Peter Hope Lumley

Bluff master of fashion PR
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The Independent Online

Peter Hope Lumley was a popular and influential figure in the post-war London fashion world and his PR consultancy, founded in 1947, came to represent several of the most creative entrepreneurial talents in the British fashion industry. These included the colourful Hungarian-born textile manufacturer Sir Nicholas Sekers, the high-fashion shoemaker Sir Edward Rayne, and the foremost British couturier, Sir Hardy Amies, who was to become the Queen's dressmaker. Lumley was justly proud of pulling off a hat trick when all three of his main clients were given knighthoods.



Peter Hope Lumley, publicist and model agent: born London 30 March 1920; married 1947 Priscilla Kincaid-Smith (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved), 1965 Charlotte Warren-Davis (three daughters; marriage dissolved); died London 11 June 2004.



Peter Hope Lumley was a popular and influential figure in the post-war London fashion world and his PR consultancy, founded in 1947, came to represent several of the most creative entrepreneurial talents in the British fashion industry. These included the colourful Hungarian-born textile manufacturer Sir Nicholas Sekers, the high-fashion shoemaker Sir Edward Rayne, and the foremost British couturier, Sir Hardy Amies, who was to become the Queen's dressmaker. Lumley was justly proud of pulling off a hat trick when all three of his main clients were given knighthoods.

Eight years later Lumley combined his PR activities with the formation of a model agency supplying London's catwalks and fashion shoots from his Brompton Road office with a plentiful supply of beautiful and glamorous young women. Among his budding stars was a youthful (and unrelated) Joanna Lumley.

Lumley had been born with a silver spoon of fashion in his mouth. His mother, Kathleen, was the sister of Edward Molyneux, acknowledged by many as being the most quintessentially chic of all British fashion designers: Noël Coward claimed that it was the sight of Gertrude Lawrence appearing on a Riviera terrace in a white Molyneux dress that had inspired him to write Private Lives. Unique among British couturiers Molyneux had established, in 1920, his first salon in Paris. Ten years later when Molyneux decided to open a second salon in London, it was Lumley's mother who was appointed to manage it, a role she fulfilled for 20 years.

The son of Charles Hope Lumley, he was born in Chelsea in 1920, one of three children, having a twin sister and an older brother (killed in the Second World War). He was educated at Ottershaw College, Surrey, and then at Munich University, where he studied German art and literature. Returning to London, he found work in an industrial design company, which whetted his appetite for the arts of publicity.

On the outbreak of war Lumley joined the infantry as a private in the newly formed 8th Battalion, The Buffs. Lumley's sophistication, characterised by the scarlet silk pyjamas which he wore in his tent, greatly impressed a raw and gauche young recruit from Palmers Green who came greatly to rely not only on Lumley's worldly advice and encouragement of his early literary efforts, but also on Lumley's cool acceptance of his fellow private's homosexuality. The troubled recruit was Paul Scott, later to become an acclaimed Booker prizewinner and the author of The Raj Quartet.

Lumley, having resisted invitations to apply for officer training, was transferred to the Intelligence Corps in which he saw service in India, Europe and throughout the Middle East before being demobilised as a company sergeant major and having earned a mention in despatches.

After briefly returning to his old civilian job and later doing a short stint with his uncle, Molyneux (it did not work out well), Lumley took the plunge and set himself up as a PR consultant, having decided to exploit his family background by specialising in fashion and such luxury trades as textiles and design. One of his first clients was the elegant and ambitious Hardy Amies, who had also returned from the war and recently established his salon in a splendid 18th-century house in Savile Row. It was here that he provided Lumley with his first office on condition that Lumley represented him exclusively for fashion.

In time Lumley was to add to his client list the brilliant and mercurial Nicholas ("Miki") Sekers, who had opened a thriving new silk mill in Cumberland, as well as the shoe magnate Edward Rayne, who had commissioned the stage artist Oliver Messel to design a new façade for his Bond Street showrooms.

If, among such exotic high-flying characters, Lumley might have seemed something of an anomaly - his own craggy looks, casual bluffness of manner and slightly rumpled appearance suggesting more a country land agent than a glib, smooth-talking publicist - that was, as Amies shrewdly realised, his greatest attribute. "When I get isolated from life Peter can bring me back with a jolt," Amies wrote in his autobiography, Still Here (1984).

Amies, whom Lumley advised for over half a century, also knew that it was his publicist's genuine popularity with the fashion press that provided him with such lavish editorial column inches. Lumley guided Amies through a steady period of expansion including the acquisition of several global franchises, smoothed over many a shocked reaction to Amies's boisterous indiscretions and diplomatically handled the sensitive protocols of royal publicity. He was a similarly loyal and long-serving mentor to Rayne (whom he represented for 30 years) and to Sekers, with whom he had a particularly close association which lasted 25 years until Sekers's death in 1972.

In 1955 Lumley branched out to open his own model agency. With his connoisseur's eye he felt that nothing could have been more natural than to sign up "the most beautiful girls in the kingdom". With 40 models on his books, among them Bronwen Pugh (who was to become the Viscountess Astor) and Sally Croker-Poole (who was to marry the Aga Khan), Lumley became a familiar figure in the trend-setting London fashion world.

It was indicative of that febrile period that the young man recommended to him by the Sixties designer Mary Quant and taken on as the office dogsbody and "gofer" should have been Andrew Loog Oldham, who, shortly after leaving Lumley's employment, went on to discover and manage the Rolling Stones. For a time the agency thrived, but with increasing competition it became harder to maintain profits and in the mid-Seventies and with much heartache Lumley shut it down.

A quietly companionable man, with a nicely self-deprecating line of deadpan humour, Lumley had lived since his divorce in a flat in Shepherd's Bush, west London, but continued to work into his eighties. An eccentric feature of his advancing years which amused his friend was his decision to travel round London on a flashy Italian motorbike, causing him to present a spectacularly incongruous figure in the stately foyer of the Amies salon as he divested himself of his crash helmet and mammoth, swaddling waterproofs.

In his last years he derived much support from the children of both his marriages, who had always remained close to him.

Derek Granger

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