The Story Behind Those Dior Berets

Stephen Jones talks crafting the hat of the season

Is the world finally ready to accept hats again as part of everyday apparel? I should clarify, I am referring to hats in the formal sense—not weather-related wares, such as sunhats for the beach, or beanies for the cold. (Nor do I mean beanies for confusing non-weather related purposes.) Rather, statement hats worn to punctuate an ensemble, instead of masking a bad hair day.

Once an essential accessory for men and women alike, hats seemed to fall out of favor after the 1960s. But that seems to have changed in recent years, thanks in part to a renewed interest in the British Royal family, the younger female members of which are keeping up with the tradition of donning custom millinery for major events.

Though they occasionally pop up on couture and ready-to-wear runways, Fall 2017 stood out as the hattiest season in recent memory. For the kooky, there were Miu Miu’s furry poufs. For the avant-garde, there were Rick Owens’ dystopian crowns. Loewe had the much discussed toast hat, Ann Demeulemeester had ethereal lace confections, Jacquemus presented matador hats, and Marc Jacobs had updated versions of the cloche, among other styles.

But the chapeau that seems most likely to take off is the classic beret, which made a splash at Dior. Crafted by master milliner Stephen Jones, the berets were made of the finest French lambskin, and lined with duchess silk.

“She [had] just bought a beret in Los Angeles and she said, ‘Can we do something like that?’” Jones said of his first meeting with Maria Grazia Chiuri. “I love berets because they’re the t-shirt of hats—young, old, rich, poor, male, female, child, baby. A beret suits everybody. I said, ‘We can do our Dior version of it.’”

Jones and his team started working on the hats a month in advance of the show. “She’d ordered 30, and then, on [the] Monday when we did the first looks, I put one on and she loved it and she said, ‘I need to have one for every girl, Stephen. Do you think you can make it?’” With his number upped to 70, Jones consulted with the members of his team, who were concerned about obtaining enough leather. “It’s a very specific,” he explained. “It’s the highest quality leather that you can buy in the world from a French tannery which is not handbag leather, it’s actually glove leather.” Naturally, Jones persevered. 

A final detail—to really give the berets the Dior touch—was to add the Dior bee embroidered in gold in the center of the hat on the interior. A secret for the wearer alone to know their ensemble has a little extra on top.

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