The British Hat Guild is back with its annual fundraiser for Brain Tumour Research. Titled Crowning Glory: A Milliners’ Celebration of All the King’s Colours, 22 hats have been created by famous British milliners – including Stephen Jones OBE, Rachel Trevor-Morgan and Lisa Tan – and will be exhibited at various racing events this summer before heading off to a charity auction. The theme this year? The racing colours of our new monarch, King Charles III. ‘We as a Guild feel intrinsically entwined with the culture of the Royal Family as they are such supporters of millinery,’ said Stephen Jones OBE, Chairman of the British Hat Guild. ‘Royalty and millinery go back centuries, because of course the ultimate hat is the Crown.’ We sat down with Stephen to hear more about the auction, the role of millinery in royal history and career highlights.
Stephen Jones On New British Hat Guild Exhibition Crowning Glory
Hi Stephen, thanks for joining us today! Can you please kick us off by telling us a bit about Crowning Glory: A Milliners’ Celebration of All the King’s Colours?
This collection of hats is part of a collaborative yearly effort by Brain Tumour Research, The Jockey Club in Epsom Downs and the British Hat Guild to raise money for Brain Tumour Research. We pick a Royal Theme for the Epsom Derby and create hats in tribute to this theme. This year happened to coincide with the coronation, and so our theme was all about King Charles’s racing colours for 2023. There was a significant change this year as it was the first time the purple, red and gold silks were worn in his honour as his inherited horses from the late Queen Elizabeth II were brought to the fore.
We as a Guild feel intrinsically entwined with the culture of the Royal Family as they are such supporters of millinery. The theme is a nod to this and the creations a reflection of the Royal Racing Events in Britain and a representation of modern millinery. It all culminates in an auction for the hats to raise money for Brain Tumour Research.
All of this is in aid of Brain Tumour Research. What kind of work does it do, and why partner with this charity in particular?
Brain Tumour Research is close to the heart of every milliner, as we are aware that so often when people undertake chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment, they often lose their hair. Hats can play a huge role with helping restore their confidence.
Can you talk us through the design process for the hats in Crowning Glory pieces – and how they differ from previous hats you’ve made?
We were honoured to be a part of this auction for 2023 and the first design ideas sprouted from colour and obviously a new era for the Royal Family and Great Britain. I based my piece on one from our current collection, ‘Why? Why Not?’ It felt apt to have a piece from my most current collection, and was interesting to see how, in my opinion, one of my most forward-thinking collections contrasted with the archaic purples of the Royal Racing Colours.
I wanted to have a modern hat to represent a step forward into the future of royalty but also have a wearable hat for the modern race goer. I approach my design process as I would any other. It needs to be perfect for the occasion and of course a delight for the wearer!
What role has the royal family played in defining British millinery?
Royalty and millinery go back centuries, because of course the ultimate hat is the Crown. From Queen Mary to Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Queen Elizabeth II, all believed in millinery as something that would identify them as visible and apart from the general public. British and global formal events continue to use this as statement dressing.
You’ve been in the industry for over 40 years. Any major highlights from your career you can share with us?
Obviously making hats for the Royal Family is an honour and is very memorable, both for racing and for other events they attend throughout the year.
And what about memorable challenges?
Every hat is a challenge, that’s what makes it exciting.
What motivates you to push your creative boundaries?
The fact that I am always dissatisfied with what I’ve done, and my clients are so often an inspiration for me.
Is there anyone you haven’t designed a hat for that you’d really like to?
So many people! Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor – but sadly those clients are long gone. What I really look forward to is meeting clients of the future, because every young person occasionally would like to look like a princess.
The fashion industry is becoming increasingly conscious of its impact on the planet. How do you think millinery and sustainability will come together over the next few years, if they haven’t already?
I think hats by their very nature are sustainable. People never throw hats away; they always pass them onto somebody else.
Do you have anything else exciting (that you can tell us about) in the pipeline for 2023?
Seeing my celebrity clients wearing the hats I’ve worked on for months for top secret projects… shhhhhhhhh!
How do you think we can live a life in balance?
Through happiness and respect. And making sure that your hat has a comb in it.
Any parting words for our readers?
You need many hats in your life: one for the country, one for town and one for home.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Crowning Glory: A Milliners’ Celebration of All the King’s Colours will exhibited at The Derby at Epsom Downs on 2 and 3 June 2023. All hats in Crowning Glory are available to purchase via auction at galabid.com, which runs until midnight on 11 June 2023. All proceeds will go to Brain Tumour Research.
Featured image: Stephen Jones worn by Leonna Mayor (c) The British Hat Guild