For Jewish women, dressing for shul can sometimes resemble preparing for a fashion show. Thanks to the efforts of milliner David Shilling, the same could soon be true for men.
This week, as London Men’s Fashion Week opened, the Monaco-based designer unveiled his first collection of men’s hats in a private viewing at the Monaco Embassy in London, arguing that he was an equal opportunist and that “men won’t really be equal until they are free to wear cocktail hats.”
Mr Shilling began his career at the age of 12 when he created a three-feet-wide hat with black frills on a white silk brim for his mother Gertrude, a well-known member of the Board of Deputies, to wear at Ascot. After three decades in the business, he is well-known for making eye-wateringly outlandish sculptural creations for women.
Showing that he has not lost his extravagant streak, Mr Shilling’s offerings for men included copious amounts of sequins, netting and feathers. The hats were demonstrated by a group of buff male models wearing little more than sequined boxers, some futuristic jewellery and a “David Shilling” label stamped on their chests.
Perhaps the most memorable of the collection, for which prices start at £3,500 and go up to £10,000, was “Cock-A-Doodle-Doo”, a hat that combines fabulous creativity with the Jewish man’s passion for Friday night dinner.
The brown straw piece comes with a convincingly lifelike chicken on top, with a few of its eggs nestled in the layers of the hat. “Today’s hat is tomorrow’s soup,” joked its maker.
“Frankly, I am surprised that no-one else has realised that men need to break this final taboo,” said Mr Shilling. When he started making women’s hats, there was nothing similar available. “Thirty years on everybody is doing hats that are innovative and different. This is the first men’s hat collection you have ever seen, but I don’t think it will be the last.”
His hats might be worn in glamorous St Tropez, but he said: “You could wear them in synagogue — why not?”