Why Kate Middleton turned to Princess Diana's favourite designer when she wants to turn heads
Published 16/06/2016 | 02:30
Few women can have a diary filled with such a number of diverse engagements as Kate Middleton, otherwise known as the Duchess of Cambridge.
And when you're called upon to watch a traditional Maori presentation in New Zealand one day, and then visit a prison in Woking the next, it can't be easy finding the right outfit.
It's lucky, then, that one couture house has something for every formal occasion you can wave a fascinator at: Catherine Walker. Kate attended Monday's Order of the Garter service at Windsor Castle wearing a red coat dress by the label, which rose to fame in the 1980's as Princess Diana's favourite choice.
It's not the first time we've seen Kate in this outfit - she debuted the punchy ketchup-coloured look back in 2011 - nor the first time she has relied on the Chelsea-based atelier. In May, she wore a bright green belted coat dress by Walker for the Chelsea Flower show, and just last Friday she was pictured at one of the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations in an icy blue embroidered number by the designer.
Walker started selling clothes in 1976, when she used to walk down the King's Road in London holding a basket of her designs. Soon after she set up her first shop on Sydney Street in Chelsea - and it fast became the go-to destination for event dressing for the 1980's Sloane. French-born Walker started working with Diana shortly after she married Prince Charles and went on to design over 1,000 dresses for the princess, including the black gown she was buried in.
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After Diana's divorce, Walker is credited with helping create so-called 'defiant' frocks, such as the black backless dress she wore the night Prince Charles went on national TV to admit his affair. The eponymous designer died in 2010, but today the label continues under her husband Said Cyrus's direction. So what makes the label a royal favourite?
"No one could ever accuse Catherine Walker of making her clients look youthful but impeccable dependability is the signature of this designer - and of the house that bears her name," explains fashion journalist Lisa Armstrong. "The label guarantees a statuesque perfection that looks as good in photographs as it does across a crowded cathedral or state ballroom."
The iconic status Catherine Walker's creations still hold became evident last month when news broke that one of the green sequinned dresses she created for Princess Diana was set to fetch £100,000 at auction.
"It's not true to say her clothes don't date," says Armstrong. "Some of her 1980s designs for Diana are clearly of their time - but they always retain an aura of imposing dignity and their photogenic flawlessness."
So how does it compare when The Duchess of Cambridge steps out wearing one of Catherine Walker's new designers? The label won't be drawn on comparisons, but admit the speed with which keen Kate watchers race to copy her outfits has impacted the business.
"In 1980 if you wanted to know who wore what the answer was on TV or in print, often in expensive magazines," Said Cyrus says. "Nowadays clients in the USA, central Asia and China have looked at our website and ordered using a new service we have started called e-couture."
No doubt after this week they'll all be asking for red.