Brighton’s spectacular Royal Pavilion has been filled with hats, hats and more hats in a sublime exhibition joyously celebrating the work of master milliner, Stephen Jones OBE.
Throughout the Pavilion, Jones and his collaborators have created a breath-taking array of installations which showcase the artistry, flair, and technical bravura of his creations in a way that is beautifully and emphatically sympathetic to the show’s lavish surroundings. In creating an exhibition that is also a homage to its sumptuous venue, Jones and museum curator Martin Pel have achieved something truly memorable.
Jones had already developed a collection inspired by Brighton and the Pavilion seven years ago, so having the opportunity to show that collection in situ, along with other iconic creations, has been deeply gratifying for the designer:
“I grew up in a seaside town, but Brighton to me seemed exciting, exotic, and it symbolised art and freedom” says Jones. “In 2012, I designed a collection called ‘Chinoiserie-on-Sea’ for which I researched Brighton, and in particular the Pavilion, extensively; and it feels like showing my hats there is almost like a homecoming. I have never had the opportunity to display hats in the environment which inspired them.”
Standing out amongst the many genuine highlights of this exhibition, the Pavilion’s iconic Banqueting Room has been spectacularly re-imagined to host a ‘dinner’ for 26 hats designed for some of Jones’ most famous celebrities, including the Duchess of Sussex, Kate Moss, Boy George, Kylie Minogue, Mick Jagger and Lady Gaga. Each hat is ingeniously suspended above a seat at the famous banqueting table. It’s a surreal, almost ghostly sight, at once charming and ethereally beautiful.
Other highlights include hats made for catwalk shows and collections by designers such as Dior, Thom Browne, Giles Deacon, Comme des Garçons, Marc Jacobs and Matty Bovan. There are also hats, inspired by the interiors of the Royal Pavilion, which were made for the 2015 China: Through the Looking Glass exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
In fact everywhere you look, as you wander through the Pavilion, there are beautiful hats: glamorous hats; gravity defying hats; hats that are delicate works of engineering; playful hats; iconic hats that you might recognise from TV and magazines. Just so many wonderful hats.
It’s a real triumph of this exhibition that the avant-garde design and superb craftsmanship that has gone into every exhibit succeeds in emulating the exacting technical and aesthetic standards and aspirations of the architects, craftsmen, artists and designers who together built George IV’s ground-breaking pleasure palace.
The other great success of this wonderful show is that it rightfully reminds us that, in its heyday, the Pavilion was not a ‘museum’, but a place where Regency movers and shakers and members of the fashionable elite came together by royal invitation to dress up in their finery and party in true royal style.
Stephen Jones Hats at the Royal Pavilion runs from February 7 to June 9, 2019 presented in partnership with Harvey Nichols.
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The Royal Pavilion is open daily from 10am to 5.15pm (last tickets at 4.30pm) until March 31 and then 9.30am until 5.45pm from April 1.
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