On 12 November 1945; Virginia, the Countess
of Jersey (erstwhile Hollywood film star and
the first Mrs. Cary Grant), who had been a former client during Hardy’s days at
Laschasse, financed Hardy Amies move to 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 developed to become 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 times 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 from 1954 to 56, and chairman from 1959 to
Hardy Amies is located at 14 Savile Row
besides Cad & the Dandy.
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 Savoy
Hotel in London.
The runway show was a first on many levels as it was both the first time music
was played and for the designer to accompany models on the catwalk.
If you’re an actor then the physical
creature you are – your given physique and face and voice and range of gesture
– is your fate, with which your talent must negotiate. No, it’s probably closer
even than a negotiation: I suspect your talent arises, as with a dancer, from
out of the body you have, and is inseparable from it (so different from the
relatively bodiless act of writing). You may have the gift of transforming
yourself, but that transformation too can only come out of your bodily
repertoire; you have to have it in you. Maggie Smith the actor is all in those
dragged-down enormous eyes with their Watteau irony and melancholy, and in the
fine-boned long face with its visible play of nerves, so that it seems to
change and move even when she’s striking a pose, putting on a look. Her
nostrils actually do flare. And when she was younger it was in the lean long
body and the angular, clowning wrists and elbows and knees (Watteau again). The
whole story of Jean Brodie (1969) is expressed in her nervous long ankles as
she kicks away from the pavement on her bicycle in the opening title sequence.
Once launched, she sits ludicrously upright on her bike, signalling with a
so-straight arm. Smith’s body is wittily intelligent in itself, and all the
absurdity and appeal and vulnerability of Jean’s character is expressed before
she’s even opened her mouth to speak.
Although, when she did speak, how much she
enjoyed the crisp delivery, facial tension and rhetorical flourish of Jean
brogue – so much so that it can often be detected in her subsequent roles. (She
isn’t always a gifted mimic: her Tennessee Williams sounds shaky in the filmed
version of Suddenly Last Summer, 1993, as does her Anglo-Irish in The Last
September, 1999.) And you can hear in her voice a twang that might be London and might be Oxford:
the Smiths moved there from Ilford in 1939, when she wasn’t quite five – her
father, a hospital lab technician, was posted to work in the Oxford School of
Pathology. At any rate, it isn’t quite a toff’s accent, however many toffs she
has played across the decades. She plays them like a petite bourgeois
interloper in a toff’s world, performing the upper-class performance. The role,
however perfectly felt, doesn’t quite fit skin-tight, it’s always something
assumed – like Watteau’s Gilles dressed up in a Pierrot costume.
Just as GosfordPark (2001) worked so well because
Robert Altman saw that upper-class universe from outside, through American
eyes, making it strange, so Smith’s toffs (in GosfordPark
she is Constance, Countess of Trentham) work because she isn’t a natural, she’s
always putting it on. She acts these women performing themselves as women.
Because she wears their costumes like dressing-up clothes, she wants to fiddle
with them, sometimes to great effect – adjusting her scarf against a white
chiffon evening dress, she’s the most stylish thing in a tedious film of Neil
Simon’s Murder By Death (1976). Sometimes she fiddles to excess, flipping and
flouncing her grey fur boa like mad, for instance, in the opening minutes of
Shaw’s The Millionairess (1972,
a BBC Play of the Month). There’s always a little
hysterical distance – of comedy, of desperation – between the actor and the
role. When she plays working-class women I don’t think she’s ever quite as
good, her scrutiny doesn’t have the same ruthlessness. Laurence Olivier
apparently thought Smith was “common” as Desdemona in his more or less
unwatchable Othello (1965). But what makes us wince now (along with the makeup,
needless to say) is that he is absurdly grand, lost inside his idea of himself
in a noble role. Smith’s Desdemona, by comparison, seems luminously truthful.
