It is the London milliner’s first project with a denim brand, and he has created five couture designs and two commercial ones for the Amsterdam-based G-Star Raw, which is Cradle-to-Cradle Certified and adheres to strict sourcing and manufacturing standards.
Jones said his aim was to transport denim into the world of couture, and that the project forced him to think differently and learn how to handle denim.
“I wanted to take denim up,’” Jones said in an interview from his studio. “I’m aware of the tradition of denim, what it is and what it signifies — and I wanted to do the very opposite. I’m contrary like that. I’ve taken denim out of its comfort zone and made it what it wasn’t.”
Jones said he’s used to working with stiff, lightweight fabrics like straw and felt. By contrast, G-Star’s unwashed denim is weighty. He said weight makes the fabric slope “downward” rather than lifting up like a lighter fabric would do.
He worked with denim before, but only on a small scale when he was designing hats for John Galliano at Dior. There, denim played a supporting role — and it was never the star of the show.
With the G-Star project, Jones learned to work with the heft of the fabric and his couture pieces in particular look like something out of a fairy tale.
A sultry cloche hat morphs into a dramatic cape with a train that measures two and half yards.
It has belt loops and giant pockets bearing the letters S and J. Jones said he envisions some of his celebrity clients, who include Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Mick Jagger, wearing it on stage or wrapping it around themselves for a head-to-toe look.
Another couture creation looks as if it sprang from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. It’s a tree-like tower made from bucket hats that get progressively smaller as they reach the top. They also jiggle when they move.
The Sun Hat has a giant brim that loops around the body and turns into a little skirt. Jones has also taken a pair of jeans and whipped them into a big turban, which he’s calling a headband.
The two commercial styles also have storybook flair. The bucket hat has two brims that can be folded different ways. Jones said that depending on the fold and the angle it can take the wearer “from cool rapper to 1920s flapper.”
The other commercial style is a baseball cap with little wings in place of of ear flaps. “You can definitely go faster in this one,” said Jones, who tried each one of them on during the interview.
The baseball cap’s couture counterpart has longer and even more dramatic wings that shoot backward, like bolts of lightning.
Jones doesn’t want anyone reading too closely into the inspiration behind the designs. “Sometimes it’s just about having fun and hopefully these hats will lift your mood,” the designer said.
He may have been working with a different material but Jones took a similar approach to the design process.
He always thinks of a hat in the context of the overall outfit, and starts each new design with a line drawing of a client’s back. He also believes a hat should be a continuation of an outfit and not the main attraction.
The collection came about after G-Star Raw approached him about a collaboration and he was up for the challenge.
“They just phoned me up — normally it would have been a phone call from a great house in Paris or from a celebrity wanting a hat for their next tour. Denim is a million miles away from couture, at the complete opposite end of the spectrum from what I do,” he said.
The Amsterdam-based G-Star Raw specializes in high-end, sustainable denim designs. In the past it has collaborated with Land Rover and the American bike manufacturer Cannondale.
Pharrell Williams has been a frequent collaborator and has worked with G-Star for years on initiatives such as transforming recycled ocean plastic into denim.
Indeed, Jones said one big reason he decided to say “yes” to the partnership was G-Star’s sustainability commitments.
The G-Star denim he used is Cradle-to-Cradle Certified, a quality standard that applies to closed-loop manufacturing.
G-Star said its denim adheres to strict requirements around water stewardship, social justice, material reuse and sustainable energy. Its philosophy is that there is “no limit” to what the fabric can do.
The products are also made in Italy, rather than East Asia, to cut down on transport miles.
As part of the collaboration a short documentary has been filmed in Jones’ atelier in London’s Covent Garden. It aims to give the audience insight into the designer’s life and career.
The couture pieces will launch on Tuesday, while the two limited-edition ready to wear designs will be available from Dec. 1 at g-star.com. The winged baseball cap costs $220 while the double bucket hat costs $240.