Entertainment

HAT TRICK

Tim Blanks chats up the world’s hottest milliner, Stephen Jones


 

Tim Blanks


 
Tim Blanks

HAT TRICK
Tim Blanks chats up the world’s hottest milliner, Stephen Jones

STEPHEN JONES IS ALWAYS SOMEONE I look forward to seeing during hectic Fashion Weeks. Never mind that the hats he designs to accompany the collections of everyone from John Galliano to Comme des Garçons provide so much fodder for an exchange more random and entertaining than the usual designer interview; he himself is always so calm, witty and gracious that he can reduce anyone’s pre- or postshow stress in a scant few minutes.

That’s why the new exhibition Jones has curated at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum is a must for anyone who decides to surf the credit crunch and see the world while prices are plunging. It’s called Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones (closing May 10) and it’s a virtual history of human civilization told through headgear, from an Egyptian mask dating back to 600 BC to pieces Jones recently collected from young millinery graduates around the world. There are more than 300 pieces in all: the core of the display comes from the V&A’s collection and Jones’ own archives, while the remainder are from private collections (among them, the Queen and Dita Von Teese). To give you an idea of how many he had to draw on from his near-three-decade career: in 2008 alone, he created more than 500 distinct styles. Consider this: nine collections a year for Dior (including a ski range and Baby Dior), four for Marc Jacobs, six for Galliano, six for himself and so on. “There are so many collections each season,” he said when we talked in November, “that millinery years are like dog years.”

Stephen’s way with a one-liner gave me the feeling he was rehearsing the speech he was going to make the following week when he was to be given the Outstanding Achievement Award at the British Fashion Awards. “Millinery is like Esperanto” was another zinger. “There are three people who speak it around the world.” Actually, that used to be the case, back in the days when hatmaking seemed like a dying art. But thanks to Jones (and Philip Treacy and a growing army of others), there’s been a renaissance, creatively and commercially.

For him, hats were a happy accident. During the heady height of punk in London, when he was studying at the legendary fashion college Central Saint Martins, he interned at a couture atelier, but found the hatmakers’ atelier next door much more appealing. “So weird, so esoteric, such an escape from the blandness of modern life—it seemed somehow punk to me,” Jones remembered. He’s never lost his appetite for iconoclasm, which is why his most successful professional relationship has been with kindred spirit John Galliano.

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Marc Jacobs, Comme Des Garçons, John Galliano, Christian Dior


 
Marc Jacobs, Comme Des Garçons, John Galliano, Christian Dior


Left to Right: Marc Jacobs, Comme Des Garçons, John Galliano, Christian Dior

In November, his imminent award had put him in a reflective mood. “The day that John called me in 1993 and asked me to make his hats was one of the high points of my career. John taught me it’s not just one thing; it’s a combination that makes a look strong. In other words, the hat itself is not important. It’s about how the face wants to be, not what it is. Look at Isabella Blow, Anna Piaggi, Dita—they all used hats as an ingredient in their reinventions.”

He could relate absolutely. “I don’t feel like me without a hat,” he insisted. “I become complete.” His personal favourite is the beret. “It’s the T-shirt of hats, for morning, noon or night, Marlene Dietrich or Johnny Rotten.” If he’s feeling dressy, he’ll don a fez or a yarmulke. To pick up his award, Jones was picturing a smoking cap.

“I don’t come with a big message; I’m just having fun,” he said as we parted, “and I want to communicate that to people.” Then, he caught himself, rehearsing that acceptance speech again. “Oh, God, I sound like Miss World.”

Runway and front row photography, Anthea Simms; Editor, Elio Iannacci.

See more hat tricks here »

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Stephen Jones


 
Stephen Jones

Portrait of Stephen Jones
Photo credit: 2008 Photo by Peter Ashworth / www.ashworth-photos.com

 

Stephen Jones


 
Stephen Jones

Wash and Go by Stephen Jones will be on view at the Victoria & Albert Museum as part of the new exhibit Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones.

Image courtesy of Justinephotography

 

Stephen Jones


 
Stephen Jones

A vintage hat on display at the exhibit.

Straw boater by Madame Suzy c.1937 © V&A Images

 

Anna Piaggi


 
Anna Piaggi

Famed fashion editor Anna Piaggi adores Stephen Jones hats.

 

Dita Von Teese


 
Dita Von Teese

Dita Von Teese in a Stephen Jones creation.

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