Valentino wrapped up couture season in spectacular style with a stunning off-schedule show staged in a shipyard at the Arsenale in Venice.
As the beautiful backdrop (also the venue for the Biennale) was flooded with a veritable rainbow of jewel-hued ballgowns, puffball feather minis and neon opera gloves, it was impossible not to notice the appearance of a certain statement accessory that’s popped up at many a couture show this season: the lampshade hat.
Could these fantastically OTT wide-brimmed hats be the personal space-creating headwear we need to approach packed green list beaches and chockablock Cornwall campsites this summer? The designers certainly think so.
At Valentino, giant floating head orbs came fabulously fluffed with ostrich feathers that trailed dramatically down models’ backs. But Pierpaolo Piccioli wasn’t the only designer with socially-distancing headgear on the brain.
Last September, the SS21 Kenzo show featured vast beekeeper-like hats with mesh veils. For his Balenciaga couture debut last week, Demna Gvasalia delivered a brilliantly buzzy collection that elevated everyday items into couture in which, sitting atop several of the looks – among which were haute jeans and couture dressing gowns – were giant shiny black hats that could easily have been mistaken for Italian furniture label Porada’s Pileo Alta lampshades.
Rewind to the beginning of couture week, and New York designer Kirby-Jean Raymond took the brief more literally with a debut couture collection for Pyer Moss that featured a lilac ruched bodycon dress paired with an oversized beaded-fringe hat designed to look exactly like an old-fashioned lampshade.
To mark the importance of being the first Black American to invited by the Chambre Syndicale to present a couture collection on the official schedule, Raymond had designed each look in the collection as a three-dimensional wearable sculpture, each representing a Black-American invention. Alongside the tasselled lampshade (which marked an ode to Lewis Latimer’s electric lightbulb) were couture creations inspired by the portable air conditioner (Frederick Jones), the automatic traffic signal (Garrett Morgan) and even the Super Soaker (Lonnie Johnson).
Admittedly, accessorising your bikini with a giant beaded lampshade is a styling tip somewhat lacking in appeal. But what about the other saucer-like wide-brimmed black hat in the Pyer Moss show? Surely there’s a high street iteration of that in the works with very clear influencer-in-Santorini appeal?
And even for those not dressing for the ‘gram, the lampshade hat bestows upon its wearer a very 2021-friendly (if antisocial) function of not letting anyone get close enough to breathe on you. Perfect for airports, busy beaches and even festivals… although it certainly won’t make you many friends on the dancefloor.