Amies and his partner, Kenneth Fleetwood, Design Director of Hardy Amies Ltd, were together for 43 years until Fleetwood's death in 1996. Amies died at home in 2003, aged 93.
He established the monarch’s crisp, understated style of dress. “I don’t think she feels clothes which are too chic are exactly very friendly,” he told one fashion editor. “The Queen’s attitude is that she must always dress for the occasion”.
Hardy Amies was born Edwin Amies on 17 July 1909 in Maida Vale, London. His father was an architect for the London County Council. His mother was a saleswoman for Madame Gray at Machinka & May, London, and then Madame Durrant on Dover Street, London. In his teens, he adopted his mother's maiden name, Hardy—and always cited her as the inspiration for his chosen professional path.
A 1950 fashion by Hardy Amies (©2)
Sir Edwin Hardy Amies was an English fashion designer, best known as official dressmaker for Queen Elizabeth II. Initially discreet about his homosexuality, Amies became more candid in old age; and, when speaking of Sir Norman Hartnell, he commented: "It's quite simple. He was a silly old queen and I'm a clever old queen". Amies and his partner, Kenneth Fleetwood, Design Director of Hardy Amies Ltd, were together for 43 years until Fleetwood's death in 1996. Amies died at home in 2003, aged 93.
Hardy Amies and his team, including the Design Director Ken Fleetwood (front right), taking part in a fitting in the Grand Salon, House of Hardy Amies, Savile Row, London. circa 1950s.
Evening dress, 1968-1970
Evening dress with silk skirt and polka dot bodice, designed by Ken Fleetwood and Edwin Hardy Amies, London, 1968-1970
Black and white evening dress with a black silk crêpe bodice covered in white spots. It has long sleeves with ruffles at neck and wrists. The sheer white silk skirt is gathered into a slightly high waist with a bold floral and foliate pattern. An over skirt in white organdie is printed with the same floral and foliate pattern.
Worn by Ernestine Carter (1906-1983), who was a highly respected 20th century fashion journalist. In 1946, she became fashion editor for Harper's Bazaar, and later became an editor for the Sunday Times from 1955 to 1972.
Hardy Amies designed this cotton day dress at the end of the Second World War. The dress has magyar sleeves (in which the armhole and upper arm are cut very wide, narrowing to the elbow and wrist), a tightly fitted bodice and a dropped waist. The circular skirt is embellished with a fashionable bustle bow. The cotton fabric was made in Manchester for export to the West African market. The British government actively promoted the cotton industry during the War, forming the influential Cotton Board in 1940. The Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers, whose designers included Amies, worked closely with the Board to create stylish fashions in British cottons. This dress, with its extravagantly full skirt, shows the influence of the ‘New Look’, the luxurious, post-War style created French couturier Christian Dior which used yards of fabric to achieve a curvaceous, full-skirted silhouette.
This suit is a British interpretation of Paris designer Christian Dior's 1947 'New Look'. The suit's full skirt and softly padded hips contrast starkly with the war-time thriftiness of clothes designed just a year earlier. Here, Amies has tempered Dior's fulsome hip padding and economised on the quantity of fabric, resulting in a more moderate silhouette.
Evening dress, 1950
Formal evening gowns were an essential part of a society lady’s wardrobe. Accessorised with jewels, these gowns provided a glittering show at receptions and balls, the opera or the theatre.
This evening dress from around 1950, designed by the London couturier Hardy Amies (1909–2003), is made of crimson silk satin and looks very sumptuous. However, the shape of the dress is created by a lining of thick paper-like material called Vilene, instead of the layers of tulle and silk net petticoats traditionally used by French couturiers. Textile rationing had only just been lifted in Britain (1949) and fabric was still very scarce, so Vilene was used as an economical alternative.
