Claire Malcolm explored the many gradations of grey at Florence's Pitti Uomo
Hardy Amies opened the A/W12 season deep inside Florence's first railway station with a kaleidoscopic celebration of the grey flannel suit. Inspired by Hardy Amies' personal links with Hollywood, royalty and heritage, the house's current creative director, Claire Malcolm, revelled and excelled in glamourising the seemingly humble sartorial staple. In her focus of a single colour, 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 the collection. The moment mirrored the Hollywood man of the period with his superhuman silhouette, double breasted and luxurious overcoat. He is a well travelled man who could have walked straight out of a film script and it is the modern incarnation that walked the runway in Florence. Much as the heritage of Hardy Amies has been built on the foundations of the Englishmen's suit, there has always been a hint of international glamour and sense of modernity, Malcolm certainly strives to continue this tradition.
In addition to Hardy himself, one of the main reference points for Malcolm's collection is 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. Describing the theme as 'Deco-Tron', abstract patterns run throughout, from silk shirting and velvet evening jackets to Globetrotter luggage and nickel toecaps on the footwear made in collaboration with Mr Hare.
DD: The collection was an exploration of the subtleties and opportunities afforded by the grey flannel suit but what initially drew you to this sartorial institution?
Claire Malcolm: It was a photograph of Hardy Amies in Berlin from the thirties. I absolutely love Hardy's personal photographs, for me, it was more about him as a man that what he designed at that stage. He embodies that complex British gentleman, an amazing personality, wit and style. I try and capture this for the twenty first century gentleman.
DD: Hardy Amies always had links with Hollywood and there is a definite sense of silver screen glamour here...
Claire Malcolm: Certainly, I watched Busby Berkeley's 'Gold Diggers of 1933'. 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. The film itself is from the depression era and for the film to have so much glamour really appealed and mirrors Hardy perfectly.
DD: There is a perception that the grey flannel suit is somewhat dull especially in light of its connotations of office wear but the collection itself is something of a celebration, an escapism of grey.
Claire Malcolm: Exactly, 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. It is really about tailoring not being a ball and chain.
DD: Finally, how was it show in Florence?
Claire Malcolm: It was a huge honour to be asked and It has been absolutely amazing.