When the Duchess of Cambridge entrusted Alexander McQueen Creative Director Sarah Burton with designing her royal wedding dress in 2011, the commission would prove just the first milestone in what we can assume will be a life-long relationship between the royal and the British fashion house.
Today, less than a month since her own wedding, the new Duchess of Sussex chose to wear a dress by Givenchy, the French fashion house behind her bridal gown, suggesting that she too intends to collaborate with designer Clare Waight Keller again and again.
Arriving at Runcorn station Thursday morning, Meghan disembarked the Queen’s private train wearing a cream-coloured, cape-shouldered sheath dress with a black belt — an ideal complement to the Queen’s neon-green ensemble. It was inspired, Twitter fans think, by a Givenchy look with a similar silhouette that Audrey Hepburn wore in Funny Face in 1957.
McQueen has become the house that Meghan’s sister-in-law Kate turns to for most major occasions. The Duchess of Cambridge has visited the brand’s Clerkenwell HQ countless times, quietly commissioning couture outfits to wear to events ranging from her children’s christenings and her sister’s wedding to every Trooping the Colour and royal garden party in between.
She values Burton’s indefinite discretion (the designer rarely grants interviews) and ability to whip up appropriate yet original outfits with a moment’s notice. Burton knows how to give Kate the polish and poise that are expected of a royal, whilst subtly moving her look on.
It’s everything that Meghan can and will now expect from Waight Keller. In the run-up to her new client’s wedding, ie the commission of her lifetime, Waight Keller reportedly didn’t even tell her husband what she was working on. As Stella McCartney, designer of Meghan’s evening dress, came under fire yesterday for over-sharing about her experience, it remains to be seen whether being ‘disloyal’ really can get you kicked out of the royal’s inner fashion circle.
It is barely a year since Waight Keller, 47, from Birmingham, was appointed at the helm of Givenchy, the Parisian couture house founded in 1952 by Hubert de Givenchy. Yet in that time she has successfully catapulted its historical, polished aesthetic forward for a new generation to appreciate.
For the wedding dress, the Duchess had collaborated closely with Waight Keller, apparently taking time to find the exact silk cady fabric she wanted, and looking at archive Givenchy images with the designer. Their use of Monsieur de Givenchy’s inventive six-seam cut gave them a result which harked back to elegant gowns created in the 1960s. “We wanted to create a timeless piece that would emphasise the iconic codes of Givenchy throughout its history,” Waight Keller said at the time, “as well as convey modernity through sleek lines and sharp cuts.”
With Meghan as her new muse and ambassador it will be exciting to see what Waight Keller does next. Givenchy hasn’t had such an elegant patron since the days when its founder would outfit Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy and Wallis Simpson — indeed, under Riccardo Tisci, Waight Keller’s predecessor, the Kardashians, rather than the British royal family, were Givenchy’s flagship clients.
Today’s caped little white dress will undoubtedly be the first of many more Givenchy-Sussex collaborations to come. If Waight Keller and Meghan keep reaching into the archives, looking back at the most elegant women in history for inspiration, we’ll be watching the making of a new style icon as her story unfolds.