The Rise and Fall of an Haute Couturier

Norman Hartnell: The Biography, by Michael Pick, reviewed by Adam Solomons

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The autobiography by the Queen’s longtime stylist, Angela Kelly, will likely steal the attention from Michael Pick’s forensic look at the life of the couturier Norman Hartnell, which is a shame, because this is a fascinating study of the life of the man who designed dresses for three queens during a 47-year career at the centre of British haute couture. Pick takes us on the odyssey of Hartnell’s life, from his humble origins as a Streatham publican’s son through to his career highs, such as designing the Queen’s Coronation gown in 1953, and then the decline of his business through misjudgement and poor management. It’s hard not to be moved by the image of Hartnell working past retirement age to pay off debts. A poignant read.

8th March 2020