A Second Rebirth..?
August menswear Savile Row establishment Hardy Amies was placed into administration last month and though hopes for a buyer are high, can it be re-vitalised again?
Article by Rupert Watkins
In early January, the administrators were called into Hardy Amies. After a period of trading at a loss, the esteemed Savile Row institution is now up for sale for the second time in just over a decade. Despite making a loss for some time, the firm had – on the strength of its history and brand name – been allowed to carry on until the start of the year.
Founded by Second World War intelligence officer who made his name as the Queen’s dressmaker, couturier and tailor, Hardy Amies was founded at 14 Savile Row in 1946 and was an early exponent of name licencing and ready to wear. However, the firm first collapsed in 2008 after it had attempted further poorly executed expansion into both male and female off the peg clothing in order to update itself.
The re-organised company stopped all women’s dressmaking and returned to its roots as a men’s bespoke and made to measure specialist. It was now owned by Fung Capital – who in 2013 also procured bespoke tailors Kilgour. Over the past decade Victor and William Fung have invested substantial sums into Hardy Amies, some reports saying in the vicinity of £15 million. A second store was opened at No 8 Savile Row.
In the days after the second collapse into administration was announced, confidence has been high that such a prime slice of Mayfair real estate and venerable name would not disappear completely, though a month later no easily discernible rumours have surfaced about potential buyers. Without doubt Hardy Amies is one of the newer but great names of the Row and it will be a loss to see it disappear.
Yet over the past few years certain indications showed the firm’s owners appeared to not know quite where to position it. Over the decade since its first rescue, it has moved from a bespoke and made to measure focus onto ever more ready to wear; has it wanted to be seen as a tailors or an outfitters? There had been dilution of the house label, for many years Hardy Amies has been sold through the Savoy Tailors Guild and Moss Bros outlets which whilst increasing brand reach could only serve to compromise the status of the firm in the eyes of more precise consumers. That is not to say a clearly defined diffusion line could not have been run, it should have been – rather like the Chester by Chester Barrie range that is stocked in John Lewis.
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The confusion over the Hardy Amies I believe was not helped by Fung Capital’s acquisition of Kilgour. This venerable tailors had been transformed in the early 2000s by Carlo Bradelli gaining further Hollywood custom (to back up the firm’s tradition in supplying film’s leading men) and numerous plaudits with its slick, modern and minimalist inspired aesthetic. Clearly as a brand very focused towards a more high and ultra HNW clientele, there was a differing price point to Hardy Amies (for example made to measure suits were £1,000 at Hardy Amies and a stiff £2,000 at Kilgour) but there was the inevitable sense one brand would be short changed as otherwise two brands in the same portfolio would be in direct competition with each other. In seeking to retain the allure of Kilgour for bespoke customers, one can conjecture whether the equivalent offering at Hardy Amies was allowed to wither.
Hardy Amies’ expansion into No 8 clearly carried expense and I felt the brand never made as much of their beautiful Georgian home at No 14 as they should have done. Reports indicate the firm’s global retail operation remain unaffected by the insolvency so presumably No 14 will be retained as a worldwide HQ – one just wonders whether a tighter, more curated range sold out of here three years ago might have at least have tightened up on costs.
So what now? We await news of a rescue package and new owner. Under new ownership, Hardy Amies may be able to rise without compromise once more. Nonetheless, I sense as we live in a more casual world whether a twice reborn brand will be able to find its truly specific market niche. Our suggestion, given there are few brands that exploit the full benefits of modern made to measure would be for the house to re-invent itself as a specialist in that tailoring area and price point – establishing a standard and flying the flag for this cost efficient mode of tailoring and allowing a discriminating, professional though not necessarily high earning clientele to wear one of the great 20th Century Savile Row names.