Iconic milliner Stephen Jones on hedonism, swearing and becoming a mentor
“I can’t believe I said the F word!” Stephen Jones remarks when looking back at a 1983 issue of Browns Magazine in which he quotes the fascinator as his favourite hat. 30 years later he is in Browns again, this time celebrating his 8th season of Headonism, a British Fashion Council initiative curated by Jones that celebrates and supports emerging milliners. Supported by Royal Ascot, this year’s collective includes seasoned favourites Piers Atkinson and William Chambers alongside newcomers Aurora Ozma, Emma Yeo and Moody & Farrell, to whom Jones acts as a mentor. From Piers Atkinson’s iconic Hyper Cherry headband (famously worn by both Rihanna and Anna Dello Russo) to Moody & Farrell’s embellished felt bowlers, it demonstrates the strength of millinery talent in London, capturing the wit, charm and expertise that can balance on one’s head. Here, Dazed speaks to Jones about hats, being a mentor and Boris Johnson.
Dazed Digital: How did the Headonism project come about?
Stephen Jones: When I put on the hats exhibition at the V&A. They put on Fashion in Motion every month, and we put on Millinery in Motion, about five years ago. We arranged a fashion show with some of the designers in the exhibition, which was great. Then the BFC phoned up one day and said, we are doing 25 years of London fashion week, we’ve got Boris Johnston to come and do it, would you mind doing a fashion show with Boris Johnston?! So we did this crazy fashion show at 8.30 in the morning or something – one of the most nuts things I’ve ever done! That was the first thing we did under Headonsim. I’ve seen him occasionally since then and he’s asked if I’ve got a hat for him yet.
DD: What appealed to you about each of the designers involved in Headonsim?
Stephen Jones: The fact they were all really different. People’s needs are different so it is changing every year. It is really for emerging milliners, for example Piers is going to leave this year and Noel [Stewart] has now moved on. We always have different people coming through and I love the fact that it does change all the time, it makes mix different. I love them for their originality and just because they make gorgeous hats.
DD: What advice do you offer as a mentor?
Stephen Jones: I will advise them on their collections; such as, ‘that’s a bit heavy’, or ‘are you going to be able to wear that for 7 hours at Ascot’, etc. Things they haven’t always considered. When you are a young designer there are so many different factors to consider that you don’t always know what is the most important. Is it a formal event, will it be cold, are their certain dress regulations. Each bring a wonderful individuality. I always tell them that the most important thing is to always make them fantastic - it’s extraordinary how much pain a woman will put up with!
DD: What advice do you wish you had been given at the beginning of your career?
Stephen Jones: In a funny way I am too trusting; I am a bit of a yes person. That hasn’t changed though, I still am… but I wouldn’t have it any other way.