Milliner behind the fascinator revival lays into high street imitations

Fascinators – the extravagant headpieces that were the height of sartorial sophistication at this year's royal wedding – have been reduced to "limp feathers and a tacky flower" by high street retailers, according to Philip Treacy, celebrity milliner behind Princess Beatrice's much-derided royal wedding hat.

Treacy, designer of 36 of the hats at the Prince William-Kate Middleton wedding, has bemoaned high street imitations of his creations as leading to the demise of the headgear trend he revitalised when he designed a golden-feathered fascinator for the Duchess of Cornwall on her wedding day.

"I started that gig many years ago, but now they have become three limp feathers and a tacky flower on the high street," he said, in an interview in The Wall Street Journal.

Fellow milliners have rushed to support him and pour scorn on the popular fascinator trend, claiming that high street stores have ruined the fashion for adventurous headgear with a wave of cheap imitations of their more carefully crafted – and considerably more expensive – creations.

"People are certainly wearing hats more since the royal wedding," said celebrity milliner Cozmo Jenks. "But the word fascinator makes me want to be sick. I started making headdresses years ago, but the high street ones are so badly made and look cheap. You have to have money to afford the kind of headgear we make."

The designer Victoria Grant said the high street had "killed" the fashionable fascinator. "The danger with these fascinators made in China is that they're bundled together and not made with care – just a few feathers in a comb. They make me think of a burlesque hen-do," said Grant, whose latest feather-spray Bellini hat costs the queenly sum of £469.

Grazia magazine has declared itself a "fascin-hater", while the milliner Vivien Sheriff, who designed a pheasant-feather fascinator for Kate Middleton on her first royal engagement in February, says the trend for "little bits of fluff on a comb you get in Debenhams" has been "overdone".

Despite the sneers from leading designers, retailers say that cut-price fascinators are still flying out of high street stores. Debenhams, which has a range of fascinators starting at £16, said that sales had increased every week since just before the royal wedding.

Kate Middleton wore her Vivien Sheriff creation, which cost £250, on a visit to Anglesey in February. The budget retailer Peacocks reported a 95 per cent increase in sales of their imitation £5 fascinators the following week. Their popularity has increased further still since the royal wedding, and retailers report that extravagant headpieces are having something of a "moment" this summer.