Smith’s whole life has been her career. Her
80th birthday – and the completion of her sixth decade working as an actor – is
celebrated this month by a retrospective at the BFI. She went straight from Oxford high school for
girls, which she didn’t like much, to the Oxford Playhouse School of Theatre,
and was singled out by excited critics from the beginning. “Miss Smith is a
walking, talking flame,” wrote Bernard Levin. “And I swear she never puts foot
to ground throughout, but floats a yard above the stage.” In the stories that
come down about her frugal, Presbyterian childhood, there’s a whiff of
something bleak, with hints of violence – the children were punished hard. He
unsympathetic mother didn’t think her daughter had much chance of succeeding as
an actor, “with a face like that”. Her father Nat, who later devotedly kept
albums of his daughter’s cuttings and memorabilia, seems to have been painfully
unfulfilled, and had his own thwarted theatricality. He is supposed, when he
retired, to have offered the jottings and pamphlets of his medical researches
to the Bodleian, and then, when they were rejected, made a bonfire of them in
As a little girl, Smith was entranced by a
series of children’s books about the theatre, The Swish of the Curtain. The
idea of acting fused, at some crucial point in her development, with
intimations of possibilities beyond the limited life she knew. She entered into
a larger self through acting it out, and then her work became the whole world
for her. “A much better world,” she said once to Nancy Banks-Smith. “I’m never
shy on stage. Always shy off it … It’s the real world that’s the illusion.
It is notable how many talents in theatre,
film and literature, at that moment of exceptional social mobility in the
mid-20th-century, came out of the same pinched lower middle-class. A generation
reacted against everything meagre, respectable and inhibited in their
Victorian- or Edwardian-born parents’ lives, in an explosion of free
possibility, opportunity and new politics. And sex, of course. Smith’s private
life has had the requisite tormented love story at the heart of it, in the
shape of Robert Stephens, who played Teddy Lloyd to her Jean Brodie, Vershinin
to her Masha, and Benedick to her Beatrice, and was father to her two sons –
Chris Larkin and Toby Stephens, both actors. Stephens was charismatic,
irresistible and impossible. It may have been a problem that, although he was a
seriously good actor, his success was never quite on the scale of hers. In a
happy ending that belongs in a film script, Smith got together then with
screenwriter Beverley Cross, who had always been devoted and was still waiting
in hope. They were married until his death in 1998.
From the beginning, Smith has worked in
both theatre and film, and seems to transfer easily between them. The tension
in the sexy, witty physicality of her stage performance carries over into
closeups of the expressivity in her face. These two aspects of an acting career
are carried forward lopsidedly into posterity: only the film performances are
captured and kept, and for the live theatre we have to rely on hearsay and
“I like the ephemeral thing about theatre,”
she has said, “every performance is like a ghost – it’s there and then it’s
gone.” (There are some films of her in theatre, such as the Othello, or TV
films-of-a-play such as Tennessee Williams’s Suddenly Last Summer, where she’s
a not unpredictably neurotic and smothering mother.) Although they famously
didn’t get on, Olivier invited Smith to become part of his new National Theatre
soon after he formed it in 1962, where she appeared, among other things, in
Chekhov, Strindberg and Much Ado. She is supposed to have been wonderful as
Rosalind and Beatrice, Shakespeare’s boyish-girls, which isn’t surprising,
considering her leggy androgyny. Peter Hall said she resided “on the cusp of
camp”, and she is fairly often tipped the whole way over into it. Kenneth
Williams was a lifelong close friend, and he and Smith have the same stiff
shoulders, the same yawing slippage up and down the vocal range. She seems to
camp up Coward sometimes – it’s difficult perhaps to do much else. And there’s
certainly nothing much else to do with Downton.
