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Amanda Harlech, the muse of John Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld

A real Lady who helped shaping the history of fashion

Amanda Harlech, the muse of John Galliano and Karl Lagerfeld A real Lady who helped shaping the history of fashion

She could have been a dancer, a pianist or an artist. Instead, she married a lord and became the inspiring muse of two of the most important designers in the world. Amanda Harlech has always lived behind the scenes. Listening, suggesting, guiding. She worked for Givenchy, Chanel, Fendi. First alongside John Galliano, then, for over 20 years, with Karl Lagerfeld. Effortlessly chic, beautiful, elegant, she is often on the Best Dressed list. Here's everything you need to know about Lady Amanda Harlech.

 

She's a real Lady

Her title of Lady is real. She got it in 1986 after marrying Francis Ormsby-Gore, sixth Baron of Harlech. Before that moment she was simply Amanda Jane Grieve. Born in 1959, the daughter of a successful lawyer and a very elegant mother, she grew up in London's luxurious Regent's Park district with two brothers. Her childhood was filled with art and beauty. She studied painting, music, dance, horse riding and spent her days playing with dolls with the designer Jasper Conran or listening to her parents converse with their neighbours, artists such as Alan Bennett, George Melly and Jonathan Miller. Once graduated, she started attending an English Literature course at Oxford (she loves Henry James), but never finished it.

 

The start of her career as a fashion editor

She planned to go to Oxford and study English for a PhD on "Henry James and moral corruption", but instead she accepted Sophie Hicks's job offer and went to Harpers & Queen. When her friend moved to Vogue, Amanda took over her position as a junior fashion editor and started working with designers and photographers, such as Mario Testino. About that time she remembers:

We'd shoot these things that were like fairy tales, really. But I was a difficult, tricky, over-idealistic editor who would dig her heels in and refuse to do things because they were too much like advertising, so at the point where I think they were going to fire me, I met John [Galliano].

That was when her life changed forever.

 

The love at first sight with John Galliano

Between Amanda and John, it was love at first sight. When she, who at the time was the junior fashion editor of Harpers & Queen magazine, saw the creations of Galliano, who had just graduated from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, she immediately realized his great talent. She left journalism and started working with the designer.

I met John…he was the visual response to everything I could have imagined. - Said the Lady - He did shows which were stories and adventures, so I went with him.

More than just a simple muse, Harlech worked with Galliano every step of the way, from sketches to set-dressing. Their relationship was symbiotic. In the 80s they lived side by side: people still remember them having breakfast at London's Copper Kettle and Amanda dressed as a Dutch farmer in a Bruegel painting. For the whole of the following decade, their talks turned into unique creations and unforgettable shows. Then when the designer left Givenchy for Dior, they split. Harlech left him and became Karl Lagerfeld's muse.

 

The collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld

Amanda Harlech met Karl Lagerfeld for the first time in 1996 during a party at his house in Rue de l'Université. She had been invited as a friend of John Galliano with whom she had been working for ten years. In that period the British designer was about to leave Givenchy to become Dior's creative director, but the fashion house refused to hire Amanda as well. Lagerfeld, aware of the situation, offered her a contract when he saw her again at a dinner for Elton John's birthday party. On Anna Wintour's advice, she said yes. Immediately Harlech realized that working for Lagerfeld was very different from working for Galliano. Together she and John had started from scratch, their relationship was almost like a brotherhood and part of her work was to strengthen the designer's self-confidence. With Kaiser Karl, it was a completely different experience.

It was very different and I felt very isolated to begin with. At first take, I felt Chanel was incredibly ritualized, like a court, where everybody had their roles. We all curtsied and kissed at the same time: and if you don't kiss that person, you're considered very rude and you'll have your head chopped off. Now I understand more. Karl is incredibly warm, generous, hysterically funny, very challenging, extraordinarily bright, a maverick genius, never confrontational; it's as vivid in its way as it was with John.

Despite the tough early days, over time their chemistry grew more and more, so much so that the German creative called it his "exterior eyes". One of her colleagues in the Parisian fashion industry commented:

Amanda brings a dose of English to Paris. She comes, she sees, she listens, she looks, she bows, she leaves.

Her role, in fact, was to give direction to Lagerfeld's creative process, helping him to translate it into fashion collections. For over twenty years her main challenge has been keeping up with Karl, always by his side, suggesting ideas, inspiring, mediating, negotiating and creating a pleasant and inspiring atmosphere around King Lagerfeld.

 

The SS94 Prada show 

In 1993 Amanda appeared as a model in Prada SS94 fashion show. The muse of Galliano and Lagerfeld walked on the catwalk alongside Kate Moss, Christy Turlington and Amber Valletta wearing a series of outfits vaguely inspired by the British eccentric Vita Sackville-West. It was an absolutely unforgettable experience, as Lady Harlech said:

I remember the launch pad of excitement at being asked. I remember John Galliano being excited too and wanting to know my "look" for the show and every detail of the backstage. The fittings were easy but the show was very scary. André [Leon Talley] was sitting in the front row next to Anna [Wintour] . . . I tried not to catch his eye . . . but on my second exit as I passed him, I heard his deep Southern, North Carolina [voice] boom out - "Smile, Amanda! Smile!" I think I managed a half-smile. It all zoomed by. I would do it again. I would have loved to have spent more time with Miuccia.

 

A model of British style

In Amanda Harlech's wardrobe there are a lot of black, some rare touches of white and color, many vintage and haute couture pieces, Manolo Blahnik shoes and riding boots. Her essentials are tweed and leather jackets, suits, romantic tulle and lace dresses with a bit of a Miss Havisham vibe. The brands are easy to identify: Chanel, Fendi, Galliano, Prada, but JW Anderson, too.