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August 23 2014

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3 posts tagged "Royal Ascot"

Modern Milliners Find A Mentor In Stephen Jones

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I’m a history buff, so I get a kick out of being able to date the moments when things change. It’s easy in fashion, which is already glued to a calendar. Five years ago, Stephen Jones curated an exhibition devoted to hats, at the Victoria & Albert Museum. “Without that exhibition, I don’t know what the hat industry in the UK would be,” said milliner William Chambers the other day at Somerset House, where he was one of the designers in the Jones-curated Headonism initiative, a joint effort by the British Fashion Council and Royal Ascot to support the art and craft of millinery. The Royal Ascot—the most famous racing event in the equestrian calendar—is just as famous for its batty hats as it is for its horses. And the Headonists get to show their work not just during London fashion week but also to a captive audience at Ascot itself.

For a millinery master like Stephen Jones, Ascot is a major payday. He’ll make one thousand hats for race-goers. And it’s typical of the sweetest soul in fashion that he would want to share the wealth by curating something like Headonism. “There was no one to show me,” he says, “So it’s great to choose people who are really good and give them a little bit of help.”

This year, the chosen five included Piers Atkinson, already famous for ADR’s cherry headpiece. Though business has been booming for him, especially in the Far East, Atkinson is worried about the effect success might have on his creative freedom. He needn’t bother just yet. What he showed at Headonism mixed Alphonse Mucha’s art nouveau, the Manchu dynasty, a 2-D jigsaw-puzzle headdress inspired by Russian royalty, and a floor-length extravagance of ripped tulle, feathers, and fringing (above) that had Gaga written all over it.



Emma Yeo, in her first season as a hatter, laser-cut and molded wood to replicate the ethereal structure of moths’ wings (above). The technology defied comprehension. Defiance was also key to Aurora Ozma’s headgear. “Plan what you’re wearing around my hats,” said the rock ’n’ roll moll, whose quiff embodied the architectural essence of her designs. Eloise Moody’s work, the most traditional, carried a torch for her hat-wearing granddad.

“I don’t want people to turn out some old stuff I did,” said Jones as he looked around a roomful of his spiritual children. “They’re doing things I would never have thought about.” And yet they wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for him. It was a rare and generous fashion moment when Piers Atkinson said, “Stephen Jones is everything.” It truly couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Photos: Piers Atkinson—Martina Luisetti; Emma Yeo—Eamonn McCormack/ Getty Images

London Fashion Week’s Mad Hatters

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No ifs, ands, or buts about it: The Brits love their hats. And, seeing as they’re fond of supporting emerging designers, it makes sense the London fashion crew would champion bright new milliners, too. (After all, they need something to wear with their up-and-comer-designed duds.) Curated by Stephen Jones and supported by the Royal Ascot (which hosts the most hat-tastic horse race in the UK, and possibly the world), the four-year-old initiative welcomes three new milliners this season—Aurora (designed by Aurora Ozma), Emma Yeo, and Moody and Farrell (designed by Eloise Moody, whose work is pictured, left). They join veterans Piers Atkinson and William Chambers. “The Fall ’13 Headonism milliners usher in a new wave of excitement in millinery, combining London’s individuality and fine craftsmanship,” Jones told Style.com. “These three [new designers] complement perfectly the astounding talents of the witty Piers Atkinson and poetic William Chambers.” Headonism’s Fall ’13 hatters will unveil their new collections at an exhibition at Somerset House on the first day of London fashion week, which begins on February 15.

Photo: Courtesy of the British Fashion Council

The Only Way Is Ascot

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No hat, no entrance. Such are the rules of the Royal Ascot, the U.K.’s most prestigious horse race, sartorially and otherwise, and the functional English equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. Founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, the meet, which runs from June 19-23, attracts everyone from Liz Hurley to the Royals for five days of celebration, steeds, and, of course, spectacular headgear. “I couldn’t have imagined it in my wildest dreams. It’s sort of like heaven!” says up-and-coming English milliner Noel Stewart, who, along with Piers Atkinson, Charlie Le Mindu, J. Smith Esquire, and William Chambers, will showcase his hats at the races in the Stephen Jones-curated Headonism exhibition, sponsored by the Royal Ascot and the British Fashion Council. “It’s the highlight of a milliner’s year and crucially important from a business standpoint. It’s Christmas and Thanksgiving and everything else all rolled into one!” adds Jones, who, in addition to crafting a slew of Ascot hats, is in the midst of creating headpieces for Raf Simons’ debut Dior Couture show.

However, due to a few subpar skin-baring ensembles from years past, Ascot has tightened up its 2012 dress code. Fascinators have been banned in the Royal Enclosure, the race’s most exclusive viewing section (according to Ascot, they’re a “convenient way out” and not in line with formal daywear), and ladies must wear headpieces no smaller than four inches in diameter, as well as day dresses of “modest length” whose straps are at least one inch wide. (The powers that be have suggested the look at left as an example of race-appropriate garb: dress by Nicholas Oakwell, shoes by Bally, and hat by Stephen Jones.) Gents are required to turn up in a top hat and tails. “The new rules are about being more ‘English summer party’ than ‘pop star fleshy,’ ” says Atkinson, who designed a special Racing Collection (below), each hat from which adheres to Ascot’s regulations. His strawberries-and-cream-inspired toppers will be on sale at his pop-up shop at London’s Saint Martins Lane Hotel, open from today until the end of June. Continue Reading “The Only Way Is Ascot” »