‘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.’