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Here, Jones looks back on his memories of the Queen, from his first childhood sightings of her to the various times he crossed paths with her at Buckingham Palace soirées, and reflects on her powerful, enduring legacy within the fashion world. I think I was first aware of the Queen as a young boy in the mid-to-late 1960s. That was when she was taking many trips around the world, particularly to the Commonwealth, and I remember loving the fact that when she went to went on a state visit to Pakistan, she wore green, the national color. I thought, how wonderful that could be a motive for wearing certain things—that fashion didn’t need to be inspired by the magazines, it could be inspired by the place you were visiting, for example. I was very aware of that straight away. I also remember my grandmother had a book that she got at the coronation, a big sort of fold-out, which described the Queen’s Norman Hartnell dress in detail. I was so fascinated by the embroideries: there was a thistle for Scotland, the daffodil for Wales, and the shamrock for Northern Ireland. The idea of clothes representing certain places is, bizarrely enough, something that has defined my hats. They’re always about a place—even the collection I’m working on now is about Morocco.
When I was growing up, the image of her was all-pervading. In the early ’80s, for example, the International Herald Tribune might publish one fashion photograph per day during the shows. I remember in The Telegraph and other newspapers, there might be two or three photographs or illustrations of fashion per week, and that would be it. That was the importance that was granted to fashion. So photographs of the Queen were some of the most prevalent photographs of fashion for years. The Queen was really the patron saint of millinery. The entire industry of millinery would not be what it is today without the Queen, there’s no question about it. Rick Owens or Jacquemus would not be showing hats if the Queen had not been wearing hats throughout her reign—because the hat became a symbol of fashion, where the volume or the presence is outside the norm. That’s why the Queen wore them too. The ultimate hat is the symbol of royalty: the crown. That idea of indicating status or splendor on the head is the language that milliners speak.
What I admired about her style is that she always looked herself, rather than trying to be fashionable. I know it’s a cliche to say, but she always wore the clothes, they never wore her. By doing so, she was instantly recognizable, and was able to wear these extraordinary outfits. The uniform for Trooping the Colour, for example: a broad-shouldered red jacket resplendent with medals and a tricorn with Lord Mountbatten’s osprey feathers. Or wearing a gold ballgown with white fox stoles and huge tiaras and enormous amounts of jewels. She looked magnificent, but she wore it lightly. I don’t think she really cared about public opinion on what she was wearing. I think she wanted to make her own mark, and the vagaries and the up and downs of fashion didn’t really concern her. Even in the very final photo we saw of her, in black shoes, a kilt, and a cardigan, she looked completely at home in whatever she was wearing, which is a good lesson for all of us.
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