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The Master of Millinery
Fashions News

The Master of Millinery

He might refer to himself as simply a ‘fancy hatmaker’, but Stephen Jones OBE has had a profound influence on the world of millinery. A good friend of Flemington, he looks forward to enjoying the fashion and headwear at the Melbourne Cup Carnival, which he calls ‘extraordinary’.

Celia Purdey 13 October 2023

It’s almost impossible to overstate the influence and brilliance of Stephen Jones OBE. The renowned British milliner has made a significant impact on the world of fashion with his innovative and artistic hat designs, and is widely recognised for his avantgarde and imaginative approach to hat making.

Jones began his career in millinery in the late 1970s almost by chance. While studying fashion design at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London, he took up a tailoring internship at a couture house that had a millinery department. This unexpected experience shifted his focus from tailoring to hat making. The young milliner quickly gained attention for his unique designs that challenged traditional notions of headwear. His creations shaped the aesthetic embraced by club kids, punks and new romantics, but also the upper echelons of British high society.

Jones soon became the go-to headwear designer for royalty, celebrities and fashion icons, making him one of the most influential milliners in the industry. His CV boasts numerous hats for members of the Royal family and guests at Royal weddings. “I made many hats for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, including Amal Clooney,” Jones modestly states. He also designed the hat worn by the Duchess of Sussex’s mother, Doria Ragland and the one donned by Victoria Beckham.

His work with high-end fashion houses stretches back years. One collaboration with Dior for their winter 2018 collection was described as having ‘reinvented the French beret’. Jones has also worked with labels Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano and Jean Paul Gaultier, to name just a few. More recently, his work can be seen gracing the head of superstar Beyoncé on her global Renaissance tour.

Despite his association with such high-profile clients, Jones’ relationship with Australian racegoers, specifically during the Melbourne Cup Carnival, is one that he continues to be thrilled by.

“The Melbourne Cup is extraordinary. It’s completely different to anywhere else, any other race meeting around the world. It’s the energy, the fun.

When I see what everybody is wearing, it’s fantastic. Racewear in Australia has developed to a very fine art, maybe better than anywhere else in the world.”

Jones was “honoured” to once again host the Lexus Melbourne Cup on its recent tour of the UK and Europe at his shop and atelier in London. The milliner, whose work is represented in the permanent collections of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, will once again be a judge of the Lillian Frank AM MBE Millinery Award in Fashions on the Field in 2023. Although he is in demand for such roles all over the world Flemington is always at the top of his list.

While he continues to push boundaries and redefine the art of hat making, Jones can’t see himself slowing down any time soon.

“Even after 40 years making hats I still love it. It’s always a challenge. There’s always another hat.”

EXPERT INSIGHT

What are you inspired by?

I am influenced by fashion trends and the designers I work with. But often it is a whim, something I pluck from nowhere. For instance I am working on my next collection and I have decided to work with my ancestry, which is Welsh.

What are your tips for a winning hat?

  • Remember how big an occasion it is, but the hat is about the person wearing it. Find the balance.
  • Look like a winner. Be as remarkable as the winning racehorse.
  • Make it memorable and original.
  • Try to find its ‘strange magic’.
  • If you are an international milliner, do your research about Australia and the Melbourne Cup, but also highlight your uniqueness.
  • Make it new and exciting. The hat can be made using traditional techniques, but in a modern way.
  • A hat is a huge statement in itself and it doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. There’s no problem looking pretty and in control. Relax and enjoy yourself!