But at her best Smith is a sharp, smart
comedian – it’s not hard to imagine how good she was in the Restoration
comedies that were so fashionable in the 60s and 70s, and in Wilde and Shaw. No
doubt she brought the cool of a comedian, too, to roles not always imagined as
comedy – apparently she made a wonderfully disenchanted Masha in Chekhov’s
Three Sisters. And what wouldn’t one give to have seen her in the 1970 London theatre production
of Hedda Gabler, directed by Ingmar Bergman, Smith’s own favourite performance.
In the photo stills it looks like heady stuff, everything just right for
Ibsen’s stark angst – the skinny wrists and gesturing cigarette and tight black
dress; the stiff, unhappy bent back; the Munch-scream-shaped white face.
There’s not much in film that captures this aspect of her range; interesting to
wonder how different Smith’s career might have been if British film of the last
50 years had been less cheerful and parochial and middle-brow – if it had taken
itself with anything like the seriousness of Swedish film, with a Bergman
exerting his magnetic pull.
When British cinema tries for angst it ends
up all too often with empathetic and mawkish – like The Lonely Passion of
Judith Hearne. And empathy isn’t really how Smith’s acting works: it’s cooler
and crisper than, say, the more heartfelt warmth of her contemporary and friend
Judi Dench. Dench can usually find something to feel with in the least
promising part, whereas Smith is always at her best when the words are good.
She was wasted as Lady Naylor in The Last September because the adaptation
wasn’t true to the great talk in Elizabeth Bowen’s original novel. She’s good
as Lady Trentham because the writing is funny and clever (the script is by
Julian Fellowes who writes Downton, but he’s delivering something different for
Altman’s film). She’s good with Shaw’s words and Muriel Spark’s, and in A Room
With a View, because Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s rendering of Edwardian oddity and
otherness is so note-perfect. Her best performances don’t ask us to identify
with what’s most familiar in people, they show us what’s most strange.
• The BFI Maggie Smith season continues
until 31 January.
“At over 100 years old, DoHomem -
Diniz&Cruz is one of the oldest tailors in Lisbon. I loved being in there! Attention to
detail was evident everywhere. I was told "We used to dress the poets
here, Eça de Queirós and Fernando, and after that we dressed the
politicians". "Originally the fabric was brought back from Perrys in London - and it was said
that our way of dressing people was a doorway to the world".
One thing that makes this place so special
is that one of the tailors working there is currently 87 years old, and he's
been working there for 40 years. It was a pleasure to watch Mr Horácio, and the
other tailors at work dressing our Lisbon3, in
the finest attire.
Marco Neto, Nuno
Silvailva, Francisco C.
Project Development/Stylist: Sven Signe den
Hartogh The Stranded Sailors
Diniz&Cruz - Dalmata Lisboa
Diniz&Cruz - Dalmata Lisboa
Hair: Miguel Molena
assistent: Daniela Homero
Creative Film Production (Miguel Marques e Ricardo Figueiredo)”
To produce Loden fabric, strong yarns are
woven loosely into cloth which then undergoes a lengthy process of shrinking,
eventually acquiring the texture of felt and becoming quite dense. It is then
brushed with a fuller's teasel and the nap is clipped, a process which is
repeated a number of times until the fabric provides good warmth for the
weight, and is relatively supple, windproof and extremely durable.
Johann Georg Frey started his Munich weaving business
in 1842 and soon invented loden, a boiled-wool textile similar to felt.
Thirty-six years later, Frey Jr improved on his father’s invention by
developing napped loden, a water-resistant version of the original. The thick,
warm fabric and the classic coats traditionally made from it have become the
de-facto costume for alpine men wanting to protect themselves from the region’s
weather, and Loden Frey is still the place to get them.
Lodenfrey was founded in 1842 by Johann
Georg Frey, a young skilled weaver. Frey, at the age of 21, moved to Munich and purchased his
first weaving license for 250 gulden, a "Webergerechtsame."
Frey was awarded the first prize at the Vienna trade exhibition
for the production of simple and smooth woolen clothes on 10 looms. Frey
continued to adapt his methods of production to the needs of the time and thus
gained mass recognition.
