Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Who would ever predicted that a young boy growing up in the 1960’s, who aspired to be an astronaut, would one day become the British Mad Hatter, Stephen Jones, whose celebrity is synonymous with the millinery he has created for the fashion cognoscenti, superstars and royals. Stephen Jones burst on the London fashion scene during the explosion of street style in the late seventies and his oeuvre has proliferated into millinery stardom. He is considered to be one of the world’s most radical and important milliners of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. No wonder Jones was selected to co-curate the 2009 exhibition Hats: An Anthology for the Victoria & Albert Museum and to return triumphantly to New York to present Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones, a collaboration between the Victoria & Albert Museum and Jones, which opened September 16, 2011 at the Bard Graduate Center of Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture in New York City. BECOMING THE CELEBRITY MILLINER Jones was one of the original style-blazers of fashion and opened his first millinery salon in the basement of a trendy store in Endell Street in the heart of Covent Garden. “Overnight I had a business,” Jones commented in 2008. The Stephen Jones mystique and his ability to create iconic styles drew to its atelier rock stars to royalty, from Boy George to his regular client followers from Blitz and even Diana, Princess of Wales as a regular customer, to give them the head turning headgear that would make arresting headlines. His celebrity on the rise, Jones had a hat commissioned by the Victoria & Albert museum for their newly refurbished Costume Court, which was the beginning of Jones’ long and fruitful relationship with the V&A. RED CARPET CONNECTIONS Jones’ prolific oeuvre brought his creations to the fashion world creating hats for the catwalk shows of many leading couturiers and fashion designers including John Galliano at Dior and Vivienne Westwood. In 1984 Jones relocated his studio to Lexington Street and that year Jean-Paul Gaultier invited him to Paris to make hats for his show and subsequently he received full credit for his hats thus assuring that the Paris cognoscenti was made aware of his hats. It was inevitable that Jones would enter the retail arena and in the same year he also sold his first designs to a department store, Bloomingdales in New York. From the red carpet to fashion runways to race courses, garden parties and fashion magazine covers millinery by Stephen Jones are crowning achievements of originality, head turners on the fashion and social circuits. STEPHEN JONES TODAY His work is always identified by its inventiveness, its witty statement, its novel approach to subject matter and most importantly its high level of technical expertise. From the catwalk to the couture collaborations Jones’s hats have been an integral component in some of the most memorable runway spectacles of the past quarter century. In addition to his Model Milliner collection, he designs the widely-distributed Miss Jones and Jonesboy diffusion ranges, plus a JonesGirl accessories line exclusively for Japan. His hats are represented in the permanent collections of major museums worldwide and are always at the forefront of fashion on magazine covers and in the window displays of the world’s most celebrated boutiques and retail stores. BECOMING A MILLINERY ICON If truth be told Jones came into the fashion orbit of millinery in quite a serendipitous manner. Jones readily admits his faults and his triumphs, “I attended Saint Martins, but I couldn’t master sewing. However, despite this shortcoming I became an intern in the tailoring department of the London couture house, Lacasse.” However, upon observing the magical haven of creativity elsewhere Jones soon requested a transfer to the next-door millinery department. It was presided over by Shirley Hex and between 1976 and 1979 Jones spent his summer breaks working for Hex and learning about millinery methods and techniques. Jones left St. Martins in 1979 and the same year he became one of the style-blazers at London’s legendary Blitz nightclub himself competing to wear the most outrageous outfits including a pinstripe suit with stiletto heels. Many of the Blitz kids became his first clients, with Jones creating outlandish hats for them to wear to the club. STEPHEN JONES IS POSSIBLY THE MOST ORIGINAL MILLINER TODAY Rising to the heights of creativity Stephen Jones born on the Wirral Peninsula in Cheshire on the 31st of May 1957, and schooled in Liverpool, has propelled his art into the future and continues to attract a celebrity clientele which includes Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cher. Hamish Bowles, Vogue USA said, “His genius is to enhance the mystery, allure and wit of the wearer.” Jones was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 2010 New Year Honours. STEPHEN JONES AT BARD The show at Bard is comprised of more than 250 hats, the majority of which are chosen by Jones himself from the V&A’s extraordinary hat collection. Visitors will see hats ranging from the twelfth-century Egyptian fez to a 1950s Balenciaga design and couture creation by Jones and his contemporaries. A selection of rare film footage shows the elegant Jacqueline Kennedy, who almost single handedly revived the hat industry in the United States by her allegiance to this sartorial finery, wearing hats at the presidential inauguration in 1961. Look into Jones’s amazing atelier workroom where creativity spills forth over desks and floor in a profusion of ribbons and trims. The exhibit runs through April 15, 2012.

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