Kate bestows her fashion favour on an Irish designer
Irish fashion designer Orla Kiely experienced the power of the 'Kate Middleton factor' yesterday.
When the Duchess of Cambridge stepped out in one of her 'Birdie' print dresses at an engagement in Oxford, the £162.50 (€194) garment quickly sold out.
Following the royal seal of approval, Kate's growing army of fashion imitators didn't take long to zone in on the long sleeved jacquard dress.
Online activity was swift and the walnut wool dress from Orla's autumn-winter 2011 collection sold out in sizes 8-14.
Occasionally criticised for dressing 'too old', Kate-watchers yesterday praised the outfit and how the super-slim duchess accessorised the Irish designer's dress with youthful suede ankle boots and opaque tights.
Hailed as the Queen of Print and handbags, Dublin-born Ms Kiely was awarded an OBE last July for services to business and fashion, at which time her company, which she co-owns with her husband Dermott Rowan, was valued at €49m .
The London-based mother of two showcased her new autumn-winter 2012 collection of pinafores and tea dresses at London Fashion Week last Friday.
The retail bounce when Kate wears a designer's clothes cannot be underestimated but Orla remained tight-lipped last night, no doubt wary of infuriating Buckingham Palace who frown on brands milking publicity.
It is 15 years since Ms Kiely started her design business with her husband. She started out making hats but her father cautioned that every woman carried a handbag and she switched tack.
Today Ms Kiely's recognisable prints feature on everything from cars to kitchens, tea caddies to wallpaper. This month there was a global rollout of a clothes collaboration with Japanese giant Uniqlo.
Opening a store in SoHo, New York, last year, the couple still own 100pc of their company.
"It is a unique, iconic look, very recognisable and we resonate with women all over the world,"said Dermott Rowan.
"The whole homewares area is growing very rapidly," said Mr Rowan, who is off to Italy with Orla to work on their new spectacles range with De Rigo.
Mr Rowan also confirmed that the Orla Kiely brand is heading towards footwear.
"I'm waiting for the right person. I've got serious negotiations on."
Kate Middleton's fashionable seal of approval can spark a stampede which is exactly what happened when she wore a Topshop £40 (€47) tunic dress to her 25th birthday.
The Issa, sapphire-blue jersey dress (€499) which Kate chose for the announcement of her engagement sparked a scramble for the real thing while the high street raced to produce their own cheaper copies.
The Joseph 'Vanessa' dress sold out within eight minutes after Kate wore it and Reiss responded to public demand and re-launched their £159 Nanette dress after Kate wore it in her engagement photographs. They reportedly sold at a rate of one per minute online.