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English label Hardy Amies on Monday opened its archive to the public at its refurbished landmark headquarters on London’s Savile Row as part of a retrospective marking the 100th anniversary of its founder’s birth.
Dubbed “A Century of Couture,” the exhibit, which is by appointment only and runs through September, boasts around 20 Hardy Amies looks as well as sketches, photographs and letters from the Thirties until the English couturier and men’s wear maverick’s death in 2003.
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“Hardy Amies is all about standing out and not fitting in,” explained Austin Mutti-Mewse, the exhibit’s curator.
Hardy Amies is best known as the official dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II for nearly 35 years. The collection focuses on his ties with royalty as well as stars of the silver screen and political figures. Sketches of the Queen are on display alongside drawings of his film costumes, including those for Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Hardy Amies’ signature “Made in England” suit made for Hollywood ingenue Mildred Shay and a morning suit made for Peter Sellers are also on display.
“He should have been the English Ralph Lauren,” Mutti-Mewse said. “In the Sixties, he designed everything from the breakfast trays to bedspreads.”
While known for dressing the Queen, Amies had a licensed business in men’ wear worldwide, stretching from the U.S. to Japan. He was one of the first designers to build a licensing empire in men’s wear, and was one of the first British designers to popularize relatively inexpensive ready-made suits in the U.K. Amies, fond of growing roses and playing tennis, was famed for his strong opinions about men’s wear, which ranged from pushing the four-button, single-breasted jacket in the Eighties to breaking the taboo of men wearing brown suits in town.
The exhibit also features letters from figures including David Hockney, Claudette Colbert, Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Lord Snowdon.
Hardy Amies was acquired by Fung Capital, the private investment vehicle of Victor and William Fung, controlling shareholders in Hong Kong-based Li & Fung Group, for an undisclosed sum in 2008 and today offers a range of personal tailoring and bespoke men’s wear.