Stephen Jones, superstar milliner, gave a talk on lessons in business at the City Business Library on 20th October 2010 on his 30 year career as a designer.
Stephen Jones (see also: London Hat Week) started his millinery business in 1980 and this year he is celebrating 30 years in the industry. I had the chance to talk to him after the event and asked him a couple of questions about his business and the secret of his success.
Stephen created hats for 80s popstars like Boy George, Madonna, Grace Jones and more recently for Pink, Gwen Stefani, Beyonce and Kylie. His talent was recognised by fellow fashion designers who commissioned hats to Stephen for their collections: Vivienne Westwood and Comme des Garcon to name a few.
The lessons he learned in 30 years and that he shared with the audience are that it’s good to specialise in one skill but if you become too specialised you may be severely affected by market conditions. So, alongside his millinery, Stephen Jones has created several lines of accessories ranging from sunglasses to gloves. This has given him an international appeal, especially in the US and Japan, which made his business recession-proof.
Stephen also mentioned you must make your own luck: surely being in the right place at the right time with the right connections will take you to business highs, but you must have a steely determination to achieve your goals.
Finally, he also praised the importance of accessories as a way to make or break an outfit. Especially during economic crises, the sales of accessories skyrocket as they are cheaper than clothes and they can make an outfit more prominent by making the wearer stand out from the crowd. During the war and in times of rationing, sales of hats and cosmetics survived unscathed.
The heydays of the Blitz nightclub in the 80s may be well and truly gone forever but who needs nostalgia when you can look to a bright future like Stephen Jones is?