From the Princess of Wales to HRH the Duchess of Cambridge, one of the longest millinery careers goes full circle. John Boyd at 92 and still hatting.
SEDUCTION & TRANSFORMATION IN SW3
At one time in its history Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge, could boast forty-four milliners. Now, there is just one, John Boyd. Milliner to royalty and high society for over 75 years, this 92 year-old Scotsman has the versatility to dress four generations of the same family. That one of them happened to be the future Princess of Wales made all the difference. “Mothers would drag in their daughters with long faces shouting ‘God, you’ll look a scream in that!’ Then suddenly they all loved it”. The pink tricorn he made for the princess was seen by millions of people and rebooted an entire industry in decline for decades. Diana, now the most photographed woman in the world, was wearing a hat.
John first began a career working for the North British Rubber company who were developing camouflage for tanks and making wellington boots. “I was constantly sketching fashion drawings when an acquaintance suggested I meet her friend Aage Thaarup, then the most famous name in London millinery”. Serving his apprenticeship in Grosvenor Square with a mixture of royalty and Hollywood, John eventually set up an atelier in the Brompton Arcade. “My first hat was literally thrown back at me by an outraged woman in Chelsea. ‘You beast! She screamed ‘I’m looking for a new husband not trying to get rid of one’. “Millinery is seduction and deception all the time. The hat is bait.”
Already a name in Mayfair and Belgravia, after Diana, John’s hats were now global. Phone calls from the mayor of New York, hats on Iman and clothes by Zandra Rhodes and Bruce Oldfield, millinery had not been so busy in years. But whether fashion magazine or garden party, John never forgot what he thought most important “I like to design for the women’s unique and individual look, regardless of time or fashion. The face dictates the hat”.
John Boyd MBE. Beauchamp Place, London.
Photograph Garry Rigby © 2015