Born in the village of Ahascragh in western Ireland in 1967, Philip Treacy learned to sew at age five and made hats for his sister’s dolls from feathers shed by his mother’s chickens and ducks. Treacy’s formal training began in 1985 when he moved to Dublin to study at the National College of Art and Design. While a student, he underwent six months of work experience with milliner Stephen Jones. In 1988 Treacy moved to London and began an MA in Fashion Design at the Royal College of Art, where he specialized in hats. The following year he showed a felt hat to Michael Roberts, fashion director of Tatler magazine, and his style editor, Isabella Delves Broughton. Impressed with his creativity, Isabella commissioned Treacy to make a hat for her upcoming wedding to Detmar Blow. The milliner’s creation was a medieval headdress of fiberglass lace, which marked the first of many eccentric collaborations.
In 1990, Harper’s & Queen magazine sponsored Treacy’s final student show and he graduated from the Royal College of Art with honors. He set up a workshop in the basement of the Blows’ house in Belgravia and Isabella facilitated introductions with fashion designers. In 1991, Karl Lagerfeld invited him to work for Chanel in Paris and thus began a decade-long association. His first Chanel hat, a twisted tulle birdcage, was featured on the cover of British Vogue. Also in 1991, he launched the Philip Treacy ready-to-wear line of hats and won the British Fashion Council award for British Accessory Designer of the year, the first of five that he would garner.
Treacy’s first professional fashion show, made up entirely of black hats, took place during London Fashion Week at the Harvey Nichols store in 1993. The following year, he opened a shop at 69 Elizabeth Street in London. His roster of designer partnerships soon included Valentino, Versace, and Ralph Lauren. In 1997, Treacy introduced a line of accessories and since then his creative output has expanded to include glasses for Waterford and furniture for Habitat.
In 1999, Alexander McQueen solicited Treacy to make the hats for his white haute couture collection at Givenchy in Paris. Then in 2000, the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture invited him to present the first ever haute couture show in Paris devoted to hats, for which he designed a set of sculptural orchids. Treacy’s creations have been the subject of multiple museum exhibitions and his accolades continue to grow as in 2008 he was awarded an Order of the British Empire.