Hardy Amies' spring 2014 collection stays close to the founder's vision
London fashion house Hardy Amies bends the rules set by its founder while retaining his distinctive flair, writesFrancesca Fearon
Sartorial guru of the 20th century Edwin Hardy Amies said, "a man should look as if he had bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them". It was an observation that serves not only as a mantra for the Savile Row tailor's collections, but also as essential advice for the modern gentleman, just as new collections arrive in store and London hosts the autumn-winter 2014 menswear line-ups this week.
Amies founded his label in the 1940s, staged the first menswear show in 1962, and was dressmaker to Queen Elizabeth II until his retirement. He had some pointed views on the way men should dress, all of which he documented in his book ABC of Men's Fashion, published in 1964.
Using the alphabet as a guide, A was for Accessories, Air travel, Alpaca, and Apres ski, while F was for Fair Island (knitwear), Fashion, Fit and Flare. Q stood for Quality and Z for Zips.
One entry, which reveals the dress code of the day, states: "Avoid sandals and shorts: always wear a collar and tie in town, even if it's by the sea, after six o'clock. Never wear shorts except actually on the beach or on a walking tour. All short-sleeved shirts look ghastly. Sandals are hell, except on the beach where you want to take them off - or on a boat. And, worn with socks, are super hell."
It gives a flavour of Amies' writing style and his profile as an arbiter of taste.
As menswear collections kick off, there is a renewed interest in formal tailoring, especially among young men and those who don jeans and sneakers for their day job but enjoy wearing a suit or tuxedo jacket in the evening.
Some comments sound dated today, and hard to follow in Hong Kong's climate but others are still relevant.
"I think there will always be certain truths in menswear," says Mehmet Ali, who has been designing the Hardy Amies menswear collections for the past four seasons, and presented his latest collection last week.
"Within the way men dress, there's perhaps more of an interest today in bending the rules to show individual tastes but more often than not rules are not as comfortably broken."
The current vogue for '60s-inspired men's clothing, and the era in which Amies wrote, is definitely contributing to the renewed interest in his book. "This slow trend has led to a smarter, more tailored approach and an interest in 'how to dress with style'," says Ali.
He points out an example of how the book has influenced his spring-summer 2014 collection: "There are many occasions today when an evening party starts off in daylight. Here the blue triumphs completely," wrote Amies.
French navy, says Ali, "is very much a house colour and Hardy's own advocacy of it is maintained throughout our seasonal takes on the classic dinner suit, using navy rather than black as a colour palette".
It is style advice that has evidently been followed around the London tailoring establishments at the London collections for autumn as well. Thom Sweeney, Gieves & Hawkes and Richard James all did a navy or midnight blue dinner jacket look, although Richard James' dandy version sparkled.
Not surprisingly, many menswear editors keep a copy of the ABC in their desk drawer for easy reference. This prompted the house to create a contemporary update of the ABC - a lifestyle concept volume showcasing the new season's collections with quotes from Hardy Amies' book, articles by contemporary fashion editors and features on the landmarks of London.
The first volume launched last season with the letters ABC as a guide to menswear and the capital. The new SS14 volume is available from the brand's website. D is for double-breasted, E for evening dress and Eros (the statue of Eros in London) and F is for fitting and Fitzrovia.
It makes a strong connection between the Savile Row tailor and the city in which it is based, although today, the house is invested by Hong Kong-based investment fund, Fung Capital.
Tailoring is the house's heritage and at the heart of the spring-summer 2014 collection, supported by lightweight raincoats, loose knits and casual shirting. It is all designed with a nod to the charismatic Amies himself, whom Ali says had a style that "was effortless and ahead of his time, making him [look] comfortable and impossibly cool in all the archive imagery we have".
"Most interestingly, he had a modern style that wouldn't have been out of place today," says Ali.
Clearly, the modern man can still learn a lot from Amies' indefatigable style.