Hardy Amies Returns to Its Savile Row Roots by Jared Paul Stern — Hardy Amies, the firm named for the British couturier who opened a shop on Savile Row in 1946 and went on to design gowns for the Queen of England, is returning to its men's tailoring roots. The move comes after the company nearly went bankrupt in 2008 following an ill-timed expansion into ready-to-wear women's clothing and accessories, while the original bespoke business was neglected. On Monday the company announced that in a bid to avoid further financial problems it was returning to its founder's original purpose, and wwill now concentrate on being "the quintessential English tailor" providing fine tweeds and bespoke suits to well-heeled gentlemen. A bespoke suit, the company said, would start from about $5,400. The company's new owners are the investment arm of the £8 billion global trading company run by brothers Victor and William Fung. Sir Hardy Amies himself died in 2003 at the robust age of 93.
Hard times on Savile Row as dressmaker to the Queen warns it may go under• Hardy Amies may go into administration • Top couturier designed for film directors and royals
Helen Pidd The Guardian, Saturday 27 September 2008
For decades, Sir Hardy Amies was Britain's top couturier. As the Queen's official dressmaker for almost 50 years, tailoring her coats and suits, women flocked to his Savile Row shop so they would be treated like royalty too.
Lady Heseltine, Lady Parkinson, and Tiggy Legge-Bourke were customers, as well as, less predictably, the film director Stanley Kubrick - Amies designed the costumes for 2001: A Space Odyssey. He designed uniforms for the Oxford University boat club, and made lounge suits for the 1966 World Cup-winning England football team.
When he died in 2003 aged 93, his business continued without him. But recently the firm that bears his name has struggled, despite expansion in Britain and to Japan, and yesterday warned that it might have to go into administration after failing to secure funding from a major shareholder.
In a statement to the stock exchange, the company asked for shares to be suspended while it sorted out its finances.
Its backer, the Icelandic investment firm Arev Brands Limited (ABL), had refused to put up more money, leaving Hardy Amies with a cashflow problem. ABL owns a 49.3% stakeand had provided substantial finance to the group, including £1.5m in loans since April.
"The directors of Hardy Amies were confident the necessary funds would be forthcoming until late [on Thursday], when its major shareholder informed the company it was unable to provide the requisite finance," a spokesman said.The directors said they were considering options, which may mean administration.
Yesterday, the prospect of life without Hardy Amies did not come as a surprise to the fashion world.
Designer Jeff Banks, who knew Amies, said the brand's clothes had become "distinctly mumsy" of late, and that the firm had failed to understand its customers.
"In its heyday, in the 1950s, I think that the Hardy Amies look was a British version of Audrey Hepburn or Jackie Onassis - really elegant and classy," said Jeff Banks, who had known the designer.
"Lately, Hardy Amies fell between two stools. If you look at who they are aiming at, really it is women in their 70s. But the thing is, mature women these days do not feel their age. They feel at least 15 years younger. They don't want to dress like the Queen Mum, they want to dress like Sex in the City," said Banks.
"Hardy Amies clothes had become distinctly mumsy, and that, I think, has been its downfall."
Richard Dennen, features associate at Tatler, said: "I'm not at all surprised the company is in trouble because I can't imagine anyone who would buy their clothes. They opened a shop on the Fulham Road in London last year doing Ready To Wear, and every time I have walked past it has been completely empty. The clothes are hideous and not very well cut. I don't know who their market is supposed to be.
"I think they have completely lost their way. Couture was their thing, catering for rich old dowagers, but they have tried to make the clothes more modern and edgy and 21st century, which is not what their customers want.
"Burberry is an example of a heritage firm that has succeeded where Hardy Amies has failed. Their clothes are really classic but really cool at the same time - they're really rocking it."
Hardy Amies has had losses for several years, and warned in June that poor sales would see them acceleratethis year and into 2009. It reported underlying losses of £1.1m in 2007, although this was better than the £1.8m loss the year before, thanks to a 35% surge in sales.
The group has six outlets across the UK, one at Bristol's new Cabot Circus shopping centre. It is also stocked in dozens of stores nationwide, including Harvey Nichols.
After working in British intelligence organising the resistance in Europe during the war, Amies founded his firm in 1946, first as a men's tailor at 14 Savile Row, still the group's flagship premises.
His 1946 collection prefigured Christian Dior's celebrated "New Look" - long, wide skirts underpropped by petticoats, and tiny waists constricted by corsets. His designs were "exactly what were to become the components of the New Look; but they lacked Dior's impact because shortages [due to wartime rationing] made it impossible for Amies to give his designs the extravagance which characterised those of the French house", said the fashion journalist Colin McDowell in an obituary.
• Amies first designed for the Queen in 1952; the Royal Warrant lapsed in 1996 when he retired.
Hardy Amies Ltd is a fashion house at №14 Savile Row, founded by English dressmaker Sir Edwin Hardy Amies (17 July 1909 - 5 March 2003) in 1946. Having been managing designer for Lachasse in 1934, and designed clothes for the British Board of Trade under the government Utility Scheme, Amies bought the bombed out shell of №14 in 1946. The Hardy Amies brand developed to become known for its classic and beautifully tailored clothes for both men and women. Amies was successful in business by being able to commercially extract value from his designs, while not replicating his brand to the point of exploitation. Amies was one of the first European designers to venture into the ready-to-wear market when he teamed up with Hepworths in 1959 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 Ritz Hotel in London. The Hardy Amies name is still licensed globally, particularly popular in Japan. Amies also undertook design for in-house work wear, which developed from designing special clothes for groups such as the Oxford University Boat Club and London Stock Exchange. Amies also designed costumes for films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey. Amies is best known to the British public for his work for HM Queen Elizabeth II. The association began in 1950, when Amies made several outfits for the then Princess Elizabeth's royal tour to Canada. Although the couture side of the Hardy Amies business was traditionally less financially successful, the award of a Royal Warrant as official dressmaker in 1955 gave his house a degree of respectability and resultant publicity. One of his best known creations is the gown he designed in 1977 for Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee portrait which, he said, was "immortalised on a thousand biscuit tins." Knighted in 1989, Amies held the warrant until 1990, when he gave it up so that younger designers could create for the Queen. In May 1973, Amies sold the business to Debenhams, who had themselves purchased Hepworths which distributed the Hardy Amies line. Amies purchased the business back in 1981. In May 2001, Amies sold his business to the Luxury Brands Group. He 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. The current collection is overseen by design director Jon Moore, who first worked for Hardy Amies in 1979.