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Stephen Jones Hats at the Royal Pavilion

The exhibition Stephen Jones Hats at the Royal Pavilion, which is in partnership with the department store Harvey Nichols, opened in February 2019 showcasing over 170 examples of Stephen’s work as well as outfits from Stephen’s collaborators Dior, Giles Deacon and Thom Browne across 15 rooms of the former royal palace in Brighton.  The exhibition, which runs until 9 June was co-curated by Jones and Brighton Museum’s Curator of Fashion, CfFC associate member Martin Pel.

Photos by Tessa Hallmann

Words by Martin Pel

A selection of hats mounted on poles surrounded by plates of food shown on the pine table of the historic kitchen in the Pavilion

Stephen Jones hats are here displayed in the Great Kitchen where nearly 50 of his creations are displayed. They include a hat for Matty Bovan S/S 2019, French Onion Soup made for Stephen’s A/W 1985 collection, and Breakfast Stephen’s S/S 2005.

As you might imagine, staging the show brought myriad issues as the Royal Pavilion is not a museum but an historic house filled with loans from the Royal Collection. One of the first issues to overcome was keeping fellow staff members on board; everyone was enthusiastic about the idea of the show but ‘interventions’ in the pavilion are not always met favourably. The interiors are as close to how the former owner, King George IV, would have remembered them with original decorative schemes, furniture and art objects all from the 1820s. When George built the pavilion and furnished its interiors he employed only the best craftsmen, architect (John Nash) and interior decorators. The addition of objects from the 21st century not only influences the way we interpret the original objects but has the potential of making the ‘new additions’ look inferior, if they do not meet the standards set by George’s original scheme. I am pleased to say that as a master craftsman himself Stephen’s work perfectly complemented the interiors and brought new life to the rooms in which they are placed, a sentiment echoed by David Beevers, the keeper of the Royal Pavilion and its collections.

Spanish Catholic crown mounted above golden wreath of leaves

Dior Crown – Spanish Catholic crown shown in the King’s Apartments, made for Dior A/W 2005

Objects are not allowed to touch any royal loan and in the Banqueting Room in which we imagined a dinner party thrown by Stephen with ‘guests’ seated around the table, stands were constructed by the mount maker Mike Penwolf so the guests hats hovered over chair as though in situ. The major issue with this display (and any other) is one of conservation. The banqueting table is laid with an almost priceless dinner service by Cole Port and the hovering hats had to be properly secured to their stands so there was no possibility that one moved and damaged any other object. Hugely heavy base plates were created with the stands screwed in place from which they could not move.

White stylised mannequin head and neck with headdress to resemble a splash of water

Wash ‘n’ Go, S/S 1993, made out of perspex and shown in the Great Kitchen

Each of the 170 hats not only had a bespoke stand by Mike Penwolf but Zenzie Tinker, the textile conservator, handmade internal mounts so each hat sat at the correct angle as though on the wearer’s head. The stands and internal mounts not only took considerable time to create but considerable cost, at over £40,000! The stands were made with longevity in mind as exhibitions can be heavy on resources so each stand can be disassembled and used for future shows in the pavilion or museum.

Mannequin in off white ballgown with twigged headdress reclining on a staircase.

Giles White with full outfit and headdress from his A/W 2012 collection

The Royal Pavilion is a living building in that events are held in many of the rooms over the year. For the Music Room which displays four Dior outfits wearing Stephen’s hats and two 3-D printed busts – one of Stephen and one of King George also wearing hats – the positioning of the objects was subject to events which regularly take place there. The only place where they would not intrude on events was either side of the fireplace. The Great Kitchen, which has nearly 50 of Stephen’s hats, is also used regularly for events and the only way to facilitate both the show and the events is for me to move the hats out of the way whilst the event takes place and replace them afterwards – a pain but the only solution.

White stylised mannequin head with elongated neck wearing gold feather headdress covered in red lillies.

Gold feather hat worn by Kylie Minogue for Mardi Gras in Sydney in 2014 and shown in the Banqueting Room

The show was held in late winter and spring as these are our least busy periods. The show was a vehicle to bring in new visitors as well as new demographics (those interested in fashion) which it succeeded in doing, but it was also scheduled then to avoid bottle necks. Labels were kept to the barest minimum so visitors would not stop and read and clogg up the narrow walkways. We are all familiar with the frustration of visiting busy shows and not seeing anything so again the scheduling gave greater visitor satisfaction.

These are perhaps some of the most salient issues in staging the show and there were plenty of other problems to overcome (storage of boxes while the show is on, the lack of additional lighting, last minute mannequin sourcing) the show succeeded in its aims in bringing new audiences by re-interpreting the stories of the Royal Pavilion.

