In a year in which Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, there’s been renewed interest in the 67-year-old house of the late Sir Hardy Amies. He may forever be known as the official dressmaker to the Queen for nearly half a century, but as Austin Mutti-Mewse, the curator of his archive, is quick to point out – there’s so much more to the story of this iconoclast tailor. Beyond his Royal Warrant, impeccable clientele (Cary Grant, Princess Michael of Kent) and Savile Row pedigree; he wrote a legendary men’s style guide (‘ABC of Fashion’) and was the first British menswear designer to stage a catwalk show (that also pioneered the concept of the designer bow and soundtrack).
This fact is now justly celebrated by new design director Claire Malcolm who, since taking over the house in 2010, has revitalized it with her luxe take on his glamorous life, making it one of the highlights of Paris men’s Fashion Week. Aiding her in her mission is Mutti-Mewse who came by the House through unique personal circumstance. “My aunt was a House model for Hardy Amies during the late 1950s, early 1960s,” admits the very dapper Mutti-Mewse whose lineage also includes a grand-uncle who was valet to the Duke of Windsor and would always “sport a tie, even on the beach.” Such dashing role models clearly made an impression on Mutti-Mewse who grew up obsessed with old Hollywood and would eventually strike up acquaintances with many of its original stars – a fact an unrepentant snob like Amies would undoubtedly have appreciated. Talking with Mutti-Mewse (who’s also a passionate writer and documentarian), he recounts fascinating new aspects to Amies: from his wartime past, invention of his own cocktail to his visionary designs for Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ – these are elements that Malcolm takes as inspiration for each new season. “I enjoy working alongside Claire and exchanging ideas,” he says, “As the guardian of the archive – it is good to offer a point of difference to the design team to offer examples from the archive relevant to next season’s inspiration.”
"Mutti-Mewse recounts fascinating new aspects to Amies: from his wartime past, invention of his own cocktail to his visionary designs for Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’."
Malcolm’s A/W12 offering for the house was a case in point: a photograph of Amies in 1930s Berlin inspired a quietly luxurious collection that saw the humble grey flannel suit glamorized with silver thread and the kaleidoscopic effects of Busby Berkeley musicals turned into abstract patterns that adorned dinner jackets, silk shirts and specially commissioned Globetrotter suitcases. In addition to Malcolm’s sterling design, the house is strengthening its Royal connections, counting Prince Michael of Kent and his son, Lord Freddie Windsor as brand ambassadors. And while Princes Harry and William remain dream patrons for Mutti-Mewse, he’s invigorated by the palpable excitement currently surrounding the house. “I'm constantly thinking about how to build on the brand's legacy. The energy in the building is fantastic and fraught with a medley of powerful and passionate personalities past and present.”
Text by Kin Woo