Pin It
Stephen Jones 90s
Stephen Jones in his Blitz daysvia

Five life lessons from Stephen Jones

The master milliner talks Blitz Kids, MOVEment and why he’ll be working at the UN in his next life

What do plastic doll parts, the Union Jack flag and a faux swan have in common? They’ve all been transformed into a remarkable piece of headwear by Stephen Jones. The masterful milliner started his career during the Blitz club era of the 80s and has since had a career designing hats for everyone from John Galliano to Boy George. His latest project is creating bespoke items for MOVEmentAnOther magazine’s project created in association with Ford Vignale and Sadler’s Wells. The artistic project brought together talented creatives in the fields of choreography, design and filmmaking to create a radical series of films, which explore the synergy between the arts. As part of the project, Jones sat down to discuss his thoughts with Susie Bubble. Here are five of his many pearls of wisdom.


“If you’re a milliner you have one eye on the past as so much has gone before,” explained Jones, but a lesson from an old teacher taught him to have his head (and resultantly, his headpieces) firmly focused on the future. After a nine month apprenticeship, Jones told his mentor how much he wished to be taught further, but was told: “No Stephen, you know enough.” The designer learnt that there’s no point in rehashing tradition, it’s “the techniques that you learn and create yourself – those are the ones that are important.”


A self-professed “ex-punk,” in the late 70s and early 80s Jones was a member of the Blitz Kids. The group was made up of young, flamboyantly dressed creatives who would hit the Blitz Club night in Covent Garden on a weekly basis. The collective – which included other icons such as Steve Strange and Leigh Bowery – harboured a desire to produce something fresh. “We just knew what had gone before was boring in our youthful arrogance,” explained Jones. So, at a time when youth magazines were practically non-existent, certain members started making their own – or as Jones boastfully puts it: “fanzines just done on a photocopier.”


According to Jones, actresses just don’t like hats. “In a way, hats and film don’t really go together,” he said – a little ironic considering the MOVEment project, but the designer has his reasons. As we all know, an actress’ performance relies on her interaction with the camera, so as Jones rightly pointed out “anything that gets in the way is a hindrance.” For the film he worked on however, Jones clarified that his team “embraced” this complexity in all its face obscuring glory.


“I was always very much interested in other people’s points of view,” said Jones, who throughout his career has teamed up with the likes of Rei Kawakubo, Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul Gaultier. When it comes to working with others, the late stylist and designer L’Wren Scott gave Jones some sound advice: “Just leave your ego at the front door.” It seems the milliner does his best, but it still takes a lot of patience: “Basically in the next life I’m going to be working for the United Nations I think, because you have to be a complete diplomat.”


Back in 2009 he worked with the V&A to bring Hats: An Anthology to life, and his latest curative endeavour China: Through the Looking Glass is well on it’s way at New York’s MET museum. “Fashion exhibitions are so strong”, said Jones, but to really make fashion relevant in the 21st century, it’s films that need to be produced not stills. “Seeing an outfit on somebody and in movement is really, really important” argued Jones, who finds models walking down a catwalk too “robotic.” Considering the success of his film for the MOVEment project (which he Facetime coordinated all the way from Japan) it’s safe to say he has a point.

Watch the film below, and head here to see the full series on AnOther.