Polar Flight, 1959
Hardy Amies created one of London’s most progressive and successful fashion businesses. This suit exemplifies his witty and immaculately crafted approach to women’s tailoring, and uses a fashionable fabric, mohair, probably by the textile company Ascher. While designing for the Queen and other prestigious clients, he also developed lines aimed at a wider UK public and the export trade, entering the menswear market in 1959.
This cocktail dress of slubbed black silk designed by Hardy Amies dates from 1960. Dresses of this style were very popular at that time, owing to the boom in cocktail parties that had begun in the 1950s. A cocktail dress falls somewhere between a day dress and an evening gown. This one is a typical example of the period, with its small sleeves and short skirt.
Ladies coat of crimson woollen cloth with a wide shawl collar and a fitted bodice with a double-breasted fastening of six domed and shiny white metal buttons. There are smaller similar buttons at the bottom of each sleeve. The skirt flares from the waist with a slit vertical pocket let in to each front seam and there are two back pleats. The skirt is mounted on horsehair. The lining is of silk crêpe, into which is woven an all-over pattern of the signature 'Hardy Amies'. The collar is worn high around the neck, with the bottom resting on the shoulders.
Skirt suit, ca. 1970
Jacket and dress suit made of a loosely woven nubbly mohair tweed and wool jersey, predominantly turquoise and soft, flecked with various colours.
Teddy Boy Suit, ca. 1972
Grey worsted three-piece suit. Long line drape jacket with black velvet half-cuffs and collar, velvet covered buttons, pocket flaps and welts to the breast pockets. Waistcoat with black velvet covered buttons. Creased trousers.
Evening dress, 1955
Evening dress of burgundy coloured tulle with flocked velvet spots and trimmed with toning satin ribbons. There is a décolleté bodice with tulle shoulder straps, the draping is crossed with the toning satin ribbons. The bouffant skirt is composed of layers of tulle with the topmost layer mounted over layers of alternating burgundy and white, the tulle with a vermillion taffeta slip. The bodice is lined with the vermillion taffeta and is wired and boned. The dress fastens at the centre back with a zip and hooks and eyes.
Evening dress, 1961
Evening dress of rose pink and gunmetal grey satin trimmed with black velvet. Full length dress with a draped velvet bodice with a heart-shaped neckline and wide shoulder straps which become a cowl collar at the back. The waist has a sash drape in grey, on the right, which is arranged to show a black velvet insertion and pink reserved with grey full length sash. The skirt is of grey satin pleated onto the bodice and includes a panel of pink on the right underneath the sash. The bodice is lined with net and boned, and it fastens with a whitened metal zip, hooks and eyes on the right hand side. With a crinoline petticoat made of stiff white nylon.
Suit, ca. 1951
Amies was educated at Brentwood School, Essex, leaving in 1927. Although his father wanted him to attend Cambridge University, it was then his ambition to become a journalist. His father relented and arranged for a meeting between his son and R. D. Blumenfeld, the editor of the Daily Express. His father was mortified when Blumenfeld suggested his son travel around Europe to gain some worldly experience.
Amies spent three years in France and Germany, learning the languages, working for a Customs Agent and then as an English-language tutor in Antibes and later Bendorf. Amies returned to England where, in 1930, he became a sales assistant in a ceramic wall-tile factory. After that, he secured a trainee position as a weight machine salesman with W & T Avery Ltd. in Birmingham.
It was Amies' mother’s contacts in the fashion world, and his flair for writing, that secured him his first job in fashion. It was his vivid description of a dress, written in a letter to a retired French seamstress, that brought Hardy to the attention of the owner of the Mayfair couture house Lachasse on Farm Street, Berkeley Square, as the wearer of the dress was the owner's wife. He became Managing Director, in 1934, at the age of 25.
In 1937, he scored his first success with a Linton tweed suit in sage green with a cerise overcheck called "Panic". "Panic" was to be his debut into the fashion bible Vogue, photographed by Cecil Beaton. By the late 1930s, Hardy was designing the entire Lachasse collection. His second celebration creation was "Made in England", a biscuit-coloured checked suit for the Hollywood ingénue Mildred Shay. He left Lachasse in 1939 and joined the House of Worth in 1941.
