Imagine the pandemonium that ensues when Catherine Middleton, the newly minted Duchess of Cambridge, steps out in one of your designs. The phone begins ringing non-stop and reorders roll in at warp speed. And that’s just in the first five minutes. Just ask Andrea Lenczner and Christie Smythe, designers of the ubiquitous navy blue Smythe blazer that Middleton wore throughout her Canadian tour de force this summer. “We are happy to be recutting the Kate blazer [next season],” is all they will coyly offer, not wanting to jinx their fashion luck. Holt Renfrew gives a more overt testament to the Middleton sales machine—it can’t keep the jackets in stock, selling a record 66 (at $550 apiece) in one week alone. Meanwhile, over at the Bay’s The Room, the Erdem sapphire sheath she wore is already spoken for before even arriving in store, says creative director Nicholas Mellamphy. “I would say that the dress will never make it on the floor!” he says. Type “Middleton” in eBay’s search engine and countless get-the-look fashion buys pop up next to a ticking clock. Truly a Duchess for our digital age, Middleton is the world’s first princess for whom one can shop (or pre-order) the look online instantaneously.
This get-it-or-you’ll-miss-it sense of style urgency has caused everything the Duchess of Cambridge wears—even if it’s something as simple as conservative beige L.K. Bennett pumps—to sell out faster than you can say “royally smitten.” She even makes designs by the dramatic Alexander McQueen (once a niche label for provocateurs) seem wholly wearable, not to mention appropriately regal. No fashion risk-taker, Middleton always favours convention over brazenness. Despite this safe factor, fashion’s elite respect her considerate choices and consistent styling. “I think she’s going to continue to evolve,” says supporter Daphne Guinness, muse to the late McQueen, who thinks nothing of surrealist haute couture as daywear. “She’s a fantastically humble and nice person. I think she’ll make the McQueen style softer and more fun.”
While, in her day, Lady Diana’s style was also feverishly followed, her custom Catherine Walker dresses and Dior quilted bags were hardly accessible to her legions of fans. But Middleton’s print Zara shifts and flattering Reiss frocks are wallet-friendly basics—unheard of for a royal fashion plate. The enamoured public has come to love her signature mix of high-street steals peppered with designer picks from Roksanda Ilincic, Roland Mouret and Temperley London. The overall effect is approachable, refined and right for the times. Risk-takers may bemoan Middleton’s style as boring, but sales figures (and retailer squeals of delight) speak for themselves: Customers want what she’s got—Prince Charming included.