Category Archives: Menswear

Designer Spotlight – Hardy Amies

Taken from The British Fashion Council, and inspired by last weekend’s London Collections: Men where Hardy Amies’ Creative Director Mehmet Ali showed the luxury brand’s A/W 2015 collection.

HARDY AMIES – Historical Brand Biography Menswear Heritage

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Edwin Hardy Amies examining fashion designs for the following season: 1952

When Sir Hardy Amies launched ‘Man’, his debut menswear catwalk show 51 years ago at The Savoy hotel onlookers were agog with Society doyenne Lady Diana Cooper declaring, “Daahling… but it will never take off”. The subsequent headlines proved her quite wrong with glowing reviews for a unique event from the man who dressed HM The Queen.

Over half a Century later, the House of Hardy Amies is now under the distinct eye of Creative Director Claire Malcolm.

Dapper, dashing and aquiline, Sir Hardy Amies and his diktats were all too often terrifying. A lover of men and menswear he detested cufflinks, liked leathers and thought it naff to wear black tie in the evening – always insisting on midnight blue. He turned his nose up at turn- ups, was bemused by the 1960s beatnik look and on the subject of men’s underwear demanded it be ‘kept brief’.

As the first designer to put menswear on the catwalk in 1961, Hardy Amies decided the event had to be ‘special’, moreover memorable. The show proved to be a first on many levels. It was the first of its kind to have recorded music playing and the first time a designer accompanied his models on stage.

The designer Kenneth Partridge (who was the mastermind behind every society ball and pop-star home of the time), Brian Epstein and John Lennon, produced the show. Partridge recalled Hardy’s excitement. “Hardy was like a child in a candy shop. He was determined the show would be a success and intent on making as big an impact as possible joined the models on the catwalk at the close of the show. Something that had never been seen before”. He continued, “He picked the music and then keeping it a secret even from me, arranged for the creation of a gargantuan paper maché gloved hand adorned with bracelets and rings to wave regally behind the models at the close of the show. Hardy Amies told reporters afterwards that the hand was the Queen giving menswear her seal of approval”. The Queen was said to have been amused when hearing of the spectacle.

Hardy Amies on the steps of No. 14 Savile Row: 1950

Hardy Amies on the steps of No. 14 Savile Row: 1950

A former Hardy Amies PR man described Sir Hardy Amies as, “Imperious, arrogant and pompous, but saved by great wit and a wonderful sense of humour”. Sir Hardy Amies would quite agree adding ‘snob’ to the list.

Hardy used to say in his youth that his social climbing had been so energetic he would take his alpenstock to parties. Best known as London’s most successful couturier he dressed HM The Queen (from her accession to the throne until his retirement in 1989) who along with her sister HRH Princess Margaret delighted in his mimicry; full of antechamber gossip he ached to tell, but like contemporary and fellow court dressmaker Sir Norman Hartnell, held his tongue for propriety sake. As a former member of the SOE, he knew what was strictly

forbidden. “Kim Philby was always trying to get information out of me.” he complained to a friend and when asked what sort of information Hardy retorted, “well, the name of my tailor of course!”

Outside the constraints of Buckingham Palace, Amies found other avenues to channel his wit, frivolity and sarcasm, the latter usually on the barman at his London club, if he dared to forget to have martini with a twist of orange peel (his own recipe) waiting on his table on arrival.

Hardy Amies fitting a model in the Grand Salon: 1955

Hardy Amies fitting a model in the Grand Salon: 1955

The only man in the British army to have his uniform tailored on Savile Row, Amies never forgot his fashion background (beginning as Design Director at the House of Lachasse in 1934) even when in the midst of armed warfare on the front line. He actually engaged famed war photographer Lee Miller to produce a series of poised pictures for Vogue before he left to serve in Belgium.

Amies dressed HM The Queen and the wider House of Windsor and before the Windsor’s, Hollywood Royalty, becoming great friends with Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jnr., and great beauties Ava Gardner and Hedy Lamarr.

By the 1960s his involvement in film and film stars transcending to costume designer on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Two for the Road with Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn and re-inventing the bowler hat worn with great modern splendour by Patrick McNee on The Avengers. David Hockney favoured wide pin-stripe coats whereas Peter Sellers liked skinny fitting suits.

Despite the attraction of high profile names, not every star was welcomed by Sir Hardy Amies with open arms. Society legend Zsa Zsa Gabor recalled seeing Hardy give Frank Sinatra a dressing down in LA in the eighties. “Hardy looked Sinatra up and down and told him that for a man of his stature, to wear a double-breasted suit was wrong! Wrong! Wrong!” Another witnessed Hardy insisting a prospective client take up a gym membership before expecting to wear a Hardy Amies suit with flair!

Sir Hardy’s lore on the subject of dress was always direct and droll famously demanding that, “A woman’s day clothes must look equally good at Salisbury Station as the Ritz bar” and for men that, “A man should look as if he had bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them”.