At the outbreak of World War II, with his language experience, Amies was called to serve in the Special Operations Executive. Amies suspected that SOE's commander Major General Colin Gubbins did not regard a dressmaker as suitable military material; but his training report stated:
This officer is far tougher both physically and mentally than his rather precious appearance would suggest. He possesses a keen brain and an abundance of shrewd sense. His only handicap is his precious appearance and manner, and these are tending to decrease.Posted to Belgium, Amies worked with the various Belgian resistance groups and adapted names of fashion accessories for use as code words, while he organised sabotage assignments and arranged for some of the most notorious and ruthless agents to be parachuted with radio equipment behind enemy lines, into the Ardennes. Amies rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, but outraged his superiors in 1944 by engaging famed photographer Lee Miller and setting up a Vogue photo shoot in Belgium post D-Day. In 1946, he was knighted in Belgium, being a Named Officier de l'Ordre de la Couronne.
Amies was an integral part of Operation Ratweek, an assassination project developed by SOE to eliminate double agents and Nazi sympathizers in Belgium. An especially sought-after target was Prosper Dezitter, who helped the Germans capture Allied agents. The Belgian government in exile refused to sanction Ratweek, wanting to take a more judicious approach after the war. Amies dropped Welrod pistols to the resistance and SOE agents; the pistols were subsonic and untraceable. Andre J. Wendolyn chose to drop back in to Belgium a steadfast SOE agent to ensure Ratweek was carried out. The operation was a great success.
Dezitter was always on his mind to eliminate but he proved to be an elusive enemy, slipping through the hands of SOE often. Dezitter also thwarted to agencies operation equipping carrier pigeons with the Belgian resistance newspaper.
In 2000, a BBC 2 documentary entitled Secret Agent named Amies as one of the men who, in Operation Ratweek, helped to plan the murder of dozens of Nazi collaborators in Europe towards the end of the war; but Amies disclaimed all knowledge of the matter.
Hardy Amies was quirky, yet conservative; for example, having his British Army uniform tailored on Savile Row. Years later, Hardy recalled that Kim Philby was in his mess; and, on being asked what the infamous spy was like, Hardy quipped, ‘He was always trying to get information out of me – most significantly the name of my tailor’.
In late 1945, Virginia, Countess of Jersey, who had been a client during his at Laschasse, financed Hardy Amies move to 14 Savile Row. The following January, Amies established his own couture fashion house business: Hardy Amies Ltd. Although Savile Row is the home of English bespoke tailoring, the Hardy Amies brand became known for its classic and beautifully tailored clothes for both men and women. Hardy’s business quickly took off in the postwar years when customers, who had been deprived of couture for the preceding years, snapped up his elegant, traditional designs. Hardy was quoted at the time as saying, “A woman's day clothes must look equally good at Salisbury Station as the Ritz Bar”. Amies was Vice-Chairman of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers (1954-56) and Chairman (1959-60).
Amies was successful in business by being able to extract value from his designs, while not replicating his brand to the point of exploitation. In 1959, Amies was one of the first European designers to venture into the ready-to-wear market when he teamed up with Hepworth & Son to design a range of menswear. In 1961, Amies made fashion history by staging the first men's ready-to-wear catwalk shows, at the Savoy Hotel, London. The runway show was a first on many levels, as it was both the first time music was played and that the designer accompanied models on the catwalk.
Amies also undertook design for in-house work wear, which developed from designing special clothes for the England 1966 World Cup team, the 1972 British Olympic squad, and such groups as the Oxford University Boat Club and the London Stock Exchange. In the mid-1970s, he ventured into interior design, including designs for Crown Wallpaper.
In 1967, Amies was commissioned by director Stanley Kubrick to design the costumes for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Amies' work was seen in a handful of other films of the 1960s: He dressed Albert Finney in Two for the Road (1967), Tony Randall in The Alphabet Murders (1965), Joan Greenwood in The Amorous Prawn (1962), and Deborah Kerr in The Grass is Greener (1960).
