Sometimes the best inspiration comes from the times we are broken, penniless and riding out an unforeseeable future. The adventures are laid out with kindred spirits acting as muses, while we press on in hopes of exploring our wildest dreams and finding out just who we really are.
A quirky, United Kingdom native with a sense for mischief and Alice-in-Wonderland-haute-couture taste set out to find himself amid the fashion revolution of the 1980s. Stephen Jones landed upon the fashion scene just in time to make history. The trends of the 70s were dwindling down. Loud, outspoken fashionistas were ringing in the hip hop decade with bright colors, big hair, bold blocking and hats. Jones, a high fashion milliner, began his career with an art education background at Saint Martins school of art, but no knowledge of sewing or creating clothing. He ultimately took a job with a millinery in 1976 after stumbling through a series of truck driving jobs, traveling penniless, and bouncing from one friend’s couch to another.
“…the millinery workroom was all girls who worked hard and played hard. I just thought, ‘I think I want to be with them.’ Not because I had this big thing about hats, not at all, I just wanted to work in a fun place. I was a punk, and they were accepting,” Jones discussed with Vogue magazine.
Completely unpretentious and indubitably spontaneous, Jones let his creativity work in his favor. Drifting from nightclub to nightclub, partying with all the enthusiasm of Jay Gatsby, the gifted hat inventor lived for dressing for the occasion. Along with fellow roommates Boy George (future pop star), John Maybury (filmmaker), and DJ Princess Julia, Jones and his clan adopted a “club bunny” title as they raged through the streets of London.
In October of 1980, the routine club goer took a more serious approach and decided to pursue millinery as a means to express himself and, ultimately, a career. He opened a little boutique shop in the basement of a building near London and began to refine his skills. Creating wildly loud head wear with feathers and fabrics of lace and cotton poplin, to bold statement pieces for for a Princess, to delicately fitted, more classic looks, Jones unexpectedly gained a cult following.
By the mid 1980s, his business flourished from a little shop in London to working on collections with the likes of Marc Jacobs and designing hats for Princess Diana. Jones’ unique style ranged from high fashion to couture to everyday. His taste for adventure and colorful nightlife provided fresh inspiration and he was hailed as a “Top 100 Innovator” in millinery by Vogue in 1998.
Known as the hat maker that has a style for everyone, Jones lent his talents to celebrity clientele including Rihanna and Mick Jagger among a slew of others including designers Vivienne Westwood and Dior on several campaigns. Also hailed as the nicest man in fashion, Jones wants to give milliners an avenue for success and be an ambassador to young designers everywhere.
“It’s great to be able to help out fantastic milliners who believe in what they do and work all night for no money,” Jones said to arts and culture site dazeddigital.com adding, “Plus it’s a really important part of London Fashion Week. I think that’s what people come for. They don’t come for a gorgeously made, perfect thing that they can get in Jermyn Street, but the wild and the wacky. More often when they come to London, they think of hats.”
The down-to-earth 57 year old works all over the world spreading his campaigns and collaborating with new talent constantly, especially on the runways of fashion week. While pushing his limits and seeking out unique challenges, Jones keeps a sacred place in his heart for the street fashion of London and those long nights that inspired his work to thrive. The nitty gritty heart and soul of it all exists in the buzz of people and places all around. Therein lies the passion for fashion which has remained the driving force of Stephen Jones and his 30 year career as a hat making guru. Find his latest looks at stephenjonesmillinery.com.