Millinery Muse

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muse: a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist

 This is the first of my short features on other milliners - past and present - whom I admire for their craftsmanship, creativity, or material and technological innovation.

Stephen Jones opened his first hat shop in London's Covent Garden in 1980. From those early days to the present, he has counted both rock stars and royalty among his clientele. He has collaborated with fashion and costume designers to create memorable millinery for the runway and screen. I admire Stephen Jones for his versatility and modernity: his hats are whimsical, bold, fantastical, and beautifully executed.

‘A hat makes clothing identifiable, dramatic and, most importantly, fashion … It’s the cherry on the cake, the dot on the ‘i’, the exclamation mark, the fashion focus. Everyone from showgirls to dictators knows that by wearing a hat they will be centre of attention.’ ~ Stephen Jones

I think this is one of my all-time favorite hats, a top hat rendered in printed cotton with silk yarn and a steel bodkin. It is from his SS18 collection that plays with themes of inspiration, creation, salon and client: the life-cycle of a hat. It is named "Sewing."

Stephen Jones "Sewing" top hat, SS18 collection

"Sewing" top hat, inspired by a spool of thread

Last year's model millinery collection was inspired by imaginary collaborations with couture designers of the past: Adrian, Charles James, Christian Dior, Coco Chanel, Cristobal Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli, Madeleine Vionnet and others.

"Chanel" hat by Stephen Jones



"Balenciaga" by Stephen Jones



"Schiaparelli" by Stephen Jones


Some of Stephen Jones' most imaginative creations have resulted from real-life collaborations with fashion designers. He has worked with Christian Dior, Marc Jacobs, Thom Browne, Rei Kawakubo, Vivienne Westwood, and Jean Paul Gaultier.

He has made the hats for the House of Dior since the early 1990's, collaborating with Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Bill Gaytten, Raf Simons and Maria Grazia Chiuri.

"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." ~ John Galliano

Stephen Jones for Dior Couture, 2007-2008

Stephen Jones with John Galliano for Dior Haute Couture, 2007-8


Stephen Jones veil for Dior

Stephen Jones with Raf Simons for Dior Haute Couture, 2012


Stephen Jones tulle mask, Dior 2018

Stephen Jones with Maria Grazia Chiuri for Dior Haute Couture, 2018

Here's a few more examples of designer collaborations - it's honestly hard to choose!

Stephen Jones for Thom Browne, SS15


Stephen Jones hats for Thom Browne, SS16

Stephen Jones for Thom Brown, SS16


Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, FW12

Stephen Jones with Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton, FW12

 If you'd like to know more about Stephen Jones and his amazing hats, there are two very good books: Stephen Jones & The Accent of Fashion (ACC Editions, 2010) and Stephen Jones: Souvenirs (Rizzoli, 2016).

There are also some charming online videos, articles and a book related to Hats: An Anthologyan exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum that opened in 2009. Stephen Jones co-curated a brilliant survey of hats from the past 300 years, drawing extensively from the V&A collection and exploring stages in the millinery process.

 This is one of the accompanying videos, "Millinery in Action: making a hat in the Stephen Jones workroom." It shows the process of making the blocked buckram top hat pictured below. Enjoy!

Erin O'Connor and Stephen Jones

Erin O'Connor, wearing "Union Jack" top hat, and Stephen Jones at the opening of the V&A exhibition


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  • Jane, you can come over to browse my fashion books anytime!

    Milli Starr on
  • So good! Thank you for this. I need to have a day in your library ?

    Jane Clarke on

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