sized inflatable replica of Stonehenge by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller currently touring throughout London and pop up Shakespeare from the Globe Theatre. The Mayor of London has commissioned these free cultural events and activities across the capital, as part of Mayor of London Presents, to add to the excitement of the Games and make Londoners and visitors look at and experience the city in a different way.

Back in Trafalgar Square, Nelson’s neighbours have also been given a makeover. Philip Treacy, best known for his catwalk collaborations with Alexander McQueen and design for Princess Beatrice at last year’s Royal Wedding at Westminster Abbey has crowned the British General Sir Henry Havelock with a headpiece inspired by the juxtaposition between old and new. Whilst across the square, millinery great Stephen Jones, famous for collaborating with international fashion houses including Versace and Jean Paul Gaultier has restyled King George IV with a golden-domed design inspired by the luxurious Brighton Pavilion.

“You’ve got to take your hats off to London. Our city is a melting pot of creativity right at the forefront of global fashion and design. The cutting edge style and imagination of London’s millinery talent is feted worldwide, and is setting the international catwalks alight. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the heritage of British millinery and its contribution to our fair city than by dressing our most noble of statues, including our most heroic son, Nelson in creations dreamt up by our leading visionaries. In this summer like no other, we have come up with a series of spectacular surprises and once-in-a-lifetime experiences that will be popping up throughout the capital. HATWALK is just one of these, so keep your eyes peeled for what’s coming next!” - Boris Johnson, Mayor of London
Other designers involved in HATWALK include Ian Bennett, who has most recently worked with Angela Kelly MVO, Senior Dresser to Her Majesty The Queen on designs for Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee Tour. Ian has transformed the Duke of Wellington standing outside the Bank of England with a sculptural creation complete with trademark feathers. Inspired by the Duke’s original bicorn hat, Ian’s creation is proudly emblazoned with the Union Jack in homage to Britain in this monumental year.

Former millinery favourite of the Princess of Wales, John Boyd is responsible for fashioning a new headpiece for Franklin D. Roosevelt on Bond Street. Whilst Shirley Hex, who not only taught Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones and Ian Bennett their crafts, but has also made hats for Her Majesty The Queen has dressed George Ehrlich’s The Young Lovers statue near St. Paul's Cathedral as part of HATWALK.

HATWALK has also been designed to champion emerging talent. Sophie Beale, winner of HAT FACTOR – Grazia magazine’s search to find a breakout new millinery star – has designed a piece for British general Sir Charles Napier who also resides in Trafalgar Square. Sophie’s creation takes as its muse the history dotted around the Square as well as historic London and the aging rooftops across the city.

The art of millinery is one of the great British crafts and has undergone resurgence in recent years, as British designers; including Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones continue to dominate the catwalks on a global scale. This project provides a unique opportunity to showcase Britain’s contribution to millinery.

Other must-see HATWALK creations springing up throughout the capital include:
  • House of Flora’s shards of neon Perspex sat atop the Duke of Wellington near Hyde Park.
  • William Chambers’ ‘A Red Red Rose’ headpiece for Robert Burns (inspired by his famous poem of the same name) on Victoria Embankment
  • Noel Stewart’s fun and flamboyantly coloured turban for the dandy, Beau Brummel, in Jermyn Street
British milliner, Stephen Jones says, “I am thrilled to be able to showcase British Millinery during the year of the Olympics in London.  Britain has long been credited as being the centre of the modern millinery world and these hats are the work of our most celebrated and inspired creators.”

Andrew Roberts, British Historian says: "This is a delightfully quirky way to highlight Britain's most significant historical figures - from our finest military and political leaders to distinguished poets and playwrights. Statues should be an incentive to future achievement as well as a mark of past services. London is particularly fortunate in its public statuary and I hope these hats draw everyone's attention to an often under-appreciated part of our national furniture and cultural heritage."

Paula Reed, Style Director, Grazia magazine says: “This is easily the most exciting, challenging and unusual project I have ever undertaken at Grazia. We have asked almost impossible things of our milliners and at every stage have met with enthusiasm and brilliant ideas. No wonder British millinery is recognised the world over as the best. Everyone involved has been impressed by the designers’ ingenuity. From seasoned professionals to the most recent newcomers, this group’s inventiveness has been inspiring. Not only are the hats thrilling to look at but the designers have researched their statues in such painstaking detail that it has made their history come alive in the most vibrant way. I really can’t wait for London to wake up today and share the excitement and sheer fun in this project.”

Simon Thurley, CEO, English Heritage says: "English Heritage is thrilled to be involved with both the Mayor of London and the British Fashion Council in this unique project."Hatwalk" will be a flamboyant celebration of London's rich heritage of statues, amongst the greatest artistic treasures of the capital, interwoven with a celebration of England's equally rich millinery talent. Some of the statues lucky enough to be selected to be adorned by "Hatwalk" are in the care of English Heritage, including the Angel of Peace and the Duke of Wellington at Hyde Park Corner, and all the statues chosen play a vital part in the telling of England's story."

Caroline Rush, Chief Executive, British Fashion Council says: “It will be amazing to see the works of both our world famous and the best of our emerging milliners showcased in such an exciting manner. What a way to highlight the amazing talent during such an exciting time for the UK. The project really does sum up British Fashion today; innovative, fun and creative. After seeing all the sketches I am looking forward to seeing all the pieces in situ. Londoners and its visitors are in for a treat!”
Ruth Mackenzie, Director, London 2012 Festival, says: “Hatwalk is the latest in a series of spectacular pop-up events across the capital for the London 2012 Festival. Follow @ MOLpresents and @London2012fest to make sure you catch unmissable once-in-a-lifetime treats like this”

Monique Quesada, Cultural Attaché, U.S. Embassy, London says: “Hats off (or hats on?) to this wonderful initiative by the Mayor of London’s Office! What better way to draw attention to the special relationship, which grew from the friendship between FDR and Churchill, than by highlighting our shared history and our shared experiences… And, for the wartime generation on both sides of the pond, one of those shared experiences was growing up on platefuls of Spam!”

More information on HATWALK and the other amazing cultural treats taking place this summer please visit www.molpresents/hatwalk. HATWALK gives a cultural tour of some of the city’s most iconic landmarks and statues, with a special map produced by Grazia magazine. For exclusive behind-the-scenes stories and details of how HATWALK got off the ground visit www.graziadaily.co.uk/hatwalk, where you will also be able download the HATWALK map.

Throughout the Games the public will also be able to see the complete collection of all the hats – life-sized copies of the headwear on the statues – hosted by BT and Grazia magazine in BT House at BT London Live between the 30th July – 12th August in London’s Hyde Park. On 31st July Grazia magazine and BT are also hosting a fashion event in BT House, where Grazia’s Style Director, Paula Reed and HATWALK curators Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones will be holding a fashion talk about the project. Visit www.btlondonlive.com for information.

Image: Lord Nelson in Trafalgar Square in Lock & Co.'s Union Jack Bicorn

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