PRINCE OF WALES: With three out of four Welsh grandparents, it was about time that milliner Stephen Jones turned his attention to his ancestral home.
He certainly went all-out, calling the collection “Cymru,” the Welsh name for Wales, and adding the hills, valleys, rivers and iconography of the Celtic country to his dramatic designs for the spring 2024 season.
In an interview, the designer said he was proud to big up the small country, which hardly gets any attention in the fashion world.
“Everybody does ‘Scottish,’ and Ireland is celebrated — especially in America. Britain is celebrated, too, but never Wales,” the designer said.
Jones presented his new collection at his London shop, serving Welsh tea and traditional laverbread, which is made from seaweed found on the country’s shores.
Designs included a jaunty straw hat dotted here and there with daffodils, Wales’ national flower.
Jones said creating that one was a challenge.
“You need to make it contemporary and fun and [right] for somebody to wear on Bond Street, Madison Avenue, or at a cocktail party in Los Angeles. You don’t want it to look ridiculously patriotic. You’re trying to make something of beauty — and ensure the color is not imposition,” the designer said.
Another hat riffs on the red dragon, which has been an emblem of Wales since 655. Jones, using traditional techniques and invisible wiring, twisted diaphanous red silk into a wing shape that sweeps high over the head and past the side of the face.
The milliner even saw beauty in coal (mining was once Wales’ biggest industry) and set fat jet stones into a delicate tiara.
A tall black hat with curves and a cascade of gold fabric recalled the peaks and valleys of Snowdonia and the country’s historical gold mines.
Another hat recreated the Welsh island of Anglesey, which sits in the middle of the Irish Sea. Jones used Lurex and straw to build the island and the sea, and added little white turkey feathers to represent flying seagulls.
Jones and his team shot the lookbook a few weeks ago on the pristine beaches of the Gower peninsula, and the designer happily posed with some of the models wearing a John Alexander Skelton suit and a traditional tall Welsh hat.
Despite all those earthy and elemental references, Jones described the collection as having a “certain lightness. These hats all are having a good time.”