Amies is best known to the British public for his work for Queen Elizabeth II. The association began in 1950, when Amies made several outfits for the then-Princess Elizabeth's royal tour of Canada. The award of a Royal Warrant as Official Dressmaker in 1955 gave his house respectability and publicity. Knighted in 1989, Amies held the Warrant until 1990, when he gave it up so that younger designers could create for the Queen, although the House of Hardy Amies was still designing for her under Design Director Jon Moore until 2002.
Having written a regular column for Esquire on men's fashion, in 1964, Amies published the book ABC of Men's Fashion. Amies's strict male dress code – with commandments on everything from socks to the summer wardrobe – made compelling reading: When, in July 2009, the Hardy Amies Designer Archive was opened on Savile Row, the Victoria & Albert Museum reissued the book.
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 1974, Amies was entered into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.
In May 1973, Hardy Amies Ltd. was sold to Debenhams, which had already purchased Hepworths who distributed the Hardy Amies line. In 1981, Amies purchased the business back. In May 2001, Amies sold his business to the Luxury Brands Group and retired at the end of the year, when Moroccan-born designer Jacques Azagury became head of couture.
In November 2008, after going bankrupt, the Hardy Amies brand was acquired by Fung Capital, the private investment arm of Victor and William Fung, who together control the Li & Fung Group.
Kenneth Walter Fleetwood (born Wigan 11 November 1930; died London 9 August 1996.)'s career as one of Britain's leading but most modest and reticent of fashion designers culminated seven weeks before his death, in a fittingly intimate ceremony at the London fashion house of Hardy Amies. It took place on 18 June 1996, in that elegant establishment in Savile Row where Fleetwood had play-ed a key role for nearly 45 years. (Picture: 1961 London. Model Simone d'Allencourt with Sir Hardy Amies, by Frank Horvat)
At a small, informal presentation the Countess of Airlie, wife of the Lord Chamberlain and a Lady of the Bedchamber (herself an old friend and customer), handed over to Fleetwood, on behalf of the Queen, the insignia of the MVO. The award had been announced in the New Year's Honours List and was of particular significance to him, being an honour in the personal gift of the Queen herself.
Because Fleetwood was too ill to attend the investiture at Buckingham Palace, the presentation was made at the workplace where for four decades he had exerted an influence not only on the Royal Wardrobe but on two generations of faithful Amies customers. Within this setting, surrounded by his fellow workers, many of long standing, it was touchingly appropriate that Sir Hardy Amies, doyen of British fashion designers and Fleetwood's employer, friend and mentor of a lifetime, should have been able, at 87, to look upon his long-time protege with justifiable pride.
Fleetwood, who had led the studio design team which created the Queen's wardrobe for her hugely successful tour of South Africa in 1995, had been attending fittings and consultations with the Queen since Amies relinquished the role seven years ago on reaching the age of 80. But Fleetwood's first opportunity of attending the Queen as the salon's chief representative occurred in 1986 when Amies had suddenly to go abroad on business. The occasion was recalled by Amies in his autobiography, Still Here (1984), where he noted that his emissary had been greatly beguiled by the Queen's personality and her ready shafts of humour. Amies also noted that the Queen had sent back a message saying that she had spent a happy afternoon. Although Fleetwood was the soul of discretion regarding his visits to the palace it is not too difficult to speculate that his royal patron would have appreciated, as did his friends, his characteristically unaffected, no-nonsense, northern approach.
Born and brought up in Wigan, Fleetwood attended Wigan Grammar School where he became highly proficient in art. In 1948, at the age of 18, having obtained a grant to study fashion design, he struck out from his Lancastrian roots and came to London to take the three-year Fashion course at St Martin's School of Art. Then, as now, the school had a flourishing design department and Fleetwood's talents quickly developed in these stimulating surroundings, particularly his skill at costume drawing. His sketches always conveyed with their lithe and tensile line a fluid sense of how clothes fitted and moved with the body, their detail summarised in bursts of dashing calligraphy.
