Hat tricks: milliner Stephen Jones traces a lifetime of souvenirs

models in hat dresses
Models line up backstage just before making their entrance for Thom Browne’s spring/summer 2015 show wearing hat-dresses that reinterpret their outfits. The hats are made of straw, crin, and metal with embroidered motifs.
(Image credit: Barbara Anastacio)

‘Transformative and fun’ is how Stephen Jones characterises his life’s work – millinery – in the introduction to his latest monograph, Souvenirs, penned by Susannah Frankel, and with a touching foreword by his close friend, Grace Coddington.

From the first chapter – opening with a telegraph Jones’ father sent in joyful response to his wife’s pregnancy of their son – the book, published by Rizzoli, is a detailed and elaborately illustrated chronicle that traces Jones’ life and career through photographs, sketches and ephemera, spanning Liverpool to New York.

‘A cat has nine lives, but I think a milliner has 30!’ exclaimed Jones ahead of the book’s launch. Reminiscing over the many instances of instrumental moments and chance meetings, he adds: ‘There were many things that I thought were surprisingly influential, for example, meeting [Italian fashion writer] Anna Piaggi. I met her so long ago in the 1980s and she was just an extraordinary person. I didn’t realise our lives would be intertwined as much as they were.’

There are many turning points in Jones’ 40-year long career: studying fashion at the illustrious Central Saint Martins in 1976; opening his first London shop in 1980; and his increasing success in Paris, fostered by fervent supporters Jean-Paul Gaultier and John Galliano. But Jones’ imaginative work also brought him to Antwerp and Tokyo, where he continues to create avant-garde headpieces for Walter Van Beirendonck and Rei Kawakubo.

Throughout the pages of Souvenirs, Jones’ joy for his craft and the fun he has with his collaborators is evident. Jones' life – music, friendships, art – fuels his rich creative output.

Working on the book, Jones adds, '[I have] telescoped all my experiences of 59 years into 250 pages. And as we’re in the fashion industry, we’re always thinking about the future or what’s going to be next, and it’s actually quite strange to look back and see how many different things I’ve done. It almost seems like somebody else.’

a sketch of traffic cone hat

Jones just off the plane on his first trip to New York, arriving at photographer Larry Williams’ studio on 23 April, 1982. Right: a sketch of the hat Jones always longed to make – a traffic cone hat. 

(Image credit: Photography: Barbara Anastacio)

sketches of crowns and plastic headscarf

Left: initial crown ideas for Comme des Garçons spring/summer 2006. Right: a fresh take on headscarves for Christopher Kane in wire plastic, for autumn/winter 2016. . 

(Image credit: Photography: Barbara Anastacio)

illustrations of the life cycle of a hat

Left: Stephen Linard, left, and Jones at the St Moritz Club, London, in 1980. Right: an example of Lawrence Mynott’s evocative illustrations of the life cycle of a hat for the exhibition catalogue Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2009

(Image credit: Graham Smith)


Published by Rizzoli, Souvenirs celebrates Jones’ extraordinary career and creations

(Image credit: Photography: Barbara Anastacio)


Souvenirs, £95, published by Rizzoli

Siska Lyssens has contributed to Wallpaper* since 2014, covering design in all its forms – from interiors to architecture and fashion. Now living in the U.S. after spending almost a decade in London, the Belgian journalist puts her creative branding cap on for various clients when not contributing to Wallpaper* or T Magazine.