He is the maverick mastermind of the most novel hats the fashion world has seen in decades. He has adorned the heads of celebrities and royalty alike (in the leagues of Lady Gaga and Princess Diana). He has hand-crafted hats to finish the runways of top designers such as John Galliano, Marc Jacobs and Giles Deacon. He is the magician who breathed life into hats as a traditionally reserved headpiece, his creations spectacularly avant-garde. Dubbed by Anna Piaggi (Vogue Italia) as ‘the maker of the most beautiful hats in the world’, he has come from the UK and graced the runways of iD Fashion Week 2013 — he is the mad-hat hatter Stephen Jones!

Stephen Jones showcased a stunning retrospective collection at the iD Fashion Show this year. A dramatic medley that enraptured the audience and drew a standing ovation at the finale, it was the show-stealer that delivered the punch for the best iD Fashion Show in 14 years.

He has come a long way since his days at Central St Martins under Bobby Hillson. His request to be transferred from the tailoring workroom to the millinery workroom probably the linchpin decision that transformed his career and saw him in the company of Duran duran, Boy George and Jean Paul Gaultier at London’s Blitz, one of the biggest nightclubs of the time. At his full house lecture at the Otago Museum on Thursday, he mentioned that Steve Strange (owner of Blitz), who was also his first client, provided his first millinery salon at the trendy Covent Garden (proving once again it’s all about connections, connections, connections).

Popspoken was really stoked to interview him backstage at the Awards Show where he talked about his inspirations, his partnerships and his advice to budding young designers:

You have such novel, almost mad, hat inventions, what inspires you to constantly come up with new pieces?

Life. I just live my life and put it into a hat. Sometimes there’s real things like architecture, that’s really important for me. But I live a crazy life so my hats are crazy!

“I just live my life and put it into a hat.” – Stephen Jones

Why do you think hats and headpieces are becoming such popular key accessories nowadays?

I think because they change so much. They’re the most visible. They’re quite unusual as well. People don’t really wear hats so therefore on the runway they look really important and can change a fashion show.

Do you think it has a lot to do with celebrity culture as well?

Absolutely. Celebrities like Lady Gaga and Rihanna, they love wearing hats!

So does the hat make the outfit or the outfit make the hat?

The hat makes the outfit! Because you do the outfit first and then you put on the hat and it brings the outfit up and makes it stronger.

Every client works differently; we read your interviews about Marc Jacobs and how he’s always going for something novel and very hands-on and Rei Kawakubo is more than enigmatic. How do you interpret and work with what the client wants?

When you’re working with a designer it’s an extension of the friendship you have with that designer. So it’s almost like talking to an individual. For example if I’m talking to you and got to know you a bit, I’d make a hat that would suit you. That’s how you develop a different language for each person.

Why did you decide to expand from couture hat making to Jonesboy and Miss Jones which caters to a more ‘commercial’ clientele?

Those are great but have a different aesthetic. It’s more everyday and easier to understand.

What has been your favorite or most memorable creation/partnership by far?

John Galliano. He allowed me and wanted to indulge my most extreme fantasy. Probably the Egyptian couture collection for Dior was the coolest.

What advice would you give to emerging designers who want to make it in this industry?

They have to really love it. It’s not easy. So, at 4 in the morning, you have to love it.

“So, at 4 in the morning, you have to love it.” – Stephen Jones, on advice for budding designers

Have you received any bad advice while you were in the industry?

No, not really. Sometimes I’ve made wrong decisions. But that’s life and you have to live with it.

Obviously in the fashion industry, most of the time, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So how do you bounce back from a bad situation or comment or deal with a bad season?

Things go wrong but things go right. You can make your own luck, that’s very important.

So what’s next for you?

I’m working on lots of different projects in England at the moment. I’ve done a fragrance already with Commes Des Garcon. We’re working on the second fragrance. And I’ve just done a big collection for a department store in Britain.

(Photo credit to chloeanguschang)