The venerable House of Hardy Amies has a new designer, Claire Malcolm. We caught up with her to talk menswear, Mr Amies and, er, Kanye West.
“Kanye West one of the most inspiring people I have ever worked with,” says Hardy Amies’ new Creative Director, Claire Malcolm. “He’s a really hard worker, always up first in a morning saying; ‘Right, what are we going to do today?’” A job travelling the world with Kanye West is not perhaps the first thing you would expect on the CV of a designer at the helm of British label Hardy Amies – a label founded way back in 1946 that boasts the royal seal of approval – but Ms Malcolm is full of surprises.
“I was happy I didn’t know a lot about the brand before I started,” admits the cropped-haired 29 year old. “Having such a heritage to look back to is great, but what inspires me most about the brand is Hardy Amies the man. There is so much that people need to know about him. He was a bright young thing in the 1920s; a contemporary of Cecil Beaton. He was the social climber of the day, a professional snob but also a very clever guy. He spoke six languages and was in the secret service in the Second World War sorting out who was or wasn’t involved in espionage. He was the original James Bond. He even called all his missions fashion names like ‘Operation Corset,’” says Claire with a laugh. “In the late Sixties he designed the costumes for Stanley Kubrick’s, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. He did so many amazing things.”
For her first off-the-peg collection for Hardy Amies, Malcolm was inspired by the artfully posed photos of the young Hardy Amies himself. “Even in pictures of him as a child, he knew how to drape himself,” says Claire. “I didn’t want to reference a particular era, though I was drawn to the 1930′s and Art Deco, when people were travelling more and starting to discover things, so I looked to images of Hardy around that time,” she says. “Menswear was so much more glamorous back then and I wanted to capture some of that glamour in a way that was relevant to what men wear now. Of all the houses on Savile Row we’ve got the best excuse to do something more fashion, to nip in the shoulders, give men a more hourglass silhouette, add a lighter touch to the tailoring.”
The results have all the refinement you would expect from the Savile Row house – but with a certain elegant swagger and a raised eyebrow that Amies himself would have loved: navy and black, together on a tuxedo, a deep fur collar on a pea coat, flashy contrast collar shirts, classic ‘birdseye’ weave suits, electric bright knits and natty ‘Sausage dog’ print pocket squares and ties.
“Menswear has always been what I wanted to design,” says Malcolm who studied menswear at Middlesex University, graduating in 2005. After a spell in Osaka, Japan, she returned home to work with cool British menswear star Kim Jones on his own label – often collaborating with Savile Row tailors such as Norton & Sons for special pieces. She then joined Kanye West for a crazy year travelling the world when the fashion obsessed singer was planning to launch his own label, before landing a job as the designer at E Tauz, working with Creative Director Patrick Grant for almost two years. Just over a year ago she was poached to head up Hardy Amies.
Now with a critically acclaimed debut London runway show and a great selling first collection under her belt, Malcolm shows no signs of sitting back and taking it easy. A women’s line is in the offing, “When I feel the time is right,” says Malcolm. And Hardy Amies has been asked to headline the prestigious menswear show Pitti Immagine in Florence next year – no small achievement for a British brand, let alone one that has only just re-launched.
“Hardy Amies wrote a book of rules on menswear, but fashion is all about breaking rules,“ says Claire of Amies’ ‘ABC of Menswear,’ a tome which is still in print to this day. ”He says things like; ‘Men should never wear shorts,’ but we found a picture of him in shorts in the archives which we are using for the invite to the summer 2012 show in September. You see, Hardy broke his own rules all the time.”