There has been an enormous amount of speculation around the world as which dress designer will make’s dress for her marriage to .
Of the lists of names that are being produced, few seem to take into consideration the extensive requirements of a formal wedding dress for a ceremony in a cathedral. Whoever designs the dress will need dazzling technical skills, knowledge of Britain’s wonderful textiles, (we’re hoping for Nottingham lace and Lullingstone silk) and an understanding of how to make a dress that can match up to the pomp and ceremony of such a magnificent occasion.
Not only will The Dress be photographed & filmed from every conceivable angle, it must be uncrushable (all that sitting in carriages to and from the ceremony), demure (no cleavage can be visible when shot from above), and needs to make a statement so it won’t disappear in the echoing, beautiful spaces of Westminster Abbey.
As a future ambassador for British fashion, it is thought that Kate will want to forge her own distinctive style. Although some London Fashion Week designer names have been thrown into the ring, over the last twenty years or so, British royal brides have all chosen dresses from either specialist bridal houses or experienced couture designers, who understand exactly how to fulfil such an extraordinary commission.
Many of the designer names being discussed as possible contenders can be discounted immediately. It is likely that the designer’s label will be British and based in Great Britain or Northern Ireland. So no Chanel, Armani or Vera Wang, and no John Galliano for Christian Dior. It is also important that the designer themselves isn’t too famous or controversial – after all the dress is supposed to be the star, not its designer.
Ten Designers who could make Kate Middleton’s wedding dress:
If you ask British fashion editors who they think should design Kate Middleton’s dress, then they usually say Jasper Conran. A former British Designer of the Year, and one of the most commercially successful, through his diffusion ranges for department store Debenhams, Jasper Conran shows his restrained and chic womenswear on the runway at London Fashion Week, and has been making beautiful wedding dresses for nearly thirty years. He has royal wedding experience too: he made the sophisticated and elegant dress that the Queen’s niece Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones wore for her marriage to Daniel Chatto in 1994 at the Church of St Stephen Walbrook in the City of London.
2) Vivienne Westwood
Once the enfant terrible of the British fashion industry, Dame Viv has mellowed with age. Where once her models wore no knickers under micro kilts and wobbled down the catwalk in eight-inch platforms, now her ravishing evening and wedding dresses are just as likely to be worn by pillars of the establishment as they are by rock stars or avant-garde artists.
3) Daniella Helayel of Issa
Previously an under the radar label known mostly for its flattering, slinky silk-jersey dresses, London-based Issa has suddenly become one of the most talked about labels in the world, thanks to the off the rack blue silk dress chosen for her engagement announcement by Kate Middleton. Issa’s Brazilian designer Daniella Helayel is being talked about as the front-runner for the wedding dress, having made bespoke wedding dresses for special clients, but we wonder whether her relaxed, flowing, sexy style is quite formal enough for the wedding of the decade, if not the century.
4) Bruce Oldfield
A treasured darling of the fashion establishment, Mr Oldfield has been designing under his own name since 1975. Raised in a Children’s Home by the charity Dr Barnado’s, he transcended his hard childhood to become one of Diana, Princess of Wales favourite designers, responsible for some of her most iconic outfits. Mr Oldfield does not show at London Fashion Week, and works mainly at couture level from his salons on London’s Beauchamp Place, making dresses for everyone from Rihanna to Joan Collins, as well as being responsible for the wedding outfits for Jemima Khan, and for the Prime Minister’s wife Samantha Cameron.
5) Elizabeth Emmanuel
In 1981 the dress that she and her then partner David Emmanuel designed for Diane, of Princess of Wales’ marriage to Prince Charles was romantic, spectacular and over the top, with its huge puffed sleeves, twenty-five foot train and billowing skirt made from taffeta silk woven on Britain’s Lullingstone silk farm. Since then Elizabeth has been responsible for designing the iconic scarlet Virgin Atlantic uniforms, dressed many celebrities, from Drew Barrymore to Jerry Hall. In 1990 the Emmanuels separated, and Elizabeth has continued to design both for private clients and for commercial collaborations. She has a new line called the Art of Being, which launched in September 2010.
The British fashion press would love to see an upcoming designer, who shows at London Fashion Week, get the job, and the extraordinarily talented Erdem Moralioglu would fit the bill. His romantic, often floral, confections show enormous skill, and his obsession with costume history and beautiful fabrics would produce a truly gorgeous dress. He has dressed some of the world’s most important women from Michelle Obama and Anna Wintour in the US to Sarah Brown and Samantha Cameron in the UK, and is stocked in Britain’s most prestigious fashion stores, including Harvey Nichols and Matches.
7) Stella McCartney
Educated at London fashion school powerhouse Central St Martins College of Art & Design, Stella McCartney made a great success at Parisian label Chloe, before launching her own label in 2001 with backing from fashion giant Gucci Group. She is best known for making desirable clothes that women really want to wear in their everyday lives, but she does have past famous wedding form: She made Madonna’s wedding dress.
Another British designer who dressed Diana, Princess of Wales, Ms Wakeley has also designed for Queen Rania of Jordan, as well as for Kate Winslet and Charlize Theron. Self-taught, she shows her beautiful, pared down and elegant designs on the official schedule at London Fashion Week, although she is known primarily for her eveningwear outside of fashion circles. A bias cut silk satin column is one of the silhouettes most associated with her designs, and she’s become one of Britain’s biggest high-end wedding dress designers.
9) Philippa Lepley
If Kate decided to commission a specialist bridal couturier, then Philippa Lepley is considered a front-runner for the job, with several bookmakers making her the current favourite. Along with several other British wedding dress designers like Caroline Castigliano and Suzanne Neville, she has both the skills and experience to make a dress suitable for a state wedding. She opened her eponymous salon in London’s Fulham Road in 1990, specialising in elegant and simple dresses, using incredibly luxurious fabrics, often with hand beading and embellishments.
10) Roland Mouret
Mr Mouret makes some of the most desirable dresses in the world. With an instinctive understanding of how to flatter and fit a woman’s body, he makes every woman who wears his dresses look sublime. His client list is legendary and, although he only makes couture wedding dresses for a few favoured clients, we hear that they are breath-taking. 2011 will be his big year whatever happens, as he opens his first dedicated salon over the whole six floors of a townhouse on Mayfair’s Carlos Place.
Copyright-free feature by Sasha Wilkins. Sasha Wilkins blogs as LibertyLondonGirl: The thoughts of an English Fashion Editor in Manhattan on life, love, design, food & style.