And the bride wore a classic minimal dress with a covered shoulder, long sleeves and gently waisted silhouette. Designed by Clare Waight Keller, the revelation of the gown on Saturday morning ended months of fevered speculation with a pleasant surprise.
The British-born 47 year old, became the first female designer to head the French house of Givenchy last September. But as creative director of the LVMH-owned French luxury house, her name had been pointedly absent from speculation surrounding the wedding trousseau.
She is a canny choice. Born in Birmingham, the softly-spoken Ms Waight Keller, who has never courted publicity or press attention, trained at the Royal College of Art in London, and completed stints at Calvin Klein and Gucci, before being made artistic director of Chloé, in 2011, when she moved to Paris.
She joined Givenchy in 2017, shortly before the death of the house’s founder Hubert de Givenchy in March, and has used her first collections to essay the same clean rigour and elegance that made the house a popular choice for style icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onassis.
“We wanted to create a timeless piece that would emphasise the iconic codes of Givenchy throughout its history, as well as convey modernity through sleek lines and sharp cuts,” Ms Waight Keller said. “In contrast, the delicate floral beauty of the veil was a vision Meghan and I shared, a special gesture embracing the commonwealth flora, ascending the circumference of the silk tulle.”
One wonders whether the choice to wear a designer who melds a British artistic sensibility with a French house fabled for its classic silhouettes and minimal allure could mark the announcement of globally focused, pro-European tastes within the house of Windsor? It probably does. At least when it comes to clothes.
Givenchy, whose revenues are buried within the LVMH annual statements among the “other brands” section, could be described as moderately sized house. Certainly, it’s not in the league of Gucci or Louis Vuitton. Givenchy’s predominant business is ready-to-wear, although Ms Waight Keller revived its couture atelier, in January, with a bravura collection of simple white dresses.
Her work has already become popular for women looking to capture a cool sophistication without looking overwhelmed: her work was much in evidence on the red carpet this week at Cannes where Cate Blanchett opted to wear one of couture designs.
Nevertheless, the commercial value of owning such a vast public audience cannot be underestimated. In 2011, when the house of Alexander McQueen provided the dress for the Duchess of Cambridge, the company reported a 20 per cent bump in sales.
Meghan Markle’s patronage of a label is already believed to give brands an even greater bounce. When Markle wore a Strathberry handbag on a trip to Edinburgh in February, the British company estimated overall sales would increase by up to 20 per cent in 2018 as a result. Likewise, Hiut jeans, a high-end denim company co-owned by Welshman David Hieatt in Cardigan, now has a back-order waiting list of three months for its “Dina” jeans owing to the Markle sparkle. “The effect has been remarkable” said Mr Hieatt.
Times have changed considerably since Elizabeth and David Emanuel dressed Diana, Princess of Wales in one of their own atelier designs. The couple, just recently graduated from college, were given no instruction or brief as to how to dress a royal wedding, and their names were known as the designers more than three months before the event.
“We didn’t really have the infrastructure to cope with the demand, after the wedding,” recalls Elizabeth of the attention. “And we didn’t have a huge business on which to build so the benefits were a mixed blessing.”
By contrast, the wedding dress worn by Meghan Markle to the ceremony in Windsor on Saturday, remained a closely guarded secret: the subject of feverish debate, but absolutely no evidence. There will be absolutely no issue in keeping up with public inquiries this time around.
Prince Harry wore a frock coat of the Blues and Royals, a less formal uniform choice than he might and one which set the tone of polite informality throughout the service.
At times, the wedding recalled more of a red-carpet event than a date with the establishment, as starry guests such as Amal and George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey and Serena Williams eclipsed the typical list of dignitaries and diplomats more commonly associated with royal events. The looks were bright and relaxed in attitude. Amal Clooney wore buttercup yellow by Stella McCartney, Oprah Winfrey also choose a dress made the British designer. Serena Williams wore figure-hugging Versace.
Florals, flutters and brightly-coloured fascinators dominated the women’s looks. The invites specified “hats”, but the majority of female guests chose feathery headgear in sculptural designs.
Men, who were given three dress codes for the day — uniform, morning or lounge suits, opted in the main for lounge suits. And there were scant few top hats in evidence.
In an audience consisting of charity workers, campaigners, friends and acquaintances among the royal party, the event was a celebration of diversity in both design and deportment. It looked collected, contemporary — and extremely chic.
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