“I felt like I needed to do something a little bit more classic,” says thirty-two-year-old Heather Huey, the milliner-cum-conceptual-designer best known for her dramatic body cages (as worn by Rihanna in her Annie Leibovitz-lensed Vogue spread last November), crystal bunny masks, and sculptural chapeaux. Indeed, Pleated Project, her latest collection of pleated grosgrain and felt headpieces, stems from classic references (like circle hats and papal miters), but the result is hardly traditional. Made completely in black (”I love black,” says Huey. “It’s classic, flattering, easy, and lets me focus on other elements of design, like shape, texture, and finish.”), the collection features a host of structured toppers that are simultaneously wearable and editorial. Take, for instance, a fascinator that twists and arcs like a pair of frowning lips, or a large piece with upturned wings that merges Hunger Games-esque futurism with a Victorian silhouette (thanks to her background in architecture, Huey’s shapes are always unusual but considered).
So who can pull off Huey’s head sculptures? “She has to have confidence and a desire to commit to whatever look she is creating,” explains the designer, who describes her personal aesthetic as “low-key casual” and rarely wears her own work. (There are exceptions, of course, like when her boyfriend, photographer Billy Kidd shot Huey in her creations for an exhibition at Clic Gallery last year.) She does, however, try on her toppers during the design process. “My head isn’t really a ‘hat’ head, so I know if it looks good on me, it’s going to look amazing on anyone else,” she laughs.
After spending several months on her intricate pleated looks, Huey is already planning her next move—a new range of cages. “The Pleated Project challenged me to take on the traditional,” she says. “Now I’m ready to try something new and modern again.”