Shortly after the life and work of Sir Hardy Amies was celebrated with an exhibition on the Row in 2009, Claire Malcolm was installed as the house's design director. One year on after showing her debut collection that received so much acclaim, the reinvigorated label of Hardy Amies was invited to open the AW12 season deep inside Florence's first railway station. As I was covering the show for Dazed Digital, I was able to take my seat to watch it all unfold. It was a kaleidoscopic celebration of the grey flannel suit that was grounded in Hardy Amies' personal links with Hollywood, royalty and heritage. With the desire to reinvent the twenty first century gentleman, Malcolm revelled and excelled in glamourising the seemingly humble sartorial staple. "Personally I love flannel, the texture and the feeling of it. It is the subtleties in menswear, the proportion, cut, fabric and playing with them. Here matte flannel is next to high shine" she exclaimed backstage. Every conceivable weave of flannel was on show and was specially commissioned from specialists Fox Brothers &; Co. Through this focus, the design talent was able to highlight a beauty in subtleties whilst drawing attention to the architecture of the suit.
A photograph of Hardy Amies in Berlin from the thirties graced the invitation and it was this image that sparked Malcolm's imagination. For her, the moment mirrored the Hollywood man of the period with his superhuman silhouette accentuated by a double breasted and luxurious overcoat. "I absolutely love Hardy's personal photographs, for me, it was more about him as a man than what he designed at that stage" confessed Malcolm as models circled to congratulate her. "He embodies that complex British gentleman, an amazing personality, with so much wit and style" she proudly declared. There can be little doubt that Hardy was a well travelled, confident man who could have walked straight out of a film script and it was the modern incarnation that strutted the runway in Florence. Much as the heritage of Hardy Amies has been built on the foundations of the quintessential Englishman's suit, there has always been a hint of international glamour and sense of modernity, here Malcolm certainly continued this tradition with pomp.
In addition to Hardy himself, one of the main reference points for Malcolm's collection was the staging and choreography of Busby Berkeley's musical classic, 'Gold Diggers of 1933.' The abstract performance of the film influenced the designer's modern take on this period. "Throughout the film there are these wonderful aerial shots that capture the movement of these girls and I was drawn to this idea of pure escapism" she gesticulated backstage before continuing, "The film itself is from the depression era and for the film to have so much glamour really appealed and mirrors Hardy perfectly." The collection oozed old Hollywood glam whilst still feeling contemporary. Describing the theme as 'Deco-Tron', abstract patterns ran dazzling throughout much like an Escher exhibition. From silk shirting and velvet evening jackets to Globetrotter luggage and nickel toecaps on the stunning footwear made in collaboration with blog favourite Mr Hare. As a child a kaleidoscope might have wowed you for a moment or two but Malcolm and co have managed to craft a much longer lasting spectacle here. Now, rather than talk incessantly about it, it is about time that I offered a selection of visuals that will make the point far better than these ramblings. Fortunately, both myself and Susie snapped away at the collection, both on the runway and backstage and here is a selection of my favourites...
A selection of mine and Susie's catwalk and backstage shots.
There is a common perception that the grey flannel suit is somewhat dull especially in light of its connotations of office wear but Malcolm took great pleasure in rubbishing this strain of thought. The collection itself was something of a celebration, an escapism of grey that breathed fresh life in to the House of Hardy Amies whilst staying true to the path walked so confidently by the founder himself. I'll leave you with the words that ended my backstage chat with the designer; "It is really about tailoring not being a ball and chain." Who can argue with that?