In 1855 Frey received a gold medal for the
world's first water-repellent loden cloth from the World Exhibition in Paris.
In 1862 plans were made for a mechanical
spinning mill for sheep wool in a cloth and woolen factory at
"Dianabad," in the EnglishGarden of Munich.
The location and availability of water-power provided everything needed for the
production of loden, the washed and fulled loden left out to dry in the open.
In 1870 the war against France began
and a recession was overcome with the help of the Bavarian royal court.
Details were arranged for a new factory in Munich. The popularity of
loden cloth has grown internationally with the nobility in Germany and Austria, especially emperor Franz
Joseph I (1830-1916), leading the trend. In royal courts, loden cloth is now
worn during hunting parties and thus making it court acceptable.
In 1872, the founder's son, Johann Baptist
Frey, develops the first truly water-repellent loden cloth called the
"napped loden," a cloth that is raised to form a nap and is
impregnated. This marks the birth of the loden coat that will ultimately become
a classic as it is still to this day.
In 1928 Georg Frey member of the third
generation, joins the family enterprise. This same year marks the beginning
construction of the "Zugspitzbahn," a rack-railroad leading to Germany's highest mountain, the "Zugspitze." The rack-railroad workers wear the loden
coats of Lodenfrey to protect themselves against the rough climate. The
construction of Lodenfrey's own clothing factory enables the mass production of
ready-to-wear loden coats that are later supplied to retailers. Due to an
expansive business policy, the Lodenfrey's turnover increases despite an
economic crisis on the rise in the early thirties.
The Lodenfrey history during the Nazi years
1933 till 1945 was researched by a professional team of historians.
Lodenfrey conquers the market across the
world from 1948 onwards. Lodenfrey opens a branch in the United States and
shortly afterwards opens another branch in France. During the fifties,
Lodenfrey is exporting respectively to more than 40 countries.
In 1950 Herbert Frey and in 1959 Bernhard Frey
enter in the fourth generation into the company. In 1956, a Lodenfrey branch is
opened in Bad Ischl in Austria.
In 1964 the construction work begins for a
large-scale factory in Bad Ischl. Shortly afterwards, the Austrian branch is
one of the most advanced operations of its kind in the world.
Lodenfrey receives the "ComitÃ¨ du Bon
GoÃ»t FranÃ§ais" cup, the coveted Oscar of the fashion world in 1968.
In 1977 Lodenfrey opens a factory in Malta.
The company is awarded the City of Munich Fashion Prize in
Lodenfrey makes a fashion statement in 1983
with its new idea of casual clothes and transforms a tradition into a fashion.
The years between 1991 and 1995 mark a
change of generations for the Lodenfrey Company. Dr. Sabine Frey (1991) and Dr.
Peter Frey (1995), the fifth generation, take over management and ownership of
In 1995 the new management introduces
"Country Frey," a trendy lifestyles collection. Lodenfrey is ready at
the turn of the century with the combination of classic functionality and
tradition with modern trends.
In 1996 Lodenfrey takes over the
traditional Bavarian company "Jakob Zeiler" in Geisenhausen. Zeiler
is the ideal supplement to Lodenfrey's traditional loden collection with
specialization in the production of high quality leather clothing in a casual,
yet traditional dress style.
Lodenfrey built a new developing and
logistics centre in Garching near Munich
in the year1998.
2003 marks the creation of
"Poldi," an exclusive collection created jointly with H.R.H. Prince
Leopold of Bavaria.
2005 Lodenfrey is getting into the area of
wearable electronics. They also designed "Multimedia Tracht". Now it
becomes possible to hear music and to telephone with a Lederhose.
Lodenfrey receives an innovation voucher
for the development of a heated loden coat from the Free State of Bavaria in
In 2011 the sledge legend and Olympic
champion "Schorsch Hackl" was the inspiration for a new collection,
consisting of loden cloth and knitted jackets.
