Michele Lamy, Stephen Jones and Adrian Joffe.
Millinery maestro Stephen Jones celebrated his centenary—his own 60th birthday and the 40th anniversary of the first hat that he ever made (using plastic flowers from his parents’ house)—in characteristically quirky style at Bistrotheque in the trendy far reaches of London’s East End. Guests were bidden to wear hats, naturally, and they came in all shapes and sizes. Jones’s muse, stylist to the stars Kim Bowen, wore a vast black Stetson trimmed with whirligigs—made for her, of course, by the birthday boy—while Charlotte Knight wore his sparkling masked fascinator à la Dame Edna Everage, and Ana Pincus had a sculpted cloche frame of pastel-shaded rhinestones. Tim Blanks, meanwhile, opted for a Mykonos kepi, and Michele Lamy went hieratic in a tribal toque crowned with a toucan skull.
The red carpet was lilac and Jones’s prettiest floral hats bloomed in the flower arrangements. There were more ravishing hats from the Jones archives as table decorations, trembling on long stems planted in flower pots filled with lilac pebbles. Guests feasted on trout with curlicues of sweet pea stems, lamb wrapped in papery pastry packets, and panna cotta and rhubarb all washed down with Perrier-Jouët. Bowen took to the microphone as mistress of ceremonies.
Bowen recalled her first meeting with Jones in the corridors of Central Saint Martins: She’d recently performed an unsuccessful dye job on herself and much of her hair had fallen out as a consequence, so she’d wrapped her head in a massive turban. Jones sidled up to her and uttered the immortal line, “I love your hat.” She thought it was a pickup line, and it was, of sorts, for a great friendship bloomed and they lived together in a famed squat in a rambling 18th-century house moments from London’s West End. Their friendship even survived an unhappy moment when Jones chose her as the younger student to work with him on his degree collection. He discovered far too late that she couldn’t sew to save her life, and he burst into tears wondering how the collection was ever going to get made.
Soon after they met, I saw the two of them at the famed Blitz nightclub, which they ruled as virtual monarchs of style and glamour. I had never seen anyone as lacquered and lovely as Bowen—she was now Jones’s “mannequin de ville,” a 1940s movie studio starlet in a medieval ruched silk and velvet disc hat that turned out to have been based on a pattern for a 1960s sofa scatter cushion. I was smitten: It was a vision that turned this boy’s head.
At the celebration, the microphone did the rounds: Fellow squat denizens recalled how Jones commandeered bedrooms as hat salons, and Iain R. Webb remembered that no one could get to the kettle to make tea, as Jones was always busy using it to steam his hats. Hilary Alexander recalled dressing Jones’s parents in his hats for the Telegraph newspaper, and Suzy Menkes pointed out that Jones’s own hat had been fashioned by him from a local newspaper on a flight back from India.
Then guests headed to the dance floor downstairs where fellow Blitz glamazon Princess Julia spun disco classics, and the walls were projected with the amazing archive photographs and footage taken by club fixture Jeffrey Hinton of Jones and his fellow New Romantics disporting themselves back in the day in their amazingly inventive outfits and his no less astonishing hats.
Pincus’s Dolce & Gabbana silver and gold sequins refracted as much light as the disco ball overhead; Jerry Stafford spun me round the floor in the time-honored Blitz dance; and some wag tied a skyful of lilac birthday balloons to the tapering crown of the sombrero I’d brought all the way from New York on my lap.