“On my head sits my favourite party hat – a beret hand-crafted from tiny, jet-black bugle beads. I consider the black beret to be the pinnacle of style, so this is the ultimate version. The beret has marked many seminal moments of my life. On my first day at art college in 1976, I wore a beret. When I was a punk, I wore a beret, and I even wore one to the opening of my retrospective exhibition at the V&A, Millinery in Motion. There’s an exotica about it. It’s French, but not really, because no one truly French wears one, and I’ve always liked to think of myself as European, like the wonderful Anna Piaggi. She looked divine in my hats; she could give them a story, make them her own. My designs are often about the displacement of things, of dreams and the unusual. In that sense, I’m a surrealist.”
What Stephen Jones doesn’t know about hats isn’t worth knowing. The British milliner has been concocting his idiosyncratic creations since leaving Central Saint Martins in 1979, despite “never wanting to become a famous designer, but wanting to go where the party was, which was London”. His radical vision was realised at The Blitz club in the Eighties, where New Romantic style was booming. There he met music pioneer Steve Strange, who helped him open a shop in Covent Garden, where he remains today. His outlandish pieces have provided a “party on the head” for visionaries including Björk and Grace Jones – though Queen Elizabeth II remains at the top of his wish list.
This article was originally published in the S/S16 edition of AnOther Magazine.