When I was a child, one of my favourite films was The Little Mermaid. I remember being enchanted by the stunning animation and that perfectly captured, colourful and enticing world under the sea. Told through music, The Little Mermaid was almost balletic, its enthusiasm and joy tinged with a slightly darker edge that added dimension and intrigue. I can only suppose then, that later on in my life as a milliner, the colour, scale and drama I employ so much in my headwear designs hark back to those early influences and stimuli.
I never imagined that I would be approached by the very company that turned the well-thumbed fairy tales of my youth into feature films - so when I was asked to design inspired headwear for Disney UK earlier this year, I was honoured. Disney leads the way when it comes to recruiting high-end brands to bring their films to the fashion realm, and in fact it was a real thrill to join some of the world's top fashion names (such as Stella McCartney, MAC, Christian Louboutin, Givenchy, Lulu Guinness, Giles, Michael van der Ham, Richard Nicoll and Meadham Kirchhoff) in embarking on a collaborative relationship with Disney. I'm in fantastic company!
Disney films are timeless, and just like the Disney characters and the worlds in which they reside, millinery is all about the fantastical. This collaboration will see me produce several collections in partnership with the entertainment company over the next two years, the first being a collection of one-off headpieces inspired by Maleficent, Disney's brand new blockbuster starring the beautiful Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning. The brief was simple: to design four pieces that reference the dark, dramatic beauty of the story's leading protagonist, an iconic villain and evil queen first introduced to the big screen in the 1959 edition of 'Sleeping Beauty'.
It was only natural that we commenced our relationship with Maleficent - I was itching to explore the flamboyant villainy of the character and the collection was a joy to create. Anyone who knows me personally understands that my style is eye-catching, playful and sometimes quite daring. Personally, I'm a big fan of tattoo design, quirky jewellery and dark colours - and obviously, I'm all about the headwear. The dark undertones that weave through Maleficent's story really sit well with those aspects of my design aesthetic.
The collection consists of four headpieces, all hand made in my London studio. A black horned creation adorned with black beads and veiling is a fun take on the horns that give Maleficent her menacing silhouette, while a pair of bead-encrusted red lips is a nod to her infamous pout. There are also two statement 'platter' hats, a shape that is an Alexandra Harper trademark. These reference the black and purple shades of Maleficent's robes in their original animated form, with one featuring spiralling acrylic 'thorns', and the other using hand-tooled silk flowers, jinsin loops and ostrich arrow feathers to suggest Maleficent's troubled, softer side.
The collection was released on 9 May 2014 (to coincide with the UK film premiere) and the remaining, strictly one-off designs are available for purchase at www.alexandraharpermillinery.com.
Back at the studio, I'm currently pushed to the limits creating headwear for the 2014 Spring/Summer season - Royal Ascot was a very busy time and hats are especially popular this year for summer weddings and events. In other news, we're now officially stocked at the London institution Fortnum & Mason after a successful showing at their millinery event in May.
Once all the excitement has died down, we'll start work on our next collections, including another Disney collaboration with Tinker Bell as the star. It's never ending, but I wouldn't have it any other way!
To see the full Maleficent-inspired collection, visit http://www.alexandraharpermillinery.com/shop/category/maleficent-collection/.