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Londoners got a surprise on their way to work yesterday. Overnight, 21 famous statues in the capital, including William Shakespeare, Queen Victoria, Franklin Roosevelt and Sir Winston Churchill, had been given a jazzy makeover by Britain's most talented milliners.

Up-and-coming and more established hat designers, including Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones, were up early to catch a glimpse of their creations.

Lord Nelson's bicorn, featuring the Union Jack and Olympic torch, was actually created by Lock & Co, London's oldest milliner, which made hats for the man himself more than 200 years ago. A crane hoisted it on to the top of the 52m (170ft) Nelson's Column.

The new decorations, dubbed "Hatwalk", are a collaboration between the Mayor of London, the British Fashion Council (BFC) and Grazia magazine, and form part of the celebrations of British culture taking place during the Games.

"What a way to highlight the amazing talent during such an exciting time for the UK," said Caroline Rush, chief executive of the BFC. "The project really does sum up British fashion today; innovative, fun and creative."

The statues will keep their headgear until Friday, when the hats will be auctioned to raise money for the Mayor's good causes. London's statues haven't looked as cutting edge since Churchill was given a grass mohican for the May Day demonstrations in 2000.