FOR MANY GREAT MINDS, INQUISITIVELY SHARP OBJECTION SKILLS AND A VERSED FORESIGHT IS A CREATIVE FEAT THAT REACHES WELL BEYOND PERSPECTIVE. LADY AMANDA HARLECH DOUBLES UNDER THIS GUISE AS KARL LAGERFELD’S EXTERNAL EYES AND THE MULTI-DIRECTIONAL TASKFORCE FOR THE HOUSE OF FENDI AND CHANEL.
Working title foremost, Consultant and Creative Director lead her credentials inclusively beyond a professional frame as the confidant to Karl Lagerfeld and formerly to John Galliano. Making phrases from the story fragments she is given is the more accurately cut role from her vibrant personal allegiance. Under the facade of Chanel and Fendi as her crux, she engages a multitude of creative minds in and about her day to day wanderings. She recently collaborated with photographer Nick Knight, who himself has featured Lady Harlech in her multifarious presence on his artistic platform SHOWstudio. At Chanel a single day for her is strewn with accessorizing an upcoming show, researching the Chanel archive for an exhibition of Karl’s work with Fendi, show site visits around Paris and back to Hotel Le Meurice to hang with her daughter Tallulah.
She sees a pinstripe chalked up against a wall that crumbles in an ultimate unravelling of emotion with every suited detail. Provoking and questioning, it is the tandem through which she works to vamp her collaborator’s design ideas with a narrative. Finding stories in the cloth is exactly how she met John Galliano in 1984. She was a Junior Fashion Editor at Harper’s Bazaar and Queen, he was a fresh Central Saint Martin’s design graduate. She was on an arduous search to style a 17th century shoot with clothes that carried conviction which, strewn through the grapevine, led her to her match. Word of Galliano’s New Romantic Les Incroyables collection circulated and the riffs and stains that dripped form his work was enigmatically the cloth that she had dreamt of. Their first meeting over tea lasted several hours of talking and sharing sketches and visions through emotion and history, a precursor to the twelve year collaborative engagement and a furiously creative time. Their process from inception to production was fully intertwined in a symbiotic web.
Black Taffeta Stories
In her words, writing is a medium through which she fills the gap between where she is and where she wants to be. It was the turning point during her studies in Writing English at Oxford which built an arch to tell the stories through cloth. She will tie a lace ribbon over her eyes and drape herself in chiffon when recounting the stories of her collaborative work and she feels couture like the language of literature. She freelanced for publications that forged the youth fashion cult of the 80s and like her own stories, the safety pins that she used to style her grunge enamored French Revolution shoot played a parallel to her transition from John Galliano to Karl Lagerfeld. Her personal life encountered a riff in her marriage after which the divorce from her husband at the time, Francis David Ormsby-Gore, 6th Baron Harlech, Lady Amanda Harlech’s relationship with John Galliano revoked as well, a result of his move to Dior in 1996. The transition period gave way to an offer with Chanel and Fendi from her longstanding friend Karl Lagerfeld.
The emotive affinity that she forged with Galliano during their years together was one that saturated the clothing from the ground up and could not be directly transcribed to the already established entity build by Karl for the house of Chanel. She did have to work hard to earn the trust of les petits mains at the house’s atelier. Her time is primarily split between two homes; a permanent suite at the Paris Ritz, across the street from Chanel’s headquarters and her house in the countryside of Shropshire England. The latter is where she expels her creative prowess through the happy exhaustion of being in the stables with her horses all day. Her countryside house is dressed in racks of couture and designer ready to wear on equal par with Paris and her third home-split, Rome when working with Fendi. The difference here is the rustic déplisser with which the clothes are spread with an easy air that grants her room to get back to her writing. It is a place that infuses her senses like the vibrancy of the ramshackle farmhouse that she spent her summers in Spain as a child. No electricity or running water proved to be a fantastically wild time that fired her senses in every which way.