Four mannequins standing or lying down on stairwell wearing headresses made of spanners, paperclips, porcupine and feather

Four hats Stephen made for Giles’ runway shows; the spanner and paperclip hat are from pre-fall 2010 show and the porcupine and feather headdresses are from A/W 2012.

3-D printed bust in gold colour of Stephen Jones with dragon headdress

The dragon hat was made by Stephen for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s show China; Through the Looking Glass (2015) which he based on the Royal Pavilion and it’s shown on a 3-D printed bust of Stephen especially created for this show.

Read more about the exhibition

Royal Pavilion, 4/5 Pavilion Buildings, Brighton BN1 1EE

Until 9 June 2019

Find out about CfFC’s collaborations with Brighton Museum

 

Curating Confetti – Jennifer Rice

The City Reliquary Museum is a non-profit community museum that tells the history of NYC and its inhabitants through their permanent collection of small objects and ephemera as well as a community collections cabinet in which selected individuals have the opportunity to curate a small exhibition on objects they collect. Past exhibits have varied from an assortment of rock collections, ceramic unicorns, and bones to representations of the Virgin Mary, Coca-Cola products, and vintage roller skates. As a volunteer, I had the chance to be a cabinet curator, choosing a  collection inspired by an article about the re-opening of NYC’s Rainbow Room in 2014.  During a renovation of the iconic rotating dance floor, confetti from the 1940s was reportedly found.  Since reading that article, my collection now includes turn of the century illustrations and postcards of confetti and vintage confetti & confetti branded items from the 1920s to the 1990s.

Shop Front of City Reliquary Museum

The City Reliquary Museum

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The Cloud Project

This summer, I was invited to take part in The Cloud Project with the Tim Yip Studio which was the closing event for London’s South Bank Centre’s three year long China Changing festival  and the result of a year long collaboration between the South Bank and the Chinese-based Tim Yip Studio. A film and stage art director, costume designer and visual artist, Yip is particularly well known for his Academy Award winning work on Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (2000) but works prolifically for stage and film productions, dance companies, art exhibitions and fashion collaborations.

Models and performers in extravagant costume perform on a catwalk. A Performance of The Cloud Project with the Tim Yip Studio in the Royal Festival Hall, South Bank, London

The Cloud Project with the Tim Yip Studio at the South Bank Centre

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Homo Faber: Fashion Inside and Out

Judith Clark has curated Homo Faber: Fashion Inside and Out part of an inaugural event at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice showcasing European craftsmanship.  The exhibition, which took place in the spectacular space of the disused Gandini swimming pool, took as its theme how traditional techniques inspire contemporary design and exhibition-making.

Cream calico covered unclothed mannequin in diving pose with splash effect in exhibition space of disused swimming pool with mannequins in the background.

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Archiving the Feminist Experience – an exhibition by The Feminist Library

by Jessica Taylor

While working with the Feminist Library on their recent exhibition, Archiving the Feminist Experience, it was my role to curate 15 different artists’ responses to its archive that opened in 1975 during the height of feminism’s second-wave. I took inspiration from the Library’s classification system created by Wendy Davis (a volunteer Librarian) in 1978 as a unique way of categorising the work within the collection that still stands today. This system includes over 20 categories ranging from history, the arts and politics and truly represents the individual experiences of women.

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SpiceUp Review

As the field of fashion curation rapidly expands past the walls of the museum and gallery and into corporate headquarters and shopfronts, it has now conquered a new frontier; the Islington Business Design Centre in London. A space more commonly known for trade shows and recruitment events, for three steamy weeks this summer the location played host to the exhibition SpiceUp. Subtitled “An Exhibition About The Spice Girls” (lest there be any confusion about the subject of the show), this exhibit was an exercise in curatorial agony and visitor ecstasy.

The Spice Girls were a group of five British women, who auditioned to become a pop group in 1994, and ended up becoming a cultural zeitgeist. SpiceUp has been curated without any affiliation with the group or their management, and is a testament to their lasting legacy. Spread over two floors in a side wing of the former Royal Agricultural Hall, there is no context provided for the location, other than the assumption that there are surely few venues in London built to accommodate such a massive assemblage of clothing, ephemera and merchandise, that would also avail themselves for hire to a member of the public. And so SpiceUp curator Alan Smith-Allison is – albeit one who is responsible for collecting the bulk of the objects on display, and owner of the largest collection of Spice Girls memorabilia on earth. A former charity worker turned exhibition maker, Smith-Allison has collected anything and everything Spice Girls-related since 2007, and in curating and staging this exhibit himself, also brought in loaned objects from fellow fans.

The result is almost overwhelming. With over 7000 pieces of ephemera on display, the exhibition reveals how deeply the public travelled into the mercantile heart of darkness in the Spice era. For the purposes of this review, however, my focus is on the dress and its display

Spice Girls memorabilia on display at SpiceUp.  Photo Cyana Madsen 2018 web

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