The House of Hardy Amies Today

The House of Hardy Amies Today

Austin Mutti-Mewse

Curator, Hardy Amies

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Menswear Monday – Tuxedo Talk

Buying a tuxedo is a major investment. There is a process involved in finding the perfect tux, getting it tailored appropriately and then matching the right accessories for the perfectly polished look. When it comes down to it, the fact of the matter is that the tuxedo is just a suit on steroids. And just like suit wearing, there are a few simple rules that, if followed, will guarantee a successful execution of a dapper tuxedo ensemble:

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10 Commandments of the Tuxedo

I. Honor Thy Body Type

The slim fitted tuxedo has gained a lot of traction recently, but it isn’t a look that can be pulled off by everyone. Be true to your body type and dress accordingly. For slim, and slender frames, opt for the one- or two-button coat preferably with a narrow peak lapel. For heavier-set physiques, experts suggest a box style one-button tux with wide lapels and a deep V-cut down the center of the body. This creates a vertical focal point and elongates the appearance of the torso, creating a slimming effect.

For Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president of Barneys, New York, shoulder fit is an essential part of the proper tux fit. He recommends a snug and high armhole. Even though this may feel a bit restricting, the sacrifice in arm movement will pay off in appearance.

2. Thou Shall Wear a Bow tie

Bow ties with tuxedos are an absolute must, this a universal agreement amongst luxury designers across the board. As the legendary designer, creative mind, and menswear enthusiast Tom Ford proclaims, the everyday four-in-hand necktie is plain inappropriate for a tuxedo, in his words, it is, “just wrong.”

Invest in a high quality bow tie, preferable a self-tie. Something just doesn’t feel right topping off a formal tuxedo ensemble with a clip on. Tying a bow tie knot isn’t as hard as it seems, it just takes a little practice. With the plethora of YouTube tutorials available, there is no excuse!

 3. Thou Shall Stay Proportional

The type and size of bow tie worn with the tuxedo should be based on the kind of shirt collar and lapels it will be paired with. It isn’t rocket science; wide lapels call for wider collars such as the spread collar, and should be matched with larger bow ties, usually the typical butterfly style. For narrow lapels, pair with a slim collar such as the cut diamond collar and opt for the narrower bow ties in the diamond point or bat wing style.

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Tom Ford and Justine Timberlake in Butterfly Bow Ties

4. Remember Thy Grooming Habits

If donning a tuxedo, odds are, the event you are attending is kind of a big deal, don’t offend by showing up scruffy and unkempt. Clean-shaven is the best look for tuxedo wearers, but if facial hair is your signature, then make sure every hair is in place.

5. Love thy Tailor

“Your tailor is your best friend,” says Michael Hainey, deputy editor of GQ magazine, “What’s weird is that guys spend all this time within the culture of the gym, getting toned, fit bodies, and then they wear suit coats that are two sizes too big.” Never underestimate the power of the perfect fit, as menswear guru Alan Flusser says, “The custom made tuxedo represents the highest expression of tailoring art and sartorial know-how.”

6. Thou Shall Not Disregard the Details

Don’t be afraid to show a little cuff, as it is customary to do so, “the half-inch rule for the cuff reveal has always been inflexible,” Michael Hainey decrees. Tuxedo trousers should have a length that maintains a modest break at the top of the shoe, and should have no cuffs. For footwear, Tom Ford proclaims pumps as preferential. In a standard two-button suit, “the closure defines an anatomical equator,” says Alan Flusser, noting that the closure should be lined up with the bellybutton.

7. Know Thy Suit Coat Options

Notched-lapel blazers are usually reserved for the business/corporate realm, so go for the peaked lapel tuxedo coat. Another, less conventional, option that has become popular in the celebrity scene lately is the shawl collar. The rounded, narrow lapels are reminiscent of the smoking jacket and exude the elegance of old Hollywood glamour.

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Shawl Collar

8. Thou Shall Not Be Afraid of Navy

Even though the term is “Black Tie,” that doesn’t mean you can’t venture out of the black and white category. A dark navy tuxedo is a stylish yet sensible take on the look, giving the tux a modern edge. Navy looks especially great in a slim fitted tux. If venturing into the navy realm, be sure to keep all other aspects of the ensemble simple and classic.

 9. Thou Shall Always Be Elegant

“It’s about elegance,” says prominent menswear designer John Varvatos about wearing tuxedo, proclaiming that there is nothing elegant about yards of cotton bunched up under your coat. He suggests wearing a tapered shirt – you will be more comfortable, and with clean, straight lines will look thinner and much more put together.

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And finally,

10. Thou Shall Not Rent

As Michael Hainey says, renting a tuxedo is, “the equivalent of wearing a bowling shoe.” If within your means, buy, don’t rent.

Various designer quotes from:

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