“Everyone can be a muse.” Or so says Priscilla Royer, the silver-haired creative director of Chanel-owned milliner Maison Michel. But despite her democratic point of view, Royer does something few else can: she looks cool wearing a hat.

 

Almost all of us have picked up a hat, looked in the mirror, and promptly put it down again. I asked Priscilla how she pulls hers off: “It changes depending on my daily mood,” was her breezy response. Alas, this wasn’t the directional, paint-by-numbers guide I was hoping for. This didn’t bring me any closer to knowing how to wear the Henrietta—a new de-constructed fedora that’s fastened together by alphabet bracelets (reminiscent of those you made for your best friend as a teenager). This did not elucidate the “je ne sais quoi.”

 

And while being French and beautiful might have something to do with it, what it really boils down to is her devil-may-care attitude and wit. Her advice to those hat-fearing woman? “Go for it! Of course you’re going to standout a little… it’s all about confidence.” I push her one last time: “Okay, for the French, it’s all about balance.” Priscilla concedes, “If you wear lipstick then you wear jeans—a striking hat requires something that’s not too fussy.” Before adding, “But who am I to say? Ultimately, you need to be the judge.”

 

Read on to find out what makes her tick and why it’s okay to stuff one of her heritage hats into your handbag. —Tatiana Hambro

MO: You joined Maison Michel in 2015 however the label was founded in 1936. How has this heritage influenced what you do?

 

PR: People have been working for Maison Michel for over 25 years, you cannot miss the heritage and the past—it’s all there in the little details, from the wooden form to the tools used to create the hats. Personally, I take inspiration from the archives, mixing precious materials or shapes with whatever I’m feeling for the season.

 

MO: What are you feeling for this season?

 

PR: I was inspired by iconic femininities—“The Virgin Suicides”, an early-day Courtney Love and Christina Ricci in “Buffalo 66.” The collection juxtaposes youthful romance with a rebellious deconstruction of classics. Girlish codes are twisted and re-appropriated in the spirit of the Riot grrrl movement in the ‘90s. The season is dreamy, refined yet decisively urban.

 

MO: How do you think you've put your personal stamp on the brand?

 

PR: I arrived at Maison Michel with the ambition of putting a twist on traditional techniques. I want Maison Michel’s pieces to feel contemporary, to fit with the 2016 lifestyle: jet set travelers, big city workers, people who want to have a voice in what they wear...

 

MO: Maison Michel is owned by Chanel. Do you work directly with Karl Lagerfeld?

 

PR: Maison Michel has been owned by Chanel since 1997. Karl Lagerfeld has been shooting our lookbook over the past ten years, we shot the last one in September [2015] with the actress Jemima Kirke.

 

MO: You studied at Central St Martins and also founded your own own clothing line, Pièce d'Anarchive. Does being an apparel designer affect how you approach accessories?

 

PR: Somehow it does, especially when it comes to building the skeleton of the collection. When I design I think a lot about the total outfit. It’s important that the hat is wearable and it’s not some kind of joke!

MO: Tell us about your process. How are the pieces designed and created? How long does it take?

 

PR: First I come up with the main inspiration. I then research pictures and cultural references, as well as new materials for sun/ rain/ cold. Once I’ve made my selection, I put the vision together to brief the atelier so that we can start working on each piece individually by hand.

 

MO: How would you define your personal style?

 

PR: Eclectic, bipolar, radical...! I can be very extreme: it’s either flats or very high shoes, no make-up or very dark cherry lipstick…. It changes depending on my daily mood.

 

MO: You live in Paris, was it the current hat trend there?

 

PR: If you know let me know…! But to answer your question, I would say I recognize style archetypes for each city. I’d say Paris is less daring and more classic than a city like London, for example.

 

MO: Most people want to take hats on holiday, yet packing them can be a nightmare. Do you have any tips on how to pack a hat?

 

PR: Buy a MM hat! We specifically design them to be very supple and easy to carry in a bag. That’s the way a hat should be today: soft and supple.

 

MO: In less than 50 years, we’ve seen the number of people wearing hats decline as dress codes have relaxed. Does the fact that people no longer need to wear them influence your designs?

 

PR: I try to give as many options as possible so that everyone can find their happiness in our offering. Relaxed outfits can still be "hatted." The cap or bucket hat is a good casual option.

 

MO: What is the secret to looking cool in a hat?

 

PR: When you feel great wearing it.