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Britain's biggest name in hat design, Milliner Stephen Jones RDI, spent a third day at RSA Whitley Academy, judging hats designed by sixth form art & design students.

Stephen - who has designed hats for the likes of Princess Diana, Beyonce Knowles and Gwen Stefani - is one of the celebrated RSA 'Royal Designers for Industry' (RDI). He has been committing his time to working with the RSA Whitley Academy students as part of the RDI '75 Days' project, an initiative set up to mark the 75th anniversary of the RDI which invited Royal Designers to collectively share 75 days of their expertise with the RSA.

Stephen Jones challenged students to design a hat that represented each student's character and interests. This was an exercise in building self-confidence and self-esteem as well as developing design skills.

The finished designs were displayed at a catwalk event held in the school hall and showed how designers can contribute inspiration and quality to design education and the enrichment that partnership with the RSA Family of Academies can offer.

Commenting on the day, Stephen Jones said:

"It was an honour and real adventure for me visiting and setting a project for the RSA Whitley Academy. The students responded to the challenge of interpreting themselves in a hat with studious application and total originality. The completed hats and headdresses were self-expressive art-pieces and the final fashion show spectacular. Bravo!"

Whitley Abbey Community School, a business and enterprise college based in Coventry, is the first member of a new RSA Family of Academies that share best practice, work for school improvement and promote social justice in education.

Rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted, Whitley Abbey has been using the RSA's Opening Minds (OM) curriculum for four years and is training other schools that are interested in gaining OM accreditation.

The RSA's education team will continue to invite other 'outstanding' schools to become RSA Academies and encourage them to partner or sponsor struggling schools in their local area in order to drive up educational attainment.


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