Exclusive interview: Milliner Stephen Jones on Coco Before Chanel and vintage hats Legendary milliner Stephen Jones, whose designs have been worn by celebrities and royals around the globe, is also behind the hats worn by Audrey Tatou in the new film Coco Before Chanel. QueensOfVintage.com caught up with him to chat about his work on the film, his favourite era and how to find the perfect vintage hat. Lena Weber for QueensOfVintage.com: Stephen, you designed all the hats for Audrey Tatou in the upcoming film Coco Before Chanel. Where did you start your research when you got involved in the project? Stephen Jones: Well, Chanel has always been an icon to me. Most people don’t know that she was a milliner as well as a couturier, it’s surprising how many designers also work as milliners. I got involved in the film through friends of friends of friends but had already researched the period for my recent exhibition at the V&A. There was huge change in hat styles between 1890 and 1910, shifting from very flamboyant belle epoque styles to simpler forms. Chanel’s hats really capture the apex of that new way of designing. QoV: Did you work quite closely with the film’s costume designer, Catherine Leterrier? Stephen Jones: Yes I did. We met up and suddenly I had a new best friend! Catherine had already done a lot of research into Chanel and the period so we worked together quite closely. QoV: How many people worked on making the hats for the film? Stephen Jones: All in all a team of ten people. I think Audrey wore about seven different hats in the film but there were all the other characters that needed hats too. We only designed the hats for the female cast. Lady’s millinery is totally different from men’s hatting. While a man’s hat is all about formality and signifies his social status, a lady’s hat is there to flatter her. It’s all about beauty. QoV: Where did you source your materials? Stephen Jones: We used mainly new materials, straw from Italy, which is where it would have come from back then, felt from France. Some of the design briefs were very specific, so when we made a hat that would have been one of Chanel’s favourites, we made sure that the die was faded to show the wear the hat would have had. QoV: Which is your favourite hat you designed for the film? Stephen Jones:I generally enjoyed designing the simple boaters Audrey wore, rather then the flamboyant belle epoque styles. There is one scene at a fancy dress ball where Audrey wears a very simple outfit, inspired by the orphan uniform Chanel wore as a child in her orphanage. Audrey puts on a hat designed like a men’s style but she wears it the wrong way around, with the bow in the middle of the front. Not only does she look amazing, I also love that it’s such a modern approach to styling and wearing hats. QoV: How was it to work with Audrey? Stephen Jones: During one of the early costume fittings Audrey put on a hat for the first time. She looked up into the mirror and just said ‘Good heaven’s, I’m Coco!’. The best thing about working with Audrey was that she really suits hats and that she loves wearing them. Often, actors find that wearing a hat makes it difficult to find the right angle for the camera, but for Audrey it completed her character and almost did the acting for her. QoV: What is your favourite period? Stephen Jones:I love pre-war French hats from the late Thirties and Forties American hats. They were just so elegant! QoV: What top tips would you have for our readers who are looking to buy a vintage hat? Stephen Jones: First of all, if you’re buying a hat for an occasion like a wedding, try it on at home before the big day. Figure out what hair and make-up you’ll wear with it and just wear it round the house for a day. Look at yourself in the mirror and see if you like your hat from the back and from the sides. It’ll make you so much more confident on the day. The thing is that back in the days you would often have a specific hair style to go with a hat. Your hat would only be a specific accent in your over-all look, and hair style, make-up and outfit would all be co- ordinated. Make sure you don’t just wear an outfit and a hat, but that your hat is part of your outfit.