AMIES, Hardy

Born London 1909
Died London, 2003

Hardy by name and hardy by nature, Amies was one of Great Britain’s most famous designers, sitting securely among the elite who have an international reputation. His early ambition was to become a journalist and, in order to improve his languages, he spent some years on the continent. He taught English in France and then moved to Germany as a representative of Avery’s, the weighing-machine company. He returned to England in the early 1930s to work as a travelling salesman. He thus had a valuable commercial training which helped him considerably when he set up in business for himself. That came about through a description of a dress in a letter he wrote. It was shown to the director of the company for which his mother worked. The company had a subsidiary, called Lachasse, with Digby Morton as its designer. Morton wished to set up on his own and so, in 1934, Amies was offered his job. Within a year he was manager as well as designer at Lachasse.
In 1939 he joined the army, but his military commitments did not prevent him from designing. In fact, in 1941, he was released to join other designers in creating a collection sponsored by the government, to be sent to South America. This venture led to the formation of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers with Molyneux as chairman, a position held by Amies in 1959. He designed clothes for the government-sponsored Utility Scheme, and not only were they elegant, they were also ingenious in the ways they overcame wartime restrictions. On being demobbed in 1945, Amies opened his own house. In 1946 he went on the first of many business trips to America, which resulted in healthy sales there. He began making clothes for Princess Elizabeth and, after her coronation, was awarded a warrant as dressmaker to the Queen.
In 1950 he opened a boutique for ready-to-wear and in 1961 began his long association with Hepworths, the menswear company. It is as a menswear designer that he is now mainly known. As a designer for women he produced well-cut and refined clothes in the days when such things were required.
His firm was acquired by Debenhams in 1973, but he bought it back in 1981. He published two autobiographical volumes: Just So Far appeared in 1954 and was followed by Still Here in 1984. In 1977 he was appointed the C.V.O.