Austerity may be looming over Europe but it isn’t affecting fashion, which has embraced an opulent, rather royalist tone of late, evoking 1960s princesses, English aristos and Russian monarchs.
“There are references to royalty everywhere in the forthcoming autumn collections, from flocked jacquards to rich metallic brocades, tiaras and silk gloves,” says Ken Downing, fashion director at Neiman Marcus. “At the same time there is a big presence of traditional tailoring. I think it’s partly the popularity of the Duchess of Cambridge and partly the Queen’s Jubilee.”
Steven Philip, co-founder of London luxury vintage boutique Rellik, agrees. “There’s been a return to that prim, covered-up kind of tailoring, particularly the style that was popular in the 1960s,” he says. “It’s not Mad Men; there’s something more conservative to it, almost like Grace Kelly or Princess Anne in their heyday. We’ve had lots of people buying pieces by royal designer Norman Hartnell.”
Appropriately, earlier this month Chanel staged its cruise collection show in the manicured and waterfall-bedecked garden of Versailles. And autumn collections, set to hit stores shortly after the Queen’s Jubilee next month, feature an abundance of pomp and grandeur. Burberry, Ralph Lauren and L’Wren Scott have created shooting party tweeds and louche Gosford Park evening gowns, with furs and set curls to match. Oscar de la Renta has tiaras, bejewelled Alice bands, metallic jacquard cocktail dresses and ruffled blouses, while Gucci’s “decadents”-inspired silk jacquard breeches were tucked into riding boots and worn with belted jackets and ruffled blouses topped by fur coats at the show. Dolce & Gabbana produced an ode to romantic baroque Sicily with heavy gold embroidery on black velvets, capes, crowns and chandelier earrings – not to be outdone by Aquilano Rimondi’s silk jacquard cocktail dresses and flocked silk circle-cut evening dresses covered in swirls.
The royal focus comes at a time when blue-blooded models are dominating fashion campaigns, hired as much for their social kudos as their looks. Burberry has long worked with upper-crust models including Eton-educated Eddie Redmayne and socialites Poppy Delevingne, Edie Campbell and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. This season Gucci has signed Charlotte Casiraghi – granddaughter of Princess Grace of Monaco – to front its campaign, while Lady Mary Charteris, niece of Daphne Guinness, has modelled for British high street brand Jigsaw.
“It harks back to the days when Stella Tennant and Sophie Dahl were being championed by Isabella Blow,” says Manfred Abraham, of consultancy Interbrand. “Everyone spoke then of how they carried themselves differently, how they added an air of grace to photos – which was linked to their class.” He continues: “Anyone can be a celebrity. Not everyone has access to these inner circles, however, so they lend an air of exclusivity.”
Even the small screen is embracing old-school privilege. Reality TV show Made in Chelsea, featuring McVitie’s heir Jamie Laing and Mackintosh toffee heiress Millie Mackintosh, has developed a cult following in the UK. “People are fascinated with these people who have money to spend like water, and do,” says Jo Elvin, editor of Glamour magazine. “You can’t look away. It’s like wealth porn.”
Young, affluent consumers in the Bric markets, too, are buying into the aesthetic of old world wealth. “Luxury consumers are looking for emotive purchases and this rich embellishment lends that to pieces,” says Neiman Marcus’s Ken Downing.