Søren Bach

Millinery is essential to the atmosphere of an outfit. Liam O’Brien interviews Søren Bach, maker of headwear-extraordinaire.

Despite remaining largely unknown to all but the most hardened fashion follower, Søren Bach’s work has shifted perceptions of what is connoted by the word ‘millinery’. Bach got into design later than most, and for him, making headpieces came after years of experience in other fields. He explains: “I have over 20 years worth of experience as a hairstylist and that, to me, is also ‘design’. The kind of hairstyling I was doing towards the beginning of 2000 became more and more experimental and that influenced my choice to do millinery at the RCA.”

By using colourful, cleverly manipulated materials like horse hair, ostrich feathers and mink, Bach has rejuvenated old methods, giving his work a younger feel than that of milliner-supreme Philip Treacy. He says: “To take an iconic material and approach it differently was challenging. Combining my hairstyling background with my use of fur gives my millinery a new characteristic from what we may be used to seeing.

“Technically there is no relationship between my hair styling and my millinery, other than it is worn on top of your head, however millinery and hairstyling are about shape, colour and texture; framing the head and the face in different ways. For personal clients of mine, it is about finding the right shape and fit of hairstyle for them, with millinery the same rules apply.”

For Bach, it was his MA show that changed everything: “I didn’t expect to get the reaction from the press that it did,” he says, “I was just in my studio, making these hats and then as soon as they were shown, it dawned on me how excited everyone was by the work. I think it has shown people that millinery isn’t only about hats for weddings and Ascot. People who knew my work before could totally see how I had grown through experimentation.”

Soon after, celebrity figures were seen sporting Bach’s curiously engaging headwear. Bach welcomes the “acceptance by those in the music industry, which has been amazing; people such as Grace Jones and Bjork wearing my hats helps them come to life. I’m happy that that image of Bjork [wearing his hat] has been and continues to be shown as representational of her off-beat style and bravery.”

Designers, perhaps most notably Galliano, have always seen millinery as an essential part of their catwalk shows, but Bach believes that even the process of integrating the clothing with headwear is seeing a slow revolution: “Millinery has always had its place in couture and with a lot of the designers that choose to show in Paris, millinery has often had a romanticism associated to it and now I think that is changing. The V&A’s recent Stephen Jones exhibition (which I had a hat in) was indicative of that. The places millinery can be worn have changed.”