Published by Virago, 15 January 2015,
are two sorts of romantic: those who love, and those who love the adventure of
Blanch was not a school, a trend, or a fashion, but a true original'
Born in 1904, she died aged 103, having
gone from being a household name to a mysterious and neglected living
legend. She was writing her memoirs at
her death, beginning with her very odd Edwardian childhood. Her goddaughter, who was working with her at
the time, has now collected that piece and many others, some never published,
some published only in French; some letters, some Vogue articles to create On
the Wilder Shores of Love: Sketches from a Bohemian Life which captures the
essence of a rich and rewarding life spanning the twentieth century.
Lesley Blanch chose to 'escape the boredom of
convention' and having first worked as a theatre designer, she became Vogue's
features editor during World War II. In 1946 she left England, never
to return, with her diplomat-novelist husband, Romain Gary. By the time they reached Hollywood they were literary celebrities. Gary left her for the
young actress, Jean Seberg. Blanch
headed East and travelled across Siberia, Outer Mongolia,
Turkey, Iran, Samarkand, Afghanistan, Egypt,
Lesley Blanch is renowned for her
bestselling book The Wilder Shores of Love, which has been translated into over
a dozen languages. Her other works include Round the World in Eighty Dishes,
The Sabres of Paradise, Under a Lilac Bleeding Star, The Nine Tiger Man,
Journey into the Mind's Eye, Pavilions of the Heart and Pierre Loti: Portrait
of an Escapist. She was the editor of Harriette Wilson's Memoirs. She died in
Georgia de Chamberet was an editor at
Quartet Books before founding her own London-based literary agency, BookBlast
Ltd. Georgia is a committee member of English PEN's Writers in Translation
programme. She is Literary Executor for the Estate of Lesley Blanch and is
A common complaint among modern women is
that in our early 30s we stop being the stars of our own lives, relegated from
the spotlight to the chorus-line by the daily slog of grown-up
responsibilities. Anyone bemusedly wondering how that unglamorous demotion came
about will find a compelling role model in the author, journalist, artist and
traveller Lesley Blanch, who died in 2007, aged 103, having never for an
instant ceased to be the star of her own life.
If Blanch led a charmed life, it was one of
her own determined making. She was born in Chiswick to parents who were vaguely
perturbed by her arrival. “I don’t think we are quite used to you yet,” they
would sometimes remark. But from earliest childhood, she was captivated by the
notion of an exotic beyond: “I never remember a time when I was not obsessed by
a longing to travel, to reach some remote horizon,” she wrote.
Blanch trained as an artist at the Slade,
and worked as an illustrator and theatre designer. But it is for her writing,
especially The Wilder Shores of Love (1954), an impressionistic account of four
glamorous female travellers, that she is best remembered.
Blanch published 12 books on subjects as
various as the courtesan Harriette Wilson and imperialist Russian rule in
The sensibility she brought to her subjects was so distinctive that all her
writing was essentially autobiographical, but her only book-length memoir was
Journey into the Mind’s Eye, a highly scented account of distant travel and
In her last years, Blanch began to write
about her Edwardian childhood, and also produced an account of her marriage to
the novelist Romain Gary, who left her for the actress Jean Seberg. These
substantial fragments of memoir, together with a selection of her travel
writing and journalism for Vogue magazine, have been assembled into an account
of her life by her god-daughter and friend Georgia de Chamberet.
