Royal dressmaker hangs by a thread

Not even the previous endorsement of the Queen has been enough to save Hardy Amies from administration...

by
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

Hardy Amies, the Savile Row tailor that made frocks for the Queen for nearly 50 years, said today that it was calling in the administrators after failing to secure the finance it needs to stay afloat. Icelandic backer Arev, which owns just under half of the business, has apparently refused to provide any more funds to ease its cash-flow problems – clearly deciding that after injecting £1.5m in the last six months, it’s time to stop throwing good money after bad – and no other offers have been forthcoming. So it looks like the venerable British brand may be going out of fashion once and for all...

The news is hardly a surprise: Hardy Amies has been leaking money for years. Founder Sir Edwin Hardy Amies started his tailoring business in 1946, receiving the Royal Warrant to design for the Queen in 1952, and enjoying his heyday in the 1960s when he made the costumes for the Kubrick film ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (and even kitted out the 1966 England World Cup winning squad in their natty lounge suits). But the business seems to have lost its way since, particularly after the founder’s death in 2003. Last year it chalked up a £1.1m loss, following a £1.8m loss the year before – and it had already warned of widening losses this year and next.

To some extent it’s been a victim of circumstances. It’s by no means the first casualty of the recent carnage in the high street, with many bigger names also suffering from the slowdown in consumer spending (take European clothing giant H&M, whose third quarter profits came in well below expectations this week). The provenance of its current backer can’t have helped either: the Icelandic financial system is in chaos at the moment, forcing the government to nationalise Glitnir bank on Monday, so it’s likely that Arev is keen to play it safe. And now’s not a great time to be seeking an alternative investor...

However, it looks as though most of Hardy Amies’ problems were self-inflicted. Designers have been lining up today to denounce the ‘mumsy’ style of its recent clothing lines, suggesting that it had completely lost touch with its target audience. In fact, chairman Andrew Manders basically admitted as much back in June, saying that poor sales of its womenswear were ‘caused largely by poor product’.

This is not necessarily the end of the road for Hardy Amies – the tailor claims it has received several expressions of interest since calling in the administrators, so its six UK stores could live to fight another day. But unless it overhauls its offering, any stay of execution will be short-lived. Good job the Queen goes elsewhere for her suits these days...


In today's bulletin:
PM bets the House on HBOS rescue
Editor's blog: What Moral Hazard?
Royal dressmaker hangs by a thread
How to keep it in the family
Busted bankers fall back on charity

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