His eccentric hats have graced the heads of pop royalty like Lady Gaga and Rihanna, but now Norfolk-born milliner Piers Atkinson’s headwear has found a new home – on a bird box.

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Piers Atkinson’s career in fashion

London-based milliner Piers Atkinson grew up in Wymondham as a teenager, attending Wymondham College, and so spent his most formative years in Norfolk. He learnt hat-making at the knee of his mother, theatrical milliner Hilary Elliott, who worked for opera houses in London and had one of her hats featured on the cover of Vogue in 1964.

He took his multi-disciplinary cue – Piers has recently added DJ to his creative bow, for example – from his grandmother, artist/writer/horticulturalist and illustrator Lesley Gordon. And last but not least, his sister Lucy used to assume the role of long-suffering photographic model for his teenage reconstructions of Grace Jones and Art of Noise record covers.

After studying graphic design and photography at the University of Bristol, Piers moved to London in 1995 and helped out at that year’s Alternative Miss World.

In 1999, Piers started with iconic fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, whom he assisted with art direction and in-house PR.

When Zandra became a client of PR powerhouse Mandi Lennard, Piers took a post there assisting Mandi, who gave him many of her unique insights into the fashion world.

Five years ago Piers started making hats at his kitchen table and launched his first collection in February 2008.

He has dressed such celebrities as Kate Moss, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Kelis, Cate Blanchett and Paloma Faith.

Big names from the British fashion industry, including Mr Atkinson, have come together to help save nature by putting their unique stamp on a nest box.
With London Fashion Week and National Nestbox Week both starting on February 14, the
RSPB and the British Fashion Council decided to join forces.

The nature charity asked a host of celebrity designers to put their stamp on a plain, white nest box.

World-renowned milliner Mr Atkinson, who grew up in Wymondham, has contributed an imaginative creation topped with one of his signature hats.

His creations regularly appear in the pages of Vogue, Italian Vogue, V Magazine and Tatler and his hats are available across the globe.

Nature has not only inspired, but also featured in many of his fabulous creations. He said: “I was delighted to be asked to take part in this project. It is a great opportunity to remind us all that we need nature in our lives, and nature needs a home, just like we do.”

The bespoke nest boxes will be displayed in The Shop at Somerset House throughout London Fashion Week and will be sold in an eBay auction to raise money for the RSPB.

Funds will go towards the charity’s conservation work and be spent on projects like restoring wild places, research into species declines and community engagement.

RSPB communications officer Rachael Murray said: “The RSPB was formed over 100 years ago, by a group of women campaigning against the trade in plumes for women’s hats, a fashion responsible for the destruction of many thousands of egrets, birds of paradise and other species whose plumes had become fashionable in the late Victorian era.

Pensthorpe’s top tips on putting up nest boxes

* Different birds need different boxes, for example blue tits and sparrows need a small box with a hole, while robins will go for an open-fronted nest box. Seek out expert advice if you want to attract a particular species into your garden.

* Make sure you clean the boxes out – a good time to do this is in the autumn. Remove any old nests and clean with boiling water to kill off any parasites.

* Do not to disturb boxes during the breeding season.

* Nest boxes should be hung at eye level 1.5m to 5.5m off the ground.

* The entrance hole of the box should face south-east, unless it is well protected, to keep it dry and sheltered from the wind.

* Place the box near vegetation as this aids young birds taking their first flight.

* If the box hasn’t been used for two years or more try relocating the box.

“Today, the fashion world is a very different place, and there is a great deal of responsibility and passion felt for nature and the environment. We are delighted to be working in partnership with designers like Piers to increase awareness of wildlife conservation and raise money to enable us to create more homes for wildlife across the UK.” Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council, said: “Fashion is becoming increasingly more environmentally aware and any project that drives this awareness is something we fully support.”

Do you have a quirky story for the EDP? Contact reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk

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