Suits fit for a king (from the Queen's dress-maker)
Hardy Amies to go back to its roots with bespoke menswear line
Monday 29 March 2010
Such was the attachment of the famously dapper, gay couturier Hardy Amies to making frocks for the House of Windsor that he once asserted his superiority to rival Sir Norman Hartnell by saying: "It's quite simple. He was a silly old queen and I'm a clever old queen."
Seven years after Sir Hardy's death at the age of 93, the fashion house that the clothes designer and war hero set up on Savile Row is to abandon its heritage as the provider of pink silk gowns to the monarch and focus on a different clientele: the gentleman in need of bespoke suits and made-to-measure dinner jackets.
The venerable label, which went bust in 2008 only to be rescued by two Hong Kong-based entrepreneurs, seeks to rediscover its founder's original purpose as the quintessential English tailor, providing fine tweeds and worsteds to the discerning (and monied – prices start at £3,500 for a bespoke suit) male.
Tugba Unkan, director of the company headquartered in the building bought by Sir Hardy as a bombed-out ruin in 1945, said: "Although Hardy Amies was renowned as dressmaker to the Queen, he was also a revolutionary menswear designer: he was the first to lower the waist on men's trousers, to give a sexier, more athletic silhouette. He also introduced the first runway shows for men. The new Hardy Amies aspires to bring back the look of the 'perfect English gentlemen'."
The company's new owners, the investment arm of the £8bn global trading company run by brothers Victor and William Fung, have been astute enough not to cut all ties with the Royal Family as they target the globalised marketplace, including Japan and China. Freddie Windsor, a cousin of the Queen and 28th in line to the throne, is to be the tailor's "brand ambassador". The company decided the 29-year-old financial analyst and one-time enfant terrible is "the embodiment of the new Hardy Amies man".
After entering the world of fashion in 1934, Sir Hardy served in the British Special Operations Executive during the Second World War, managing resistance operations in occupied Belgium. In his 1964 book, ABC of Men's Fashion, he wrote: "A man should look as if he had bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care, and then forgotten all about them."
Whether the company bearing his name will choose to continue his views on slippers remains to be seen. Sir Hardy wrote: "Grandest of all are velvet slippers, with your monogram or crest embroidered in gold thread. These you can dine in, at home of course."
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