Habitual hat-wearing isn’t the norm anymore, but according to Stephen Jones, the Daddy of modern millinery, this is just a blip in human history. 'I think in 500 years’ time they’ll look back at the end of the 20th / beginning of the 21st century and think ‘oh it’s really weird, for a while people stopped decorating their heads'. With a chuckle he adds 'It’s an anomaly. Okay, historically the reasons people wore hats were for etiquette or religious reasons, but in tribal societies the first part of the body that is decorated is always the head. You know, you might be naked but you’ve got a giant feather hat on, and what else do you need?' Then he proves his point brilliantly by quoting Christian Dior 'without hats there is no civilization'.
We may not all be running round in giant feathers, but hats are still having a bit of a fashion moment. More people are flaunting headwear on a daily basis now than in the last twenty years; you can’t swing a cross-body bag without hitting a beanie these days, plus the Duchess has once more made it acceptable to strap on a jaunty headpiece (indeed, as Jones says, 'The hats that Kate wears, well the size of the hat matches the size of her bump. Thank god she’s not having triplets!'). And let’s not forget that a milliner’s busiest time of year, Ascot, is just around the corner. So when better, then, to launch pop-up hat boutique, Headonism, in one of London’s top shopping destinations, Browns?
Headonism is the British Fashion Council’s millinery initiative that was established in 2008. Sponsored by Ascot, it celebrates and promotes Britain's emerging hatters, and Jones as the founder and curator, explains why that’s important. 'Milliners don’t have the support from government in the way that fashion designers do, or the support from industry in the way that shoe designers and handbag designers do. It’s really good they [Ascot] got involved because of course the biggest market for us is the races... and it means we can do events like this'.
Five milliners are being showcased in Browns, and looking at them together, they are all so different to me that I have to ask Jones what links the designers; what did he look for when he selected them? Without hesitation he answers 'The reason I chose them is that nothing joins them together. They’re all completely different and completely brilliant'.
Hard to disagree there, with the inimitable Piers Atkinson’s giant cherries making for a striking contrast with Moody & Farrell’s charming straw bowlers. Then there’s Aurora Ozma’s fantastically tall head wraps, offsetting William Chambers’ elegant, more traditional designs. Emma Yeo’s laser cut pieces are quite different again, managing to look organic and architectural all at once.
Between them I’m betting they can make hats mainstream a lot sooner than 500 years from now.