Issue 15 of A Magazine was curated by Thom Browne, a designer which Stephen Jones has now been collaborating with in both Menswear and Womenswear for the past 3 years. Launched in March 2016, the theme was, ‘Death and Mourning in Black and White,’ following the progression of Browne’s Autumn Winter 2015 collections. The entire magazine was printed in black and white, leaving only the red, white and blue label of Thom Browne used as a bookmark. Stephen Jones created the concept and text of ‘Threads of Memory,’ which incorporated imagery from ‘Black Ascot;’ collaborating with the French Couture embroiderer, Maison Lesage who created opulent embroidery over the imagery.
Since the very start of my life in the millinery these amazing photographs have been a constant source of inspiration. The drama, the silhouettes, the hats! Only in the Google Age did I learn that they depict ‘Black Ascot’ of 1910 - so named because avid racegoer Edward VII had died only a few weeks before the Royal Ascot races. Normally such an event would be cancelled out of respect, but British aristocracy marked his passing by wearing full mourning dress. This gave inspiration for the famous Ascot scene in the Cecil Beaton’s My Fair Lady, which for milliners like myself is a combination of The Last Supper and landing on the Moon.
Naturally I showed these photographs to Thom when we were creating hats for his exquisite mourning show of fall 2015 - he was as enthralled as I.
The images have been charmingly embroidered by Lesage of Paris in the manner of an Edwardian postcard. I met the late François Lesage, whilst waiting patiently for Claude Montana during his tenure as creative director at Lanvin for a few, but highly applauded seasons. Claude wanted a micro-embroidery ‘like grains of sand on a beach’ for a bodice to be worn by Linda Evangelista and was driving Francois très crazy. After a highly emotional meeting he turned to me and wryly said ’Bloody designers, they are all the same’.