Rose Royce hat, from Contours collection
Stephen Jones, London, UK
In a feature for The Independent in 2009, Stephen Jones named Rose Royce as one of his top 20 hats of all time – the only one of his own designs he included. The top hat, and variations on the style, remains his favourite because ‘it looks great on old and young, men and women. A top hat always looks sexy, like you’re having a good time.’
In a bid to rework fashion tropes, Jones was experimenting with new ways to represent flowers and happened upon this piece of rolled-up satin. He explained why this hat is so close to his heart: ‘It pulls together so many things that I love about millinery – it’s simple, lyrical and easy-going.’
Hats start out as sketches. In the atelier, traditional materials such as straw and felt are used to pin and shape prototype hats onto the poupée, a calico-covered head which is the equivalent of a tailor’s dummy.
A toile, or trial garment, is constructed from this to determine the shape and trimming of the hat, before a wooden mould or block is carved to order, to give structure to the fabric.
Model millinery is similar to haute couture, in that every aspect is intricately hand-crafted. Most millinery houses retain a workroom of specialist milliners, each of whom have different skills required for the myriad of shapes and trimmings created each season. Today London remains the centre of the millinery world, with two of the most internationally highly regarded milliners – Jones and Philip Treacy – in residence in the city.
Object photography © Stephen Jones Millinery Limited/National Museums Scotland
Stephen Jones portrait © Christopher Pillitz/Hulton Archive