Many of our style icons are actresses, models, singers or socialites who happened to have a wonderful sense of what to wear in order to look absolutely perfect. However, there are a few figures we chose purely because they live and breathe fashion, and this in itself gives them a sartorial identity that is almost impossible to emulate. A few months ago we celebrated Karl Lagerfeld for his inimitable perfection. You know what they say, that behind every great man there is a great woman. It’s now time to pay homage to Karl’s right hand (wo)man and applaud Amanda Harlech for her influence in the industry.
Harlech was born Amanda Grieve in Camden, to a family which nurtured her passions and ideas. Her father was a solicitor and lover of the Arts, and founded the prestigious Jerwood Foundation and her mother, a well-dressed beauty and socialite. Growing up in a beautiful house, surrounded by literature, inspiring music and incredible clothes, she soon realised that she wanted to have a creative career.
After studying English at Oxford, she had learned how to do two things very well: write and wear clothes. Her passion at the time was Henry James, and there was a brief moment where she was tempted to go into academia. However, the fashion/editorial industry beckoned and she worked her way up to become a fashion editor at Harper’s and Queen, while freelancing for the iconic magazines of the decade, i-D and The Face.
During this time she met John Galliano, and immediately recognised his genius. The two became inseparable and they worked together, her as a creative consultant before that role was the norm within big brands, to create some of his most iconic collections. These years were filled with fun and fashion storytelling, and certainly gave Harlech the name and fame to go with her talent. However, her marriage to the wealthy Francis Ormsby-Gore, 6th Baron Harlech was starting to strain, and when divorce became inevitable, she realised that working on little-to-no pay for Galliano was not an option anymore. Luckily, that was around 1996, when he joined Dior, so she was quickly swept up by the current man in her life, Karl Lagerfeld, to work on his brands, Chanel and Fendi.
Famously quoted by Karl as being his ‘outside eyes’, Harlech spends most of her time living in a room in The Ritz, Paris, opposite the Chanel headquarters. It’s rather romantic that Coco Chanel herself used to do exactly the same thing. She works long hours, sometimes all night, to try and perfect Lagerfeld’s visions, and can occasionally return to her beautiful estate in Shropshire to work on her personal projects.
This year, her first novel, a crime thriller called Blame, should be published, but that won’t be her first dalliance with the literary world, having created a fairy tail style story in surrounding the Chanel brand in 2008, called Visions and a Decision, which contains illustrations and photographs from Lagerfeld.
It’s going to be pretty tough to put together a look which encompasses Harlech’s breathtakingly brave style, but there are certain rules you can go by. Firstly, she is a fan of the all-black look. Secondly, if you’ve got a bit of Chanel in there, you can’t go wrong. Third, it’s all about having a statement shape. Finally, if in doubt, go for blindingly beautiful jewellery. For someone who has been voted as one of the best dressed people of all time, this is a sophisticated and solid formula for success.
1. Alexander McQueen, Silk and Chiffon Top; £625, motilo.com
2. Nina Ricci, Ruffled Lace Gown; £4,288, motilo.com
3. Burberry Prorsum, Cropped Leather Biker Jacket; £1,595, motilo.com
4. Maison Michel, Virginie Studded Fedora; £465, motilo.com
5. Chanel Vintage, Quilted CC-clasp Bag; £3,250, motilo.com
6. Sharon Khazzam, Grey Diamond Slice Valencia Earrings; £25,955, motilo.com
7. Viktor & Rolf, Peplum Blazer; £1019, motilo.com
8. Repossi, Maure 18-karat Black Gold-washed Ring; £3,202, motilo.com
9. Gucci, Victoria Equestrian Flat Crocodile Riding Boot; £12,510
10. Susan Caplan Vintage, Chanel ‘80s Necklace; £995, motilo.com
- Styled by Rebecca Corbin-Murray