The Hardy Amies fashion house was founded in 1945. That was when Sir Hardy Amies, with some financial help from Hollywood film star and the first Mrs. Cary Grant, Virginia, the Countess of Jersey, moved into No. 14 Savile Row. The building was a bombed-out shell, but Hardy Amies funded its renovation and turned it into a clothing emporium. In 1945, Sir Hardy Amies was a well-known designer of women’s haute couture, so his move into the home of men’s bespoke tailoring was a bold one. Today, Hardy Amies London Limited is a fashion house that specialises in modern luxury menswear, it’s also possibly one of the best-known names of Savile Row.
Sir Hardy Amies - Wall Tile Salesman to Vogue Reviews
Sir Hardy Amies originally had ambitions to be a journalist. When he was introduced to the editor of the Daily Express in 1927, though, he was told that he would benefit from some travelling first. Hardy Amies took the advice. He spent three years travelling in Europe. On his return, Amies took a job as a sales assistant for a wall-tile manufacturer. This was followed by a stint as a salesman for the weighing machine company W & T Avery Ltd. Hardy Amies got his first job in fashion thanks to a letter he wrote describing a dress. The letter caught the eye of the owner of couture house Lachasse. The woman who was wearing the dress that Amies had described was the owner’s wife. By 1934, aged 25, Hardy Amies was the managing director of Lachasse. In 1937, he had his first review in Vogue.
An Interlude for World War II
When World War II broke out, Hardy Amies was recruited into the British military intelligence. This was due the fact that, thanks to his three years travelling around Europe, he could speak German and French fluently. He completed his service in the Special Operations Executive, where he was responsible for organising Belgian resistance groups. Even though Amies rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel, his commanding officer didn’t think that a dressmaker made suitable military material. Major General Colin Gubbins wrote in Amies’ training report: “His only handicap is his precious appearance and manner”.
Saville Row, A Space Odyssey, and The Queen
When Hardy Amies moved into Savile Row after the war, he broke with tradition by selling a range of both men’s and women’s clothes from the premises. The business grew quickly. Customers who had been unable to buy couture through the war years were keen to own the elegant designs that Amies was producing. Throughout the late fifties and the early sixties, the designer continued to break new ground. He was one of the first European designers to produce ready-to-wear garments, and he was the first designer to stage a men’s ready-to-wear fashion show. That runway show was also the first at which music had been played, and the first at which the designer had walked down the runway alongside the models.
Hardy Amies wrote a regular men’s fashion column in Esquire and, in 1964, he published his book ABC of men’s fashion. The book provided a code of male dress code. It included instructions on everything from what to wear in the summer to the types of socks that men should wear. In his book, Amies stated that, "A man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them”.
In 1967, Amies was commissioned to design the costumes for the science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The space-age designs reflected the style of London in the swinging sixties. The film gave Amies a platform from which he could demonstrate his broad range of design talents. It also broadened the appeal of the Hardy Amies brand.
In the UK, Amies was best-known to the British public as a designer for Queen Elizabeth II. His first works for The Queen where dresses he made for the then Princess Elizabeth’s visit to Canada in 1950. One of his best-known works for Queen Elizabeth was the dress she wore for her 1977 Silver Jubilee portrait. The royal warrant that Hardy Amies held further enhanced the reputation of his brand.
The Fall and Rise of the Hardy Amies Brand
When Hardy Amies retired from the business in 2001, the brand lost its way. He died shortly after his retirement, in 2003. In 2008, Hardy Amies Limited was declared bankrupt, but the brand was purchased and relaunched in 2009 by Fung Capital. Since then, the brand has won a whole new army of fans. Its headquarters is still at 14 Savile Row, and it now has a brand-new flagship menswear shop at No. 8 Savile Row as well. Hardy Amies now produce a full range of made-to-measure, ready-to-wear, and bespoke suits. They also sell casual wear, outwear and accessories. Ownership of the brand may have changed but, in many ways, the legacy of Sir Hardy Amies lives on in the stylish, modern classics that Hardy Amies now produce.