Monday, 11 May 2009

Hats by Stephen Jones

Millinery, unlike fashion, doesn’t follow trends. It springs from the fathomless imaginations of creatives the likes of Stephen Jones, guest curator of the V&A’s latest exhibition, Hats: An Anthology.

Taking his cue from the gallery's first ever fashion show, Fashion: An Anthology by Cecil Beaton back in 1971, Jones has lovingly created an homage to what he considers 'the ultimate accessory.'

A single room is dedicated to the exhibition, filled to the brim with fanciful concoctions culled from every inch of the globe and every point in history. From an Egyptian funerary mask dating back to 600-300 BC, to a twelfth century fez and the original Darth Vader mask from the 1960s, it's all here.
Rather than displaying them chronologically, Jones has seized the chance to show off the timelessness of the hat by arranging them laterally according to style.

What we end up with is a velvet and silk bonnet from 1835 cheek by jowl with one of Jones' almost identical creations from this year. Or an electric pink Philip Treacy hat made from goose feather in 1995 that echoes a Caroline Reboux feather tricorne from 1935.

An 1870s straw bonnet piled high with flowers and buds looks strikingly modern and Jo Gordon's ominous 'Kiss of Death' bonnet from 1996 could have come from a Gareth Pugh show yesterday.
In fact the only real recognisable era is the '20s; who could mistake a powder pink felt cloche hat by a one Miss Fox for any other decade?

We're soon brought bang up to date though with a look at how headgear translates to the catwalk, as well as a low down on today's top new milliners, including the much raved about Nasir Mazhar.
Just as Cecil Beaton put fashion 'on the map' four decades ago, Jones is stamping millinery well and truly on to London's cultural conscience. This is an exhibition that, much like its creator, bursts with colour and character. Who ever knew hats could be so exciting?

By Imogen Eveson

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