LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Hats off to Stephen Jones

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A new exhibition co-curated by master milliner Stephen Jones celebrates hats of all kinds as well as the work of this visionary designer.

“Hats are the important accessory. In fact, when worn with verve, they are often the raison d’etre of many an outfit”. So says Stephen Jones, the master milliner who has created hats for everyone, from avant-garde headdresses for Jean Paul Gaultier in the 80s to the elegant pillbox Carla Bruni Sarkozy wore on her recent State visit to London. Who better, then, to curate the first show dedicated to hats at the V&A Museum, London?

Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones, which runs until May 31, is a celebration of the history and fabulousness of millinery. The result of two years of research by Jones and V&A fashion and textile curator Oriole Cullen, the exhibition of over 300 hats ranges from an Egyptian Anubis mask dating from 600BC to the contemporary creations of young, up-and-coming designers including Noel Stewart and Nasir Mazhar. “The criteria for selecting hats were surprisingly straightforward: a delicious brim line, spectacular detailing, an intriguing provenance, designs that somehow linked past, present and future,” says Jones.

Head turning - and altering - pieces by Philip Tracey, Mitza Bricard for Christian Dior, Vladzio d’Attainville for Balenciaga and Chanel are all featured alongside the dazzling work Stephen Jones himself. A maverick of millinery since he graduated from Central St Martins College of Art, London, in 1979, Jones now produces hat collections for Comme des Garçons, Marc Jacobs, Giles Deacon and L’Wren Scott, as well as his own ready-to wear and haute couture lines. And that’s not forgetting his important work at John Galliano and Christian Dior, where he has worked on every collection - from haute couture to Baby Dior and Dior Ski - since 1993. “Just as I wouldn’t leave the house without a hat, I couldn’t do a show without Stephen Jones. He conjures up creations that bring Galliano and Dior shows to life. I raise my hat to him!” Quips Galliano.

The Dior collaboration continues into the V&A itself with the design of the exhibition by Michael Howells, an art director who has created the sets for countless Dior fashion shows. Needless to say, there is a fantasy feel to the space, which includes a garden complete with box hedging and a recreation of a millinery workroom, the roof of which is a giant hat.

Such a theatrical space is fitting for what is the UK’s first show dedicated to hats in a national museum, a fact not lost on Jones. As he says, “Why are [hats] remaindered to the Timbuktu of fashion when they are in fact its Shangri-La?” The V&A is also aware of the importance it is placing on millinery with the name of the exhibition referencing its famous show of haute couture fashion curated by Cecil Beaton in 1971 and titled, Fashion: An Anthology by Cecil Beaton.

Hats elevated to the status of haute couture? The brilliance of Stephen Jones and his encyclopedic knowledge of his craft have raised the profile of hats – literally and figuratively – to a new level.

More info:

Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones runs until May 31 at the V&A Musuem, London
http://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/contemporary/hats/index.html

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