Fashion: Beauty of bespoke
Hardy Amies defines Savile Row tailoring and Ian Garlant is the design director. James Sherwood met him
Sunday 15 November 1998
"They tend to be on the youngish side, in their twenties and thirties," says Garlant, of the following he has built up for Hardy Amies bespoke. "They have their own money and it tends not to be old or grand money. I don't see modern men interested in the English country gentleman style. They are interested in being seen as successful, smart, sexy and rich."
Hardy Amies does not advertise. Standing in cream linen slouch pants, expertly cut lean linen frock coat and a fine white cotton shirt, Garlant is advertisement enough. At 35, he is half a century younger than his mentor Sir Hardy Amies. Sir Hardy, now 88, abdicated in favour of couture design director John Moore and Garlant. "We are uncannily alike," says Garlant, who originally worked at Hardy Amies as a student before becoming Sir Hardy's PA. "We are both show-offs, but in a benign sort of way. We are both passionate about what we do. We both have a very English approach to mixing the low key and the flamboyant. The main difference is the social aspect. Sir Hardy was a snob in so far as that's how you got ahead. You either played the game or you didn't get anywhere. He had to be a snob."
Garlant vehemently denies that his clients are aristocratic or upper class. "The diversity is utterly fascinating," he says. "They share an international lifestyle but there are no class barriers. When a client comes to me, we have an initial meeting, which goes along the following lines: 'What is your life like? When are you wearing this? How are you wearing this? What with? Which country will you be in? What else do you have in your wardrobe...?' I like clients who have a sense of who they are and what they want out of life. They don't want someone else's idea of how a 'gentleman' would dress."
Hardy Amies bespoke is essentially haute couture for men. But, unlike Paris's couturiers, Garlant does not produce biannual collections of extravagant confections to seduce the international media. He discreetly designs for individual clients behind closed doors. To understand the value of a Hardy Amies suit, you have to weigh the pounds 1,000 minimum price tag against Prada or Gucci off-the-peg for roughly the same price. Nobody's suggesting that Hardy Amies is less elitist than Italian designer suiting. But the quality is infinitely better and the suit could quite possibly outlive the wearer.
"There are two schools of tailoring round a person's figure," says Garlant. "For example, if a man has one shoulder lower than the other you can either cut the shoulder of the jacket to correspond or you can balance up. I do the latter. I like to create a garment with a shape all of its own; you become the shape of the garment when you put it on. The old school would say that is bad tailoring." The man with the low shoulder would probably say that it is sartorial psychiatry to mask the body's imperfections.
There should be a Government health warning attached to the Hardy Amies bespoke label. Bespoke clothing is almost as addictive as heroin. Once you've had that first hit, nothing else will compare to the sensation. Off-the-peg suits can be taken up and taken in but they will never mould to the body like oil on water. Take one of Garlant's single-breasted jackets. The waist is the fulcrum of the body. The shoulder is the balancing point from which the garment hangs. Like a piece of sculpture, it can give the waist a sinuous curve where one patently does not exist. The shoulders sit elegantly and symmetrically whether yours stoop, hunch or hang unevenly.
The client at Hardy Amies bespoke may use safety as a starting point. He may want damage limitation that off-the-peg can't provide. "It is interesting how many men start off being very conservative," says Garlant. "I have to persuade them to push the boat out a little bit. One of my Japanese clients started off with a very sensible, correct, responsible suit. It was modern but uncompromising and smart. The next piece I made him was a black linen jacket with a Ghillie collar. This may not sound extreme but the lightweight jacket was more daring for him. The guy looked amazing. There was nothing fashion victim about him. He looked a million dollars."
Garlant's work doesn't slavishly follow menswear fashion, but the fashion cycle has turned to his aesthetic of quiet luxury. "These are high-maintenance, luxurious pieces," he says. "I'm now working with satin fabric for shirting but reversing the fabric so the sheen and softness is on the inside of the shirt. I think that is the message for menswear in the Nineties. It is not ostentatious, and the luxury is a carefully guarded secret between the garment and the man."
Hardy Amies, 14 Savile Row, London W1 (0171 734 2436)
Life & Style blogs
'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
10 ways we damage our teeth – without realising
Facebook Messenger sends 'creepily' precise location data, as revealed by Marauders Map Chrome extension
What do the emoji on Snapchat mean?
iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 3 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 4 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
- 5 Man jumps into bear pen at zoo, fights bear and loses
£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...
£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This publishing company based i...