Birthplace: London, England
Awards: Harper's Bazaar Award, 1962
Caswell-Massey International Award, 1962, 1964, 1968 Ambassador Magazine Award, 1964 The Sunday Times Special Award, London, 1965 Personnalité de l'Année (Haute Couture), Paris, 1986 British Fashion Council Hall of Fame Award, 1989
Amies, who became dressmaker to the queen of England and known for his impeccable tailoring, did not begin as an aspiring fashion designer. Although his mother was a dressmaker, Amies did not follow along the path of fashion. He chose foreign languages as a tool to provide a career. After learning French and German, he worked as an English tutor and teacher in France. Soon thereafter, he used his multilingualism to get jobs at three international companies.
In 1934 he made the transition into fashion when he accepted a job as managing designer at LaChasse, a couture sportswear company. His primary innovation during the 1930s was to lower the waistline of women's suits, placing it at the top of the hip instead of at the natural waistline. This gave his suits a more elegant, feminine look.
With the arrival of World War II, Amies left LaChasse and enlisted in the army as a linguist in the Intelligence Corps. During his leaves, he designed for Bourne and Hollingsworth, and he showed his own designs at Worth of London. Also during the war, he helped found the Incorporated Council of British Fashion Designers, which designed clothing that adhered to the government's austerity regulations.
He opened his own house in 1946. Specializing in suits and coats, he created tailored yet feminine garments from fine tweeds and wools. In 1950, soon after opening the couture house, he established a ready-to-wear boutique which offered suits, sweaters, coats, and accessories. Both establishments were financially successful and popular. Finely tailored suits remained his trademark until the 1980s and 1990s, when the woman's suit became too formal for everyday use. Amies and his designing partner, Ken Fleetwood, then shifted to separates.
Amies began designing for Queen Elizabeth II in 1950, and in 1955 she appointed him as one of her three official dressmakers. From this royal appointment, he became known for sumptuous yet refined ball gowns. Also, he created the costumes for the film 2001: A Space Odyssey and corporate uniforms for hotels and airlines.
When Amies began designing menswear in 1959, he was one of the first women's couturiers to design for men. He tended to be more conservative than other menswear designers; he shunned the frivolous fads and emphasized youthful, yet rich-looking clothing. By following this philosophy, his work, and reputation outlasted the flamboyant fashions that dominated the Peacock Revolution in men's clothing, a movement that resulted in the overnight fame and subsequent rapid fall of many menswear designers. He induced greater success of his menswear by signing numerous licensing agreements in various countries to produce the popular garments.
In addition to menswear licenses, Amies has sold licenses for bridal wear, home furnishings, knitwear, leather goods, lingerie, men's robes and loun-gewear, shirts, and ties. By 1995 he had fifty licenses. Hardy Amies, Ltd., was purchased by Debenham's in 1973 and remained under its ownership until Amies bought it back in 1981. See also: Charles Frederick Worth.
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