The Fashion Folk S02 ep11 : Stephen Jones, Millinery, [Sydney]
Interview with Stephen Jones
Stephen Jones OBE (born 31 May 1957) is a leading British milliner based in London, who is considered one of the world's most radical and important milliners of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He is also one of the most prolific, having created hats for the catwalk shows of many leading couturiers and fashion designers, such as John Galliano at Dior and Vivienne Westwood. His work is known for its inventiveness and the high level of technical expertise with which he realises his ideas. Jones co-curated the 2009 exhibition Hats: An Anthology for the Victoria & Albert Museum.
In French often people use the work ‘spirituelle’ to describe the hats of Stephen Jones which
means it is something which has got like a sense of humor, something which is a little bit light and
airy, something insubstantial. Those are all the things that make a good hat. You know I don’t
think that it is about doing something, which sort of imposes on you.
The reality is that I am a milliner, but I am also a therapist, a psychiatrist, all those different things,
because I think that when you are a milliner – it is such a personal thing to do. Whether I am
working with a lady from the countryside or a pop star or John Galliano, it is all about getting as
close to them as possible and then trying to sort of put their character and my character into a hat.
You were telling me back then that you were doing things for Boy George, for Madonna for these
sorts of people, what was the spirit then and how do you compare the spirit of today?
I think that the spirit has really changed because the spirit then was that fashion was something
new. When I was 20, the world of fashion, the world of mass fashion was still to happen. The
designer decade was still to happen. Now for people who are 20, they have grown up within the
world of fashion already and their attitude of fashion is very different from my attitude to fashion.
Now fashion really is items. People are spending more money on the cover for their new Nokia
phone than an actual outfit. So that telephone is becoming more of a fashion item than a pair of
shoes. I think people are buying more classic clothes, but they are putting the fashion into the
things which are sort of more outrageous in the way of accessories.
Well I think he is an artist, but I think that he is an artist like Alexander McQueen is an artist, or
John Galliano is an artist in the way they know how to manipulate the media. I think for artists,
now that is part of it.
It is not to say that they are there and the media and the public are there - they are one in the same
thing. Those people who are in charge of those businesses are not normal accountants.
It is Domenico De Sole and Tom Ford who is a designer and a lawyer, Bernard Arnault is a real
entrepreneur, he knows that so many of the established fashion formulas actually don’t work so he
listens to somebody like John (Galliano).
KD You mean they really work together?
Yes. They see each other quite a lot. I won’t say that if in the middle of the night if John is having
an artistic crisis about handbags he will phone Bernard and say hey Bernard… but you know , they
get on quite well.
KD Why didn’t you go into the couture business?
Why didn’t I …. You know I was not making hats for mummy at the age of 4. I was very much a
late developer. And it is all …. Everything that I do is still quite a surprise to me, even though I do
have a passion about it…. I think it is important in a strange way somehow keep a distance from it.
Do you still do the same thing?
I think I still do the same thing yeah. You know I never stop. Inspiration comes from anything and
everything. I never mentally stop designing. I keep a note book with me all the time.
The reason that I work with designers is not only because I enjoy it and it is a privilege, but
because it feeds my own thing and keeps me on the ball.
I think that I know that this looks nice and that doesn’t. But sometimes they will tell me “this
doesn’t look nice” and if I respect them as a designer I’ll say “o.k maybe I don’t know and you
know” and I will follow what you are doing and then a few weeks later, a month later, my design
world has been turned upside down.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: Stephen Jones, Millinery, Sydney