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Autumn/Winter 1996/97

Rose Royce hat, from Contours collection

Velvet, satin

Stephen Jones, London, UK

Follow the thread

Design

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.’

Social Culture

Fashion’s most prolific milliner, Jones’ hats have been in high demand by fashion designers for multiple shows per season since the 1980s. He is known for his own lines, as well as collaborations with fashion industry greats from Jean Paul Gaultier and Thierry Mügler, to Comme des Garçons, Dior, Marc Jacobs and Walter van Beirendonck.

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Jones has contributed to many extraordinary catwalk moments: he created Vivienne Westwood’s iconic Harris Tweed crown of Autumn/Winter 1987/88, and frequently collaborated with John Galliano.

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In 2009, he was the only British milliner to have control of a Parisian haute couture millinery studio, making hats for Galliano’s high-profile couture shows at Dior. Fans of Jones’ work include Kylie Minogue, Boy George, Dita von Teese and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Craft Skills

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.

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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.