Stephen Jones distinctly recalls his first encounter with the Queen: He was astonished as a young boy in rural Cheshire by the fits she would wear while visiting the Commonwealth.
“She was acutely aware of the power of fashion, and I think she was very respectful of the craft of fashion too,” Jones recounts. “She knew that her appearance was a metaphor which could be used in many different ways.”
In recent decades, Jones has become one of the most revered British milliners in history, and the Queen is a recurring figure in his work.
These include a 1975 screen print of the Queen’s image against a brightly colored sky as part of a basic art course, and a tweed crown for Vivienne Westwood, notably photographed by Nick Knight for a cover of i-D magazine in 1987 donned by Westwood.
“Vivienne adored the Queen’s tweeds as a little girl, so it was completely a tribute,” Jones recalls.
Later, Jones worked in the royal establishment – whether in his work as a milliner for the then Princess of Wales, Diana, who saw Jones’ masterpieces first presented by Jasper Conran in the early 1980s, or in his appointment as OBE.
His assessment of Queen’s style is beyond the realm of kings, but as Jones has pointed out, when he toured the punk scene with New Romantics and joined the Blitz Club in the late 1970s, their iconoclastic version of her style rooted from a place of adoration, as well.
“What we loved was the glamour, the spectacular jewelry, hats, clothing,” Jones states. “The fact that she was unapologetic about it and wore what she believed in.”
From the first time he saw the Queen as a child to the time he met her several times at events at Buckingham Palace, Jones relived her memories and reflected on her powerful and enduring legacy in the fashion industry.
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Jones Recounts the Queen’s Fashion:
“I think I was first aware of the Queen as a young boy in the mid-to-late 1960s. That was when she was taking many trips around the world, particularly to the Commonwealth, and I remember loving the fact that she went to a state visit in Pakistan, she wore green, the national color. I though, how wonderful that could be a motive for wearing certain things – that fashion didn’t need to be inspired by the magazines, it could be inspired by the place you were visiting, for example. I was very aware of that straight away. I also remember my grandmother had a book that she got at the coronation, a big sort of fold-out, which described the Queen’s Norman Hartnell dress in detail. I was so fascinated by the embroideries: there was a thistle for Scotland, the daffodil for Wales, and the shamrock for Northern Ireland. The idea of clothes representing certain places is, bizarrely enough, something that has defined my hats. They’re always about a place – even the collection I’m working on now is about Morroco.
When I was growing up, the image of her was all-pervading. In the early ’80s, for example, the International Herald Tribune might publish one fashion photograph per day during the shows. I remember in The Telegraph and other newspapers, there might be two or three photographs or illustrations of fashion per week, and that would be it. That was the importance that was granted to fashion. So photographs of the Queen were some of the most prevalent photographs of fashion for years.
The Queen was really the patron saint of millinery. The entire industry of millinery would not be what it is today without the Queen, there’s no question about it. Rick Owens or Jacquemus would not be showing hats if the Queen had not been wearing hats throughout her reign—because the hat became a symbol of fashion, where the volume or the presence is outside the norm. That’s why the Queen wore them too. The ultimate hat is the symbol of royalty: the crown. That idea of indicating status or splendor on the head is the language that milliners speak.”