The written word has not wandered far and she has carved out the texts for two photography books: ‘Shot in Sicliy’ by Michael Roberts and ‘Palazzo’ by Karl Lagerfeld, a short story to accompany his black and white images which were born from a campaign shoot for Fendi in Rome. The models where booked for three days and the campaign images where captured within the first, leaving Karl and Amanda room for which to imagine a theatrical narrative of an unabashed Roman romance. This synthesis is very much in line with her mode of working with Karl which sways and jumps between shows, researching for Chanel’s Salzburg collection to overseeing every staging with a scrupulous eye from the balcony above. Backstage at the Chanel 2015-16 cruise collection show in Seoul, she speaks about the ground setting decision for Chanel’s entry into the South Korean market as a business move which Karl has been thinking about for the last year and half. Far ahead of herself, yet meticulously timed given the utmost demand called upon her from the roof under which she navigates, it’s clear to see hers and Karl’s complementary affinity as she speaks aloud the stories that protract her hawk eyes and in her own words, his jet fighter instinct.
Dressed often in black, her dark wit and vivid illustrious style of speaking weans its way through her every sentence. Speaking about Fendi’s Fall Winter 2014 collection, “That feeling of an electric shock running through water rips through the whole of the collection in electrifying orange and fuchsia, right through to the end.”
Karl Lagerfeld calls her ‘his eyes outside of Paris,’ and she is to him an advisor whose opinion he trusts as much as his own. As a consultant, creative director, she is a storyteller who finds the words, details and questions which engage and give meaning to her collaborator’s visions.
Lady Amanda Harlech together with Karl Lagerfeld
Having grown up surrounded by a nest of writers, she embarks in literature and studies Writing English at Oxford University.
She leaves Oxford and begins working as Junior Fashion Editor for Harper’s Bazaar and Queen alongside freelancing at youth culture magazines like i-D and The Face.
She meets John Galliano with a friend’s referral while looking for the clothes to style a 17thCentury shoot. A fresh Central Saint Martin’s graduate, Galliano’s Les Incroyables themed collection hits the mark. The two meet for tea and so begins their twelve year collaborative design high throughout which they conceptualised endlessly imaginative collections named: Fallen Angels, Blanche du Bois, Lucid Game.
Galliano and Harlech design the outfit and prop, a giant paper collage fan, for the album cover of Malcom McLaren’s ‘Madame Butterfly’.
She marries Francis Ornsby-Gore, 6th Baron Harlech and with that title becomes known as Lady Amanda Harlech. She gives birth to her first son, Jasset, in the same year. Her daughter Tallulah is born two years later.
In a changing of hands when John Galliano was picked up to design for the house of Dior, she joins Karl Lagerfeld in a new collaborative challenge for Chanel and Fendi.
She contributes the text to Karl Lagerfeld’s Roman photobook Palazzo and Michael Roberts’ book Shot in Sicily.
She appears in the British TV series British Style Genius as herself alongside her fashion friends like Vivienne Westwood, Anna Wintour, Twiggy, John Galliano and Kate Moss.
Along with her long-time collaborator Nick Knight, she creates a ten part installation tracing the ‘flashpoints’ throughout which her fashion journey led her to John Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld. The work is titled Maps of Tenderness for Knight’s SHOWstudio artistic platform and she presents her project at the Edinburg International Fashion Festival.
She publishes her first fiction novel titled Blame, which she spent much of her time writing in her countryside home in Shropshire, England. In the same year she wins The Isabella Blow Award for Fashion Creator during the British Fashion Awards.
Lady Harley collaborates with Knick Night and Alexander Fury to create a live haute couture film based on the veiling, wrapping and unwrapping of the body to make marks on a page. Later this year she is responsible for show research of Chanel’s momentous Paris-Salzburg collection and stars in Karl Lagerfeld’s fashion film ‘Reincarnation’ as part of his Métiers d’art collection in Salzburg, Austria.
As a special edition of Vogue Germany, she curates a Karl Lagerfeld exhibition titled Karl Lagerfeld Modemethode, which is presented at the Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn. The exhibition documents the great mind’s work through Chanel, Fendi, Chloé, Karl Lagerfeld since 1955.
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