The nation’s newest style icon has the power to crash websites, sell out entire lines and force retailers to revive old styles, not to mention raising the global profile of British design.
This year has been the stuff of fairy tales. If only those LK Bennett wedges were glass slippers, the magic would be complete. Just when the fashion industry needed it most, the lovely Kate Middleton – now Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge – gave brands and retailers a shot in the arm, not only by being the perfect clothes horse, but also as a champion of British fashion.
Little did we know when Prince William announced his engagement to his university sweetheart in November 2010, that Kate (we can’t get to grips with the Duchess thing at Drapers; she’s Princess Kate to us) would exhibit the style credentials and product choices to propel her into the fashion limelight.
Such is her power over what women choose to wear that Kate has glided her way to the top of Drapers’ Power List. The bottom line is, when Kate steps out, her outfits sell.
An accessible style
The beauty of it is that she chooses outfits that are currently in stores or can be used as in-season inspiration for brands and retailers.
Kate’s love of the high street – Reiss, Whistles and Zara are some of her favourites – has caused websites to crash, tills to ring until items have sold out and season-old pieces to be repeated. Her Issa London engagement dress created waiting lists at luxury department stores and led mainstream womenswear retailers to turn around cheaper versions quicker than you could say “I do”.
The key to Kate’s influence on high street sales is that her style is accessible. You don’t see her in outlandish pieces; the other Kate (Moss) and plenty of celebrities already do that. What’s great about this Kate is that we can actually look like her (provided we lose a few pounds and develop amazing hair). Who doesn’t want to look like a princess?
Not that Kate is all about the high street. Her clever choice to wear British designer stalwarts Alexander McQueen, Erdem, Amanda Wakeley and Jenny Packham has given her the sort of genuine style kudos that other female stars can only dream of and helped elevate British labels to a global level.
And then there was that dress. Speculation was rife over who would get to design the wedding dress of the decade and not until the day itself did we know for sure that it was Alexander McQueen creative director Sarah Burton. To choose McQueen was the best fashion decision Kate ever made, confirming her cool status among the fashion elite.
It was at the wedding that Brand Middleton took off; Kate’s power fanned out to her female family members – and so did fashion sales. For many – the men at least – Kate’s sister and bridesmaid Pippa stole the show, as they became transfixed with the nation’s peachiest bottom. Debenhams seized upon the publicity by launching its own affordable Pippa-themed dress range while John Lewis had its highest occasionwear sales for four years in the week to May 7 as a result of the “Pippa effect”.
With everyone asking when the royal couple will start a family, pound signs will be flashing for the industry: just think of those maternity and kidswear lines.