Sir Edwin Hardy Amies: Savile Row Couturier, dressmaker to the Queen, and SOE Agent. The breadth of Amies’s biography reads closer to the contents of a spy novel than the life of one of the most respected British designers of the past sixty years. Certainly there are few who could boast as eclectic a combination of accomplishments to their name, and less to have used names of fashion accessories for the basis of operational codenames for the Belgian Resistance, but such was the life of this great British designer. However, as the son of a court dressmaker’s saleswoman, Amies was always destined for couture. He landed his first job in fashion at London couture house Lachasse where Amies became the director at the age of 25 in 1934. Beginning with women’s tailoring at Lachasse his designs caught the attention of Vogue in 1937 with his ‘Panic’ tweed suit in sage green and hot pink. From Lachasse, he moved to House of Worth in 1941 and, during the war, he was one of the leading British designers to create neat, smart and practical pieces for mass production which carried the Controlled Commodity label ‘CC41’.
Following World War Two, Amies went on to establish his own house of couture at 14 Savile Row with the backing of no less than the Countess of Jersey. Besides an eye for design, Amies possessed strong business sense. He recognised that classic tailored British designs represented an appealing offering to the American buyers who took their pick from the British and French fashion houses of the time. Amies also knew that every woman did not aspire to the ‘New Look’ aesthetic of Christian Dior but still wanted to achieve a stylish, fashionable and elegant appearance with smart suits, dresses, coats and jackets. He famously said: ‘A woman's day clothes must look equally good at Salisbury Station as the Ritz Bar’ and this philosophy was certainly reflected by his popularity of his work and the establishment of his strong British brand for women and men’s tailoring in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
In men’s fashion, Amies is possibly best known for his book, published in 1964: ‘The ABC of Mens Fashion’. He said: ‘A man should look as if he has bought his clothes with intelligence, put them on with care and then forgotten all about them.’ This attitude to style goes beyond the choice to garments and reflects an attitude to fashion which rings as true today as it did then and which is certainly achievable with his classic vintage pieces for men and women.