When it comes to headwear, Parisian fashion accessory extraodinaire, Laetitia Crahay, needs to take a bow. She’s not just reinvented the art, she’s taken it out of obscurity and re-popularised it – with a little help, she’s the first to admit, from her fabulous friends.
Heidi Mount, Lou Doillon, Kate Moss, Milla Jovovich, Irina Lazareanu, Lara Stone and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have all been featured in Crahay’s hotted-up hats and headpieces in the illustrated campaign for Maison Michel – the historic French millinery house for whom she acts as Creative Director, alongside her role as Accessories and Jewellery Director at Chanel.
Marrying sophistication with humour, Crahay’s repertoire for Maison Michel, covering classics from boaters, trilby’s and wide-brimmed hats to off-beat wonders like bows and her signature bunny ears, are designed to cater to every whim. Whether you’re feeling rock’n’roll, romantic, or even “naughty sexy bunny”, Crahay’s characteristically playful and refined designs will take you there. “Headpieces have the power to ‘débourgeoiser’ a classic look,” she considers, “…You can have a rock’n’roll chignon.”
Drawing inspiration from, “every possible detail… Anything from a crack in the wall to the way a tree branch moves,” Crahay has magically made the seemingly impossible, possible – taking something as old-hat as hats, and making them new again. The effortlessly chic designer, workaholic and party-girl talks early obsessions with bandanas and 80s neon colours, loving Alice in Wonderland and filling the “huge gap” in the market for modern headwear with RIKA.
What is your earliest fashion memory - and does it connect with what you’re doing now?
Laetitia Crahay: My earliest fashion memory involves 80’s neon colours mixed with different prints and stars. I was obsessed with them and wanted to wear them so badly but instead my mother dressed me in navy blue! I guess my longing for fashion and creativity was born somehow by this frustration.
Did you have a favourite outfit or piece of clothing as a teenager?
LC : As a teenager I loved to wear a pair of light color jeans with holes all over it and bandannas.
Growing up, did you dream of a career in fashion?
LC : Not really growing up, I was more into studying Mathematics. But as a teenager I started wearing a lot of vintage, 1950’s hats and weird one-of-a-kind pieces – keep in mind that 20 years ago vintage was not as hyped as it as been in recent years.
How and when did you realise your love of fashion, and in particular headwear?
LC : I love all fashion – I do not actually have an extra particular love for hats. Things come up naturally, Maison Michel came about and I jumped on the opportunity. I remain open to all fashion, and at the moment I am really loving shoes.
Fashion has a transformational power – do you see head-pieces as being particularly ‘magical’ or transformational?
LC : Yes, absolutely. Headpieces have the power to ‘débourgeoiser’ a classic look – you can have a rock’n’roll chignon.
Many people are pointing at you as having revitalised not only Maison Michel, but headwear in general – do you agree?
LC: Yes, in the sense that a fashion trend was relaunched. It is quite incredible to see the international movement it has created and that all these people are following it.
Do your designs reflect your personality in some way?
LC : Yes they do, like any artist on the planet. With my designs, I hope to bring refinement and humour.
How would you describe your creative process – you’re obviously very prolific! How do you get inspired? I read an interesting quote of yours: “The more you create, the more creative you become”…
LC : It’s like muscles, you go to the gym to work out, well the brain is exactly the same. You have to train your brain to always be creative. I look for every detail possible, I always find inspiration in my surroundings, it might be a crack in the wall, the hair of a little girl or the way a tree branch moves. I never look at fashion for inspiration. From an early age, my parents have taught me the importance of details, I had a camera and took pictures of everything.
Being Chanel’s accessories director as well artistic director of Maison Michel must be pretty demanding… How do you find the time to work across both lines, and still find time to party!?
LC : I don’t sleep!
Some of your friends featured in your recent Maison Michel campaign. Do you think the fact you’re part of such an interesting, creative scene – or movement– gives you and your designs a relevant, fresh perspective?
LC : Yes of course, all of it is related. Each period in history had their movements and stars. We are a gang that all work in the same industry, and the most important is that we all help each other out. It really is a creative gathering.
How would you describe the aesthetic of your pieces for Chanel, and Maison Michel - what differentiates your designs for each house?
LC : For Chanel, it is about the history of the house. I always try to imagine how Mademoiselle Chanel would want the pieces to be, or how she would have done it herself. It really is about respecting her vision and the codes of the house. And for Maison Michel, I feel that I can be much more creative. Whatever crosses my mind and whatever interests I have, I can work with keeping in mind the great knowledge that the house owns, like particular techniques that I mix with modern ideas.
You manage to make your overtly playful creations appear refined and even sophisticated – how is it you have magically made the seemingly impossible possible? (And your amazing bunny ears - were you surprised they were so instantly beloved and appearing in endless photo shoots)?
LC : Like you mentioned, it is always about refinement. It was an exciting project for me, as there was a huge gap in the sector for modern headwear – you would only see these big hats before I introduced mine. There was a real need and demand for a change, especially for photo-shoots and actresses. And the bunny ears came about because of my love for Alice in Wonderland.
You often wear your own designs – how do your head-pieces make you feel?
LC : It really depends on my mood in the morning. If I want to be rock, I will wear the ‘Tiger Headband’, I I am feeling romantic I wear the goddess-like headbands, and when I feel like being a naughty sexy bunny, I wear the bunny ears!
Who have you LOVED to see wearing your designs; and who would you LOVE to wearing them?
LC : I love all who have worn my designs; Kate Moss, Lady Gaga, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Lou Doillon, Vanessa Paradis, Mélanie Laurent, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Irina Lazareanu etc… I would really love to see David Bowie in one of my hats!