Stephen Jones Hats at The Royal Pavilion, which has been seven years in the planning, has opened today (Thursday, February 7).
It showcases more than 160 pieces from the milliner’s 40-year career and centres on an imaginary banquet in the opulent banqueting room of the palace, which was built for King George IV some 200 years ago.
There, visitors will find famous names – such as Kylie Minogue, Victoria Beckham and Mick Jagger – represented by a headpiece Jones created for them, or by a design they have worn.
Speaking on Wednesday (February 6) Jones said that choosing the pieces to exhibit was 'tricky' but that the ‘most difficult thing’ in the banqueting room was deciding 'who was going to sit next to who'.
“You know, would Rihanna get on with Lady Gaga? I don’t know if they know each other,” he said, jokingly.
Jones is represented at the table by a black top hat, a hat he did not make and which his father Gordon wore when he married his mother in 1946.
"It's so funny because people always think that top hats are an anachronism but actually I wear one quite often," he said.
Opposite Jones, visitors will find a new felt creation – a replica of a hat worn by King George IV that appears in a portrait from 1782.
Jones pointed out he has ‘sat’ King George IV next to Kate Moss.
“Well, she is a real funster, too,” he said. “And you know he loved a pretty girl.”
Designs worn by Princess Eugenie, actor Jennifer Lawrence and designer John Galliano also feature along with a replica of a 1980 creation made for Diana, Princess of Wales – then Lady Diana Spencer.
In 2012, Jones looked to Brighton and the Royal Pavilion for inspiration for his Chinoiserie-on-Sea collection.
Pieces from that collection open the exhibition in the palace's entrance hall and Jones said it is a ‘total honour’ to have hats that were inspired by a place displayed there.
In the music room, visitors will also see six headpieces Jones made for the 2015 exhibition China: Through the Looking Glass at the Metropolitan Museum Art, in New York, which were inspired by the Royal Pavilion's interiors; four are displayed with gowns by Dior and all have been donated and are set to remain in the palace.
While Jones, 61, grew up in a seaside town, he says to him the idea of Brighton was that it was like the ‘Riviera or the Monte Carlo or something of Britain’.
He first visited the city when he was about 12 years old with his parents.
On seeing the Royal Pavilion then, he said: “I remember coming here but I actually don’t remember coming inside, but I remember the outside of it because I just thought it looked like something from, you know, a science fiction programme on TV, or something."
The exhibition, which has been co-curated by Martin Pel of the Royal Pavilion and Museums, is running in partnership with department store Harvey Nichols and it will see Jones create a capsule collection for the retailer.
He said: “I’ve just started it, we’re working on it at the moment, because it's released for Ascot and wedding season, so it’s for slightly later in the year.”
He added on the new pieces: “I think there’s going to be about 25 – obviously different colourways, and things like that. And of course some of them are inspired by Brighton – we’ve tried to give them a Brighton twist.”
Jones said all the hats on show 'have got stories'.
Speaking of a fond memory of a white feathered helmet-style number that was worn by Boy George, he said: “He wore that the night of the wedding of Charles and Diana – the night before – and we went to a nightclub which is in Trafalgar Square and we came out at, you know, two in the morning and all these people in sleeping bags were all the way down and he was wearing that hat.
“I have no photographs of it but it was the most extraordinary experience.”