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Jamie Holloway

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The Kate Middleton Effect: A Fashion PR's View

Posted: 18/07/2011 11:39

I think by now even the staunchest of republicans has realised that when Kate Middleton (aka the Duchess of Cambridge) wears a dress, it sells. And when I say that, I mean it sells and sells, and then crashes the designers' website and sells some more. So it's no surprise that ever since the royal engagement was announced, designers - and therefore fashion PRs - have been clamouring to dress her.

For those not in the know this involves the PR, who represents the designer, approaching the person in question's stylist and loaning clothes to them. The only problem is that Kate doesn't have a stylist. For someone like me this is basically a disaster. (Remember that when in "work mode" we operate on a different plane to everyone else: when the News of the World announced it was closing, our first thought was "will Fabulous still run, and if not will the fashion team stay on? What will happen to the dress we had due to come out in the magazine in three weeks' time?")

This might not sound so unusual, but believe me it really is. Virtually every celebrity has a stylist these days, even the Z-listers, and even those that say they don't usually do. So the Duchess poses quite a problem for us PRs, let me tell you. Unsurprisingly the majority of my clients are desperate to dress her, and we are constantly looking for ways to do this. Rumours abound on a weekly basis that certain people are recommending designers for her, doing her personal shopping or giving her lookbooks to peruse. So far all of these have been unfounded, and it would appear that against all the odds she really is dressing herself. So, as it stands every time she steps out in an Alexander McQueen or Jenny Packham dress it has been her choice and hers alone. Furthermore, it was believed that everything the Duchess was wearing was being bought in store, leaving the world of fashion PR and the loaning of dresses obsolete.

That was until one day recently, known (by me) as "Erdem-gate", where she stepped off the plane in Canada wearing a dress from his resort collection. RESORT COLLECTION, PEOPLE! Resort collections don't hit the stores for months, so it was proof that Kate was actually borrowing some of her wardrobe rather than always buying. This was a glimmer of hope for fashion PRs and young British designers everywhere. And yet there is still no clear way to HRH Middleton to new and exciting brands.

On day 3 or 4 of the Canadian tour Kate stepped out in wearing a designer who was represented by a friend of mine. Bingo. But to my consternation/dismay/frustration my friend was just as surprised as I was. Her google alerts exploded as bloggers and journalists recognised the dress before she had even had time to cobble together a press release. So it would seem that Kate really does buy from store, and she really does it in the most discrete manner (believe me if someone had seen her in store the PR would have known about it, our job description is all-encompassing and includes "private investigator").

Then the unthinkable happened. The Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton, appeared in Canada wearing a pair of jeans from Goldsign, one of the brands I represent. It started with a 9am phone call from the buying team saying they had seen a picture and thought it could be that she was wearing a pair from the current collection. Then a stockist called, they had sold that item a week before to Kate herself in their store on Kings Road. The rest of the day is a blur. By the time I had found a picture and whipped up a press release, the national newspapers were crediting the jeans, and E! News in the US had given them a name-check. By the end of the day 100 pairs had been sold in London alone (bear in mind they are £250 a pair), and Twitter was ablaze. It was without doubt the biggest reaction to a celebrity wearing something I have ever witnessed.

So much has been said about Kate's sartorial choices, by far better-placed voices than my own, but having experienced the "Kate Middleton effect" first-hand I can honestly say it was a phenomenon. I'm sure there are many who aren't that interested in who or what the Duchess is wearing on a day-today basis, but the fact of the matter is that she is the biggest ambassador for British fashion we have had in years. What this one woman chooses to wear has a massive impact on those brands, especially the young British designers who are not necessarily known on a national or global scale. The Royal family have always been ambassadors for British business and commerce, and one of our most exciting industries is fashion. If the Duchess of Cambridge is giving some of our most exciting names in fashion a platform, and generating interest and revenue in the British industry as a whole, well that can only be a good thing.

But Kate, if you're reading this (I mean, why wouldn't she be?), on behalf of all fashion PRs out there: please get a stylist. It would make our jobs a whole lot easier! Of course, if she is looking for suggestions, I know a very good PR-come-huffpost blogger who would be just perfect for the job...