Wardrobe Staples & Futuristic Travel with Mehmet Ali of Hardy Amies

In his 1954 published almanac ABC to Men’s Fashion, Sir Hardy Amies said that, ‘to attain style in dress, you must look perfectly happy and relaxed in your clothes which must appear part of you rather than a wardrobe you have donned’. Since being appointed as Creative Director of the 1945 founded house, Mehmet Ali’s collections have handsomely followed suit, offering impeccable wardrobe choices that focus on the individual. Taking a call at No.14, Savile Row, the company’s elegant address since its founding year, Ali discusses dressing modern men, 2001:A Space Odyssey and being a pioneer.

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Perhaps we can begin with your current role at Hardy Amies.

I am the Creative Director and have been with Hardy Amies for approaching five years. I joined the company when it was really in its early stages of re-launching. It was a very small company, I think there were only ten, twelve employees at the time. There has been a lot of growth; it’s been amazing. When I came in, I had these plans and ideas; things that I wanted to do for the business. We built it season by season; we’re on our ninth season since I have been there and just started work on the tenth.

What was your experience of joining such a storied brand?

I will say that along the way that’s probably been the main area that needed a lot of attention and a lot of care to ensure that things were done that were not just right for the business but right for the heritage of the house – and implemented at the right time. Timing has been key. We’ve always had the vision for Hardy Amies that it is potentially the key to modern Savile Row as a house. Hardy himself was a pioneer for ready-to-wear menswear; wearable and approachable menswear. That’s really why what he stood for, seems the mindset of today’s society. More than really what any other Savile Row house aspired to achieve. We love our bespoke heritage, and we love the bespoke side of what we currently still do but what this heritage has allowed us is to refocus some of the parts of the history into the modern day and to explain how relevant a historic Savile Row house can be if it is treated in the right way. So we have done that quite carefully, season by season.

Today, are you dressing two Hardy Amies men? One wearing bespoke, the other more casual items?

Our aim has been that this is the same person. That’s an interesting question because I think whenever you’re creating a collection it’s a cycle, collections offer different kinds of products. When you talk to your costumers, you realise there are actually different types of customers who buy from that range. It’s very rare that you have the majority of your custom from a total look. We will have people that come in and only buy the full suiting and formal outerwear, the kind of ‘career driven’ pieces. But I think the majority of people will come in and like to select pieces. Mix and match the look; more of a modern approach. But really, the collections are designed for one person, for various different needs; work, casual, weekend and travel – whatever it may be seasonally.

When you joined Hardy Amies, how did you envision the modern Hardy Amies man?

Well, it was around the time that Mr Porter launched. Personally I felt that there was this movement of this younger and I suppose affluent consumer; someone with money and taste, who wanted all of it in one place. Really, it’s modelled from my own taste to some extend. It was very much the kind of thing I was interested in, that I was seeing – younger, international guys dressing in a certain way. But I wanted to take it one step further and create the real aesthetic surrounding the Hardy Amies man. The first three or four collections were all about pinpointing the perfect modern classic pieces and analyzing; how do we dress? How is this going to change seasonally? How is this going to change over the next few years? What is the importance of a pea coat and technical pieces? The biggest part of the collection and the most significant are the unstructured pieces, which are all about ease of wear, movement and comfort, while still looking sharp and tailored. Those were really modelled a lot on my own experience and life. My own friends and colleagues, but also what you’re seeing out there. Modelled on the realities of a young man’s life and then building it from there.

I assume you mostly wear Hardy Amies?

I usually do, there are some other houses and brands that I love, so I will mix it up. Monday to Friday, when I’m in the studio, I’ll be in Hardy Amies. There’s a piece that I always come back to, the unstructured, single breasted, three patch pocket jacket. Really versatile, great to travel in. And because we do it in quite a few different fabrications; flannels, hop scaks, brushed wools, it does the job perfectly. I have it in a very beautiful, brushed navy flannel and that serves me very well! I am very much a believer that you should live in your clothes, rather than having lots of different pieces.
These are the two elements that have given the collection modernity and youthfulness. The colour and the prints, in addition to the softer more structured pieces, are parts of the things I really believed in. For the prints, we have been quite fortunate [as] we have a great archive. It’s not huge, but there are quite a lot of interesting items from his many decades. It might not be necessarily clothing prints, they might be wallpaper prints, upholstery or fabric. He did a lot of different types of things, he was a very busy man by the sounds of it. We have been able to use those pieces as a starting point to then develop the prints in-house. We have a very talented, young design team. With the knitwear, I work with a really great knitwear designer who I have known for quite a few years now. I am a real lover of knitwear. Outerwear is very important for a man, tailoring is and I would say knitwear is nearly up there.

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The brand has also been part of LC:M for several seasons!

I love LC:M, the work the BFC has done has been amazing. What they have done has been really important for British menswear, not just for the more established houses and the bigger, global brands but for the younger guys as well, people just starting out, to give a platform for their work. It’s great, for example Paul Smith and Agi&Sam; it’s brilliant! A young design troupe that’s really just starting out with some really great ideas and a much more established, stalwart designer kind of guiding them. Being involved with that over the last five, six seasons has been fantastic. We show smaller presentations, which were for me again this journey for Hardy Amies. We wanted to tread lightly because we are a heritage house doing something more modern. For me, it was more important we spend time explaining to the rest of the world what we were planning to do. We wanted to build it each season, culminating in the last two seasons, the show collections. Really use them as a chance to show what a house like us can do. The creativity and the more design lead pieces really are there to complement the foundation of the collections. The shows are there to push the envelope a little bit more.

On the topic of LC:M, can you tell us more about the SS16 collection?

We had a lot of fun with that collection! Like all those collections it was crazy to work on, a lot of hard work for the team. It paid off, so we were all quite happy. I have always loved one particular part of Hardy Amies; the fact that he was the designer on 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. It’s one of my favourite films, a complete classic that totally redefined that genre of cinema. It’s beautiful, very cinematic and it hasn’t aged terribly at all. It’s actually held up since it was made in the 60s. I found it brilliant that Hardy Amies would be working with somebody like Stanley Kubrick on this project and hearing some of the stories how they met and how the project started. I always said that when the time is right I would like to do a collection inspired by this. There was a lot that showed Hardy Amies for pushing the envelope; innovating and pioneering, just from his work on projects like that. It shows that he thought outside the box. I wanted to do justice to that by creating a collection that was inspired by that film but also by the sprit of what it is to be a pioneer, creative and pushing things forward. So the collection was based aesthetically partly on aeronautics and futuristic travel. But, more importantly, the fabrics were very much based on innovation and pioneering. We wanted to make it relevant. Aesthetically there were elements that were a bit more conceptual, with the fabrication we wanted the focus to be on wearability. What are things that are happening within our industry that are really clever ways of doing things? Fabrications, like climate control, breathability and more technical fabrics that can also be used to travel really well.

Mehmet Ali interviewed by Felix Bischof

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