De­signer hat­maker Stephen Jones re­calls a 1985 party in Paris that kick-started his ca­reer across the Chan­nel

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - LIFE AND TIMES - In­ter­view by Kate Fin­ni­gan stephen­jonesmillinery.com

Milliner Stephen Jones on the party in Paris that kick-started his ca­reer across the Chan­nel

This pic­ture was Taken at a party thrown for me in paris in 1985. i’m with sibyl le de saint phalle, who was my as­sis­tant and muse. she was my friend’ s girl­friend who had come from paris to eng­land look­ing for work. i thought she was fab­u­lous soi of­fered her a job. id idn’ t have a clue at the time but she was fash­ion roy­alty, the niece of both artist niki de saint phalle and the fash­ion de­signer Madame Grès. i loved her pa r isia n-ness. To some­body like me who’d come from Liver­pool, she was as ex­otic as it got.

Back then, and this was be­fore the chan­nel Tun­nel, paris seemed very far from Lon­don – philo­soph­i­cally, men­tally, so­cially. i’d al­ready had a shop in Lon­don for five years by the time this photo was taken, but the party marked my en­try into paris, which was, and still is, the cen­tre of the fash­ion world.

i’d just started de­sign­ing for Jean paul Gaultier. he’d seen me a few years ear­lier in the video for cul­ture club’s Do You Re­ally Want

To Hurt Me? wear­ing a three­piece suit and afezt hat i’ db ought from Flip in Long acre, co vent Gar­den. he asked me to model in his first menswear show – he was do­ing a 1940s Casablanca look – but i’d bro­ken my an­kle soi couldn’t. we met the next timei was in paris and he asked if i was in­ter­ested in work­ing with him. Of course i said yes, and he said, ‘i’m go­ing out for lunch for an hour. Do some sketches around the fez idea and i’ll see them w he ni come back .’ soi went to a book­shop and bought some Basil­don Bond note pa- per, the kind you used to write your thank-you let­ters on at christ­mas­time, and sketched on that. and he went through them all say­ing, ‘Yes, no, yes, no…’ and then he said, ‘My as­sis­tants will be in touch in a week’s time and tell you the quan­ti­ties.’

with hind­sight, the party was the be­gin­ning of some­thing– Gaul tier was there and Thierry Mu­gler, but at the time i was just think­ing, this is an ex­cit­ing new world and i don’t speak French well enough! id idn’ t have two pen­nies to rub to­gether, ei­ther. id idn’ t have a credit card soi didn’t know if i’d be able to pay my ho­tel bill. There were no cash­points, only five bu­reaux de change in the whole of paris, where they stamped your pass­port to say how much money you’d with­drawn be­cause of the ex­change con­trols.

But i think the in­ter­est­ing thing about this pic­ture is that it was taken by the pa­parazzi. i was a 27-year-old milliner from eng­land hav­ing a small fash­ion party in paris and all these pho­tog­ra­phers turned up. in the early 1980s there had been this sud­den ex­plo­sion of vis­ual me­dia–the new MTV chan­nel, style mag­a­zines like i-d and The Face. un­til then, Tatler had par ty pages but they were filled with pho­to­graphs of the aris­toc­racy, not fash­ion peo­ple. sud­denly peo­ple were in­ter­ested in us. and how we looked was just as im­por­tant as what we did. —

I didn’t have two pen­nies to rub to­gether. I didn’t know if I could pay my ho­tel bill

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