Tag Archives: London Fashion Week

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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Foes and Follies of Fashion Week – A Technology Takeover

With the close of the major fashion weeks upon us, and a solid month of nonstop collections in our rearview, there is a lot to digest. One thing is for certain, technology and social media are seriously changing the dynamic of Fashion Week  – A Technology Takeover.

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Anna Wintour Waiting For the Start of Marc Jacobs

Without physically attending, one could get a front row view of the shows in real time, get VIP access to the backstage, and see outfits worn by the fashion elite attendees including Anna Wintour and Kate Moss. While you are basking in the glory of never having to leave your sofa to be a part of the clearly glamorous events, you would never guess that secretly, designers are pulling out their hair – cracking under the pressure of trying to satisfy the insatiable thirst for constant newness that has, with the help of technology, picked up to a ferocious speed, causing a whirlwind in its wake.

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Backstage – Victoria Beckham

The Designer’s Demise

What was once a reasonable 4 season collection per year expectation for designers has, with the inclusion of men’s wear, resort, prefall, and a couple of promotional shows around Asia, become a norm of about 10. That is a new collection almost every month. Designers, including Alber Elbaz of Lanvin, were quoted saying  that they no longer have time to go on inspirational outings. How can we expect them to keep creating when they have no time to take a breath from one collection before diving into the next? We have seen designers drown in the fast paced fashion current before (think of the John Galliano breakdown and the suicide of Alexander McQueen, RIP) yet the push for constant newness continues to grow ever more fervent.

Between the various social media networks of the designers themselves and all the fashion blogs, newsletters, magazines, pages, and websites dedicated to giving their fans 24/7 instant updates, the never-before-seen designs at these shows are immediately transported to anyone with access to the internet. Once the looks actually get into the retail stores, they have become old news. This is especially true since fast fashion stores like Zara, Forever 21, and H&M have the ability to knock off these looks simply by having access to these images. By using cheap fabrics, intimidation design techniques, and assembly-line factory work, these stores are able to provide the same look, for cheap and much faster than the real designers.

An i for an eye

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Fashion show images are getting dispersed so quickly that it only whets the thirst for MORE fashion, rather than quenching it. With designers, fashion editors and bloggers dedicated to having the most up-to-date, inclusive and exclusive, images for their social media sites, there was an undertone of distraction as people seemed to only be paying half of their attention to what was going on around them, and the rest on their device.

This becomes even more unnerving remembering a wonderful interview conducted by The Business of Fashion with Lighting Designer and Show Producer, Thierry Dreyfus. In it, Dreyfus discusses the importance of a perfectly executed lighting scheme of a fashion show, how he communicates with designers for weeks beforehand about the feel of the collection, and how he personally positions all the lighting for the event. Seeing the sea of little rectangle boxes of glowing light as attendees hold up their devices, trying to capture the looks via Polyvore, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook really makes one wonder how much is being taken away from the experience of the live show because everyone’s focus is in the cloud. On top of that, as was the case last year, many chose to hold up their device to capture the finale, rather than applaud the work of the designer. Not polite.

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Oh, Look At All the Lovely People

Overcrowded with attendees and designers alike, there was a common complaint that too many shows were constricting people’s ability to appreciate the collections. This was particularly true for New York Fashion Week, where the venue, Lincoln Center was nearly bursting at the seams to accommodate the fashion elite. A few smart designers actually found alternate space for their shows – including Marc Jacobs who showed at the 69th Regiment Armory and Jason Wu who showed at 82MERCER.

Crowds swarmed outside venues with photographers and bloggers taking pictures of street style for their blogs and social media sites. Designers and editors were annoyed. Renowned designer and President of the CFDA, Diane Von Furstenburg even made an off-hand comment that in the future, Fashion Week may become completely digitalized – no physical attendance required.

What would the world look like if that actually did come to fruition? Would designers still be required to show on a specific date at a given place? If so, how do you keep people from crowding the streets to see a first glimpse? And who gets to go, and who decides who gets to go? If not, then designers could potentially film their show whenever they wanted, taking some pressure off – but how could a fashion week exist without critics and fans getting together and seeing the designs in the ambience set by the designer.

No matter how you look at it, with the increased demand for NEW fashion, NOW, technology has been seriously reshaping the mold of fashion week. In order to take it back, fashion councils may be forced to change the dynamic of the show which would cause an inevitable loss of meaning and context of the collections, and isn’t that the whole point of a fashion show? How do we solve this conundrum?

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