Over the years he repaid his debt to St Martin's by returning as a part- time lecturer to many courses of graduate students who were quick to appreciate his candour and his deflationary humour about the fashion business.
On leaving St Martin's in 1951 he worked for some months as assistant to the theatre designer Loudon Sainthill on ballet and stage designs. The following year he was invited by Hardy Amies to join his design studio and to work as an illustrator and sketch-maker, presenting initial ideas of how outfits would look when worn by models.
Amies had shrewdly spotted that Fleetwood's well-mannered taste and innate practicality would make him an ideal addition to the firm. Apart from his term of National Service, when he served for 18 months in the Royal Corps of Signals, he was to spend his entire working life in Savile Row as a sturdy pillar of Amies's couture.
Having been initiated by Amies into the art and technique of clothes design he quickly advanced from the role of sketcher to become a member of the studio design team. Here he was able to cultivate the virtues of an established, traditional fashion house whose clientele preferred to wear well-made, flattering and stylish clothes firmly within the bounds of decorum.
The well-cut suit, the finely detailed day dress were the staples of the Amies studio together with grand and romantic ballgowns (a particular Fleetwood speciality) of strong, classic line and often glowing, jewel- like colour. Fleetwood, with his flair for elegant draughtsmanship, his sense of line and discerning eye had the wit and skill to add a sufficient spicing of verve and colour to these designs to give his well-bred customers the kind of enjoyment that would make them come back, asking for more.
As the international menswear side of Hardy Amies Ltd began to expand, often taking Amies himself on long merchandising trips across the world, Amies realised that he could safely leave the women's side of the business to Fleetwood. He had proved that he had a natural empathy with the couture clientele, could be relied upon to see that the customers were properly cosseted, had a keen understanding of the traditions of the house. His northern good sense made him a shrewd and canny shopkeeper.
Since 1974, when he was appointed Design Director, Fleetwood was responsible for all the women's wear of the Amies Mayfair salon and over the years he had played a large part in the creation of the Queen's wardrobe for numerous royal tours, state occasions and ceremonial visits. This exacting task requires a variety of skills not the least of which are the need to allow for a high degree of royal visibility, an understanding of the practical aspects of easy wearing in operational conditions and the ability to cater for varying extremes of climate. All these considerations Fleetwood could balance with tact, experience and flair.
With his sometimes amusingly lugubrious cast of feature, Fleetwood was a witty, civilised man with a love of music (for which he had the keenest ear) and a deep knowledge of art on which he expressed strongly personal and pertinent views. To his friends it sometimes seemed surprising that one so quiet and taciturn and with such a coolly appraising nature should have flourished in the heady, hothouse world of fashion. But Fleetwood never lost the sense of his roots and his dry, sharp, down-to-earth manner remain-ed always that of a knowing and unimpressionable northerner who accepted the feverish, inbred milieu of the fashion world only on his own level-headed terms. Within this brittle profession he worked with assiduous professionalism and application, and although it led him to mix with the fashionably rich and grand he always maintained his own centre of integrity.
With his essentially thoughtful and self-contained personality Fleetwood could never have been described as gregarius, but beneath the layers of introspection and dreaminess he was a witty and rewarding friend, often wickedly deflating, capable of well-timed asperities and, when the mood took him, one who could be a comc fantasist of a high order. At such times, and at his most relaxed, he was hilarious company, particularly in Oxfordshire in the charmingly converted mid-Victorian schoolhouse which Amies had bought in 1980 and filled with warm-hued oak furniture and 17th-century tapestries, and which he shared with Fleetwood at weekends.
It was appropriate that Fleetwood, who had made such a distinctive contribution to British fashion and to so many royal occasions, should have been able, at the very end of his life, to see his work so signally recognised. --Derek Granger
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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