Part-time model and full-time men’s milliner Jordan Bowen has become an eye-catching fixture within London’s more offbeat art circles for wearing his own creations to openings and events. Bowen recently graduated from the millinery school at Kensington & Chelsea College but, after an introduction to Stephen Jones, he’s also been an integral part of the world-famous London production team for close to five years. In early 2012, he plans to launch the Jordan Bowen label as a fully fledged business, but right now he is focusing on private orders from a growing group of private clients who appreciate his unique sense of style.
Some of the pieces from Bowen’s graduation collection are extravagantly accessorised, appearing to have nails hammered through the ribbon, or with extended cartoon-like crowns. The collection is based on George Orwell’s 1984. “I pulled images from the text rather than look at cinematic references,” he says. “I was looking at styles that were around in the 1930s. I like being immersed in a story. I worked on the hats for all the Galliano shows over the past five years, and was very influenced by the way he’d send in his moodboards.”
While his 1984-themed collection was designed with the catwalk and high concept in mind, his private commissions tend to a more restrained approach (pictured is a hat, worn by Bowen, that was inspired by a 1930s homburg he fell in love with). He’s focused on men’s hats right now, but intends to explore women’s millinery in the future. He sees his style as “sartorial”, working in “heavy masculine fabrics” including leather, wool and jersey, to create something that looks classic but has a subtle play on proportion to make it modern. “My customers are quite urban,” he says. “I think my work is a good match for labels like Watanabe and Comme des Garçons.”
Bowen usually visits a client at home or at work to work through their needs, ideas and references. Then he drafts shapes with fabric suggestions before creating a rough version of the hat, then works on what will become the finished article. “It takes around four weeks to deliver something,” he says. “I always like a very personal approach. I like to get a feeling from the client about what they’re looking for, and then research more deeply.”
He continues to be his own perfect muse. “I started making men’s hats because everyone at college, for over a decade, had done women’s hats,” he says. “I decided to do a men’s collection because if nothing else came from it, I’d have a collection of hats for myself.”