The name Stephen Jones may not ring a bell, but his creations will. Musicians, models and fashion icons from Madonna to Princess Diana have worn his hats.
Jones will be in Detroit on Oct. 16 at the Museum of Contemporary Art to talk about his craft at the first "Icons + Lunch" event. One of his hats will be auctioned.
While his claim to fame are the over-the-top hats, he also designs hats that are meant to be worn everyday. Beanies, fur-trimmed hoodies and baseball caps are part of his Fall-Winter 14 collection.
For him, hats can make you happy, or at least make you feel better. Jones feels that "when home is not so good or things are falling apart, how you dress is something you can control. Clothing can put a spring in your step. A hat is the most powerful of all things."
Jones did not always want to be a milliner. In fact, he remembers being an astronaut when he was a boy.
"I was a late developer, I went to St. Martins (College) and I was doing women's fashion and my tailoring tutor told me 'If you don't get extra help you will fail.' " That stern warning changed his life, and he became an intern at a couture house which had a millinery room.
But as Jones recalls it was "not the work, but the mindset. They had a fun time." It was love at first sight, and he found a mentor who gave him the most valuable lesson: "A hat would never be made in any particular way, you have to find your own way."
She taught him the rules of millinery, but also gave him permission to break them.
His hats are more architectural pieces than accessories, and he mentions architecture as his source of inspiration. "Architects work against gravity, turning something quite heavy and making it light and airy."
While he is Detroit he is looking forward to driving around the city and looking at the buildings being repaired, visit Cranbrook and in particular the Saarinen house. But what he looks forward to the most is to meet Detroiters, because even a simple conversation may inspire him.
Jones has always liked Motown style, and he remembers being about 10 years old, "learning the Temptations moves. And hating the Beatles." And he laments that of all the celebrities he has designed hats for, he has never done one for Diana Ross.
Sunday hats are a common sight around Metro Detoit. But colder weather is coming and that is the perfect time to start wearing hats.
"Women can wear hats every day," Jones says and he recommends a simple barret or a fedora, something in smaller scale, for everyday wear. "What about a Monday morning hat." he proposed.
He explains that women around the world wore hats during the 1950s. "My grandmother thought that if you were out without (a hat) you were mad," he recalls.
Not since Jacqueline Kennedy has a hat been a First Lady trademark. Yet for all that Michele Obama seems to enjoy fashion she never wears a hat. If he were to design a hat for Obama, it probably would be a small pale blue hat, "maybe on the back of the head, maybe like the one Kennedy wore."
Jones may have not become an astronaut, but his style and vision has changed the way we think about hats, even as we aren't aware of his name. Just like his mentor, he has given us permission to think of hats as objects of self-expression that break the boundaries of what is traditionally considered a hat.
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