Blanch’s great passions were travel, exotic
objects (preferably in combination – “travel heavy” was her motto), and a
mysterious figure, identified only as “The Traveller”. His real identity – he
was the Russian theatre director and designer Theodore Komisarjevsky – is
hidden in plain sight in Journey into the Mind’s Eye, and de Chamberet confirms
it: “I asked Lesley about Komisarjevsky the last time I saw her in 2007. She
answered: 'Peggy Ashcroft took him off me.’ ”
Komisarjevsky was a friend of Blanch’s
parents and a beloved visitor from her earliest childhood. His unpredictable appearances
brought a whiff of the steppes to suburban Chiswick, and his extraordinary
gifts, including a Fabergé egg, fuelled Blanch’s lifelong passion for singular
When she was 17 and “The Traveller” was 39,
he invited her to Paris
and, under the eye of her inattentive chaperone, seduced her, to the intense
satisfaction of them both – while it lasted. That love affair left her with a
taste for dramatic, interesting, unreliable foreign lovers. (Shirley Conran
once asked her, by way of research, what it was like having an Arab lover, and
was briskly told to get her own.) Blanch was 40 when she married Gary, who
qualified on all counts, and her memoir of their marriage is a nicely
acidulated contrast to the crème Chantilly
narrative of Journey into the Mind’s Eye.
Observing that “like all good storytellers,
Lesley plundered her life and her passions and turned tragedy into beauty”, de
Chamberet compresses into a lengthy footnote the melancholy episode of Blanch’s
teenage pregnancy and the daughter given up for adoption to family friends:
“ 'I don’t want to dwell on it,’ she said with a closed, distant expression.”
For a generation raised on therapy and the
assiduous pursuit of emotional “truth”, there is something disconcerting about
the contrast between Blanch’s intensely sexy femininity and her quasi-masculine
ability to compartmentalise emotion. Sooner or later, no doubt, a formal
biography will dismantle the rococo stage set on which she chose to present
herself, to reveal a reality that is bleaker, but not necessarily closer to the
Blanch wrote that “learning how to deal
with pain is the most important thing in life”, and this volume, edited with
affection and grace by de Chamberet, is a deliciously readable monument to a
writer who combined a steely resilience and capacity for hard work with an
elegant frivolity and a voracious appetite for love, beauty and adventure.
MR PORTER and director Mr Matthew Vaughn
have created a bespoke collection from Ms Arianne Phillips’ costume design for
Kingsman: The Secret Service, to be released in early 2015. Each piece is
crafted in Britain
by heritage manufacturers, from the tailoring to the ties.
Sunday evening on the third day of London
Collections: Men. From Christopher Shannon to Alexander McQueen, most of the
four-day event has been geared towards wit, innovation and bold new directions
in menswear, but this evening saw a return to trad tailoring as Mr Porter, the
menswear arm of online retailer Net-a-porter, unveiled an entire collection
inspired by a film.
Kingsman: The Secret Service, starring
Colin Firth as a sort of Bond-esque spy trying to recruit a new team, opens in
a few weeks. Based on a cult comic book and directed by Matthew Vaughn of
Kick-Ass fame, the film’s premise is a group of spies masquerading as Savile
Row tailors; the whole thing is set largely in the back room of a tailor’s
shop. As Vaughn told The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s not like the clothes are an
added benefit or not utterly functional to the story. They are a big part of
the story.” So Mr Porter’s decision to launch a line of Savile Row-style suits
makes more than just commercial sense.
The collection includes double-breasted,
pinstripe 1980s-style suits, designed by Arianne Phillips, Madonna’s stylist
who also worked with Firth on A Single Man, along with sunglasses from Cutler
and Gross, cotton poplin shirts by Turnbull & Asser, a rose-gold watch by
Bremont and George Cleverley brogues. The entire 60-piece Kingsman collection
While product placement in films has been
Hollywood’s bread and butter for the past few years – the first Sex And The City
movie referenced more than 60 different brands – this is the first time
customers have been able to buy all the costumes from a film. It is thought
that Phillips designed the costumes with commerciality in mind. Vaughn said:
“To be blunt, there aren’t many clothing options for men like me, in their 40s.
Suits are cut super-skinny and tight, or they’re very traditional. I realised
there’s no men’s line smack dab in the middle.” The collection is relatively
limited-edition, but the Kingsman label is already expected to come back for a
second season in spring 2015.