Art of Intention – Stephen Jones
Art of Intention – Stephen Jones
Sir Stephen Jones does not hold the accolade of being the most charming man in fashion for nothing.
Ironic, erudite and genuinely self-e acing, the Liverpool-born milliner with a cheeky glint in his eye has
been an unparalleled force in the industry since the 80s, the decade he and his Blitz Kids peers came to
define, one gender-bending fashion statement at a time. His vivacious energy and work ethic is nothing
short of legendary and his talent ubiquitous. He is what one could genuinely term a legend. In this
excerpt from his interview with Author, he tells us why fashion has to have purpose.
AUTHOR: What role do you think fashion, at its best, can play in affecting sociopolitical change?
Stephen – Fashion has got an incredibly important role to play in being a catalyst for change. I think
the only time that fashion ever really makes sense is when it has sociopolitical comment. That’s when it
really galvanises people. Whether it was Teddy Boys or Punk, or Rave, it always had that sociopolitical
element to it. I saw this really fantastic quote from Winston Churchill during WW2. He was called
upon to stop arts funding, the government had already really cut it back, but they wanted to stop it
completely, and he said: “If we’re not fighting for culture and art, what are we fighting for?”
AUTHOR: Do you think with the incredibly fast turnaround of fashion, the glory days are behind us?
Stephen – I think there are certain areas that are becoming so much more corporate, but there are
some designers who are coming up who think all of that is as completely irrelevant as my generation
did. I recently worked with the designer John Skelton, and he has that sort of insane passion and belief.
He made his own set from old front doors that he had sourced from council houses and then did a
fashion show lit by oil lamps. It was fantastic and, you know, sort of bonkers and ridiculous and
wonderful too, and so completely British. The clothes were exquisite and beautifully made, but at its
heart, the subject he was dealing with was class and colonialism.
AUTHOR: It seems harder to find that authentic subcultural expression now. With so much noise, there’s
no defined mainstream to kick against, just multiple streams happening at once…
Stephen – Yes. I mean, 1976 was my first year at college and there was absolutely no option for me but
to be a punk. It was a very galvanizing thing because, you know, we certainly didn’t want to be
anything that had gone before. Then in the early 80s, we were sort of in a vacuum left by punk and
were just trying to nd our own way again. It was so different then because if you wanted culture, you
really had to work for it, which is why magazines like The Face and iD and Blitz and all of those were
formed. What young people have now is social media, and these days, it’s very global as opposed to
national. Obviously, my generation were in London doing the London thing and people like Jean-Paul
Gaultier would come for the club scene, while conversely, we would look to New York as being like
the exciting place to be, with CBGB and the Mudd Club. It was a genuinely social movement, whereas
online is where the big social thing happens now. What’s strange, and this also goes hand-in-hand with
the online thing, is that fashion then, once it had happened, was kind of dead or had finished, but now
it has a life online and in exhibitions. It sort of continues. There are a whole new generation who are
just discovering McQueen and Vivienne.
Interview by JOHN-PAUL PRYOR
Pictures courtesy of Stephen Jones