IT never stops, I’m so busy,” says flamboyant hatter Louis Mariette who is working in his London atelier. It’s hardly surprising.
In between designing lavish couture creations for the rich and famous and having his work photographed for the world’s top fashion magazines, Louis has also just finished a stint as a judge on the popular television programme Britain’s Next Top Model.
“It was so wonderful working with Lisa Snowdon and the other two judges,” he beams.
“It was just a marvellous experience. There were 20 girls on the show all wanting to win and they had such wonderful backgrounds and stories. Like anything in life though there can only be one number one.
“I have to say a lot of the girls were very good. It was hard to choose. At first I was tough but as you get to know the girls, you really want them to do well but it’s very difficult to choose one from another.”
Louis is a world-renowned milliner and creator of the world’s most expensive hat.
His work has featured in glossy magazines such as Vogue, Hello and Tatler and celebrities who have worn his hats and headpieces include Jerry Hall, Kate Moss, Sophie Dahl, Paris Hilton, Pink and Joan Collins.
The hatter designs show-stopping couture and bespoke designs for an exclusive client list who may need eye-catching headwear for events such as the Cartier Polo day, Ascot, the Dubai World Cup, the Oscars and Bafta.
Travelling to every corner of the globe, the milliner sources trimmings such as hand-embroidered fabrics, antique embellishments, porcupine quills, feathers and semi-precious stones that can be used in his designs.
He has also been known to use anything from acid-burnt quills, to hand-dipped painted resin flowers and embroidered feathers.
In fact, the more flamboyant and creative, the better.
One of his most spectacular creations is the Chapeau d’ Amour, a £1.5m hat made from a rare weave of platinum fabric studded with diamonds.
He says: “I want women to enjoy wearing my pieces and to revel in wearing them. I want people to say 'wow look at that woman in the hat'. One of my first ever clients was a single girl who was very shy. She wanted a headpiece which I did for her and when she went to an event a guy came up to her and started talking to her about it and they got on well.
“She is now going to marry that man and I’m going to do the headpiece for their wedding.”
As well as bespoke pieces Louis also has Bejewelled, a ready to wear collection, which is stocked in boutiques and department stores across the world.
His flair and creativity for colourful designs using an array of fabrics and beads, stems from his upbringing.
Louis was born in Malawi, with Mauritian origins, and grew up in Botswana and Swaziland, where he would spend hours exploring endless species of flowers and insects and collect semi-precious stones, cactus flowers, beads and trimmings from local tribes.
He was also mesmerised by the colours and textures of dragonflies, butterflies and beetles, all of which inspire his designs today.
Louis says: “I didn’t quite relate to the other kids who were playing football. I would go into the hills and enter into my own little world. I’d look at insects and flowers and all the different colours and textures.
“I had nimble fingers and was quite tactile and I wanted to create things. When I look at my designs now, a lot of the things I saw and experienced have subconsciously worked there way in there.
“I love going to rare and unusual places such as the Malawi kingdom, where the villagers dress up for an amazing festival. Everything I see is just constantly working their way into my mind and then it just comes out creatively.
“I am not a traditional milliner. People come to me because they want something different, apart from the Bejewelled collection which is more wearable. Clients want something unusual.
“Whenever I am making a piece, my imagination is always going into it. I don’t want to be dull and lacklustre. If you have someone designing certain piece it’s guaranteed I will be doing the total opposite. I like my pieces to be timeless and unique .”
As well as designing and television work, Louis is also very passionate about charity work.
This is why he has agreed to display his beautiful creations on the catwalk at the Fashion For A Good Cause fund-raising day at Newcastle Racecourse on August 31. The event, which is the brainchild of entrepreneur Brian Morton, who owns 20 race horses, will include shows featuring clothes by top North East retailers along with entertainment, a champagne reception and a three-course dinner and is in aid of Metro Radio’s Cash For Kid charity.
Louis says: “I always love being involved in charity events. Since I was a child in Africa I have been involved in a lot of projects.
“I learned from the women that when times get rough you have to extend your hand out to others. To think of others and not do things for selfish purposes and I think that is good for society. That’s why I wanted to get involved in this event. The designs that will be on display will be very elegant and chic and very eye-catching. I’m very excited about it. It’s going to be amazing.”
For more information on Louis Mariette visit www.louismariette.co.uk
Tickets for Fashion For A Good Cause are normally £100 but Journal readers can purchase them for £65 each by calling Sorted PR on 0191 265 6111 and quoting The Journal.