The Hardy Amies influence
Hardy Amies first gained recognition in the fashion business designing women’s clothes. He started training in the 1930s before starting his own business in 1945 and being appointed Dressmaker to H.M. Queen Elizabeth. He was eventually appointed as Design Consultant to the Men’s Division of Clarks in 1962, collaborating with Hugh Brooking Clark. Hugh believed that Clarks’ men’s division would benefit development and expansion. This involved making the men’s ranges more attractive and saleable, which was to be achieved using Amies’ name, and his knowledge about men’s fit and style.
Amies’ advice to Clarks was: “The Men’s clothing trade has gone into the fashion business, and is up to the neck in it whether you like it or not.” The design features he used for his range of shoes included hidden elastic sides, higher fronts and chisel toes, and what was produced was a variation of the Chelsea boot – this 1964 boot called ‘Savarin’ being a particular example of the eventual outcome of the collaboration.
In the same year Amies was appointed as design consultant for Clarks men’s division, his latest collection of men’s clothes were put on show along with Clarks shoes at the Savoy Hotel in London. They gained further recognition when members of the crew of the yacht ‘Sovereign’, (who were competing in the America’s Cup) were seen wearing Clarks shoes designed by Hardy Amies at London Airport.
The consultancy arrangement with Hardy Amies was ultimately unsuccessful. The costs brought on by raising the profile of the Amies collection could not be recovered by the number of shoes sold through Clarks outlets. Additionally, the Amies product had a style appeal better suited to high street outlets and it was not well received by traditional customers.