Photography by Thomas Lohr
Piers Atkinson has worn nearly as many hats as he’s made. Artist, illustrator, milliner, costume designer, party organiser, fashion editor and now DJ! – his creative energies only seem to be matched by an insatiable curiosity.
He grew up in Norfolk with three generations of women – his mother, the theatrical milliner Hilary Elliott, at whose knee he learned hat-making; his sister Lucy, the long-suffering photographic model for his teenage reconstructions of Grace Jones and Art of Noise record covers; and his grandmother, the artist / writer / horticulturalist and illustrator Lesley Gordon, from whom he took his multi-disciplinary cue.
After studying graphic design and photography at the University of Bristol (where Stephen Jones made a brief but memorable visit to his grad show), Piers moved in 1995 to London. He helped out at that year’s Alternative Miss World, the brainchild of artist Andrew Logan, now an occasional collaborator and constant inspiration to Piers: ‘He helped me see the rich possibilities of free-form events and a ‘just do it’ attitude.’
In 1999, Piers started with iconic fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, whom he assisted with art direction and in-house PR. ‘She instantly cured my conservative approach to colour!’ says Piers. When Rhodes became a client of PR powerhouse Mandi Lennard, Piers took a post there assisting Mandi, who gave him many of her unique insights into the fashion world.
Piers launched his first collection of hats in February 2008 and has created collections every season since. He has collaborated with designers Ashish, Ashley Isham and Noki for runway presentations and has dressed such celebrities as Anna Dello Russo, Kate Moss, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Kelis, Cate Blanchett and Paloma Faith. The Princesses of York and Dame Shirley Basey have worn his hats at Ascot and he has had pieces in the V&A’s ‘Hats: an Anthology by Stephen Jones’ and ShowStudio’s exhibition ‘The Café’.
Piers’s creations regularly appear in the pages of Vogue, Italian Vogue, V Magazine, Tatler and the London broadsheets. His hats are available across the globe – from Sister in Japan to Fenwick’s in London, via Joyce in Hong Kong and Alan Journo’s famous store in Milan.