Fashion's current love affair with hats can be traced back, ostensibly, to Stephen Jones - the man who has reshaped the art of hat-making for a new generation of milliners and, importantly, hat wearers.
Jones' creations - wild, wacky, big, dainty, dramatic, witty, wonderful, and always original -
have graced the catwalks of designers as far-reaching as Thierry Mugler, Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, Marc Jacobs, Giles Deacon and Vivienne Westwood. He has created head-toppers for everyone from Kylie Minogue and Take That, to Princess Diana and Mick Jagger.
In 2009 the V&A staged a major retrospective of his work, to which over 100,000 visitors flocked. And it was perhaps this show that triggered the current resurgence of hats being worn "in real life" (as opposed to just on the catwalk, in editorials, or on the heads of pop stars on MTV). For the last few seasons women have been wearing felt trilbies and floppy '70s hats as comfortably as they would a scarf. Not avant-garde, no, but still progress.
And then there are Lady Gaga and Anna Dello Russo, whose commitment to hat-wearing (tea cup or giant cherry, anyone?), has given mere mortals the confidence to be a bit more flamboyant from the neck up. At the other end of the spectrum is Kate Middleton who, while not exactly at the point of strapping a telephone to her head (like Gaga did with a Fred Butler creation), is definitely helping to bring millinery to the masses.
The glow of Jones' success has shone over the new guard of milliners - including Piers Atkinson, Noel Stewart and Justin Smith - who all regard him as an icon and mentor.
But for all his success, Jones never planned on a career in millinery. What he loved then, and still does now, is a good party. Born in Cheshire, he moved to London in the '70s to study fashion at Central Saint Martins and quickly fell in with the "Blitz" crowd - a group of young new-wave party animals including Boy George, Grayson Perry and Duran Duran, who all frequented their namesake nightclub in Covent Garden. Jean Paul Gaultier spotted him in a homemade fez in Boy George's video for Do You Really Want to Hurt Me and asked him to model in his next catwalk show. "I had broken my ankle so I couldn't… so he asked me 'would I like to make hats for his women's show?' and that was my entrée into Paris!". And the rest is history.