Though Clare Waight Keller has long been a famous and well-respected designer in fashion circles, yesterday’s announcement that the new creative director of Givenchy had designed the wedding dress of Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex, for her marriage to Prince Harry of Wales, now Duke of Sussex, catapulted her on the World’s stage. Seven years ago, when it was announced that Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen, had made Kate Middleton’s ode to lace, she achieved universal name-recognition, and even now, after all this time, “she designed Catherine Middleton’s wedding dress for her wedding to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in April 2011” is the second sentence of her Wikipedia bio.
Waight Keller previously worked at Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein as a stylist before joining Gucci (under Tom Ford) as director of accessories. Following her stint at Gucci, she was made the artistic director of Pringle of Scotland, a truly iconic British brand, where she brought an edgy look to the knit brand. She then worked as artistic director of Chloe, which with now iconic handbag designs, she brought to a higher tier of French fashion. I bought my first Chloe bag, a cobalt colored Drew bag, after reading her “list” interview in the Harper’s Bazaar January 2015 issue. One thing came across very clearly: she, like Meghan Markle, is an international woman.
Born and raised in England, she now splits her time between Paris, where she works, and the UK, but she visits California fairly frequently. She has not completely assimilated to French culture, sometimes feeding her children “peanut butter sandwiches” and other times “pain-au-chocolat or a baguette with Nutella.” She eats at 1:00 PM, which is when all French people eat lunch, but she plays tennis every Saturday morning, a very English practice, not to mention that she loves to surf. She hasn’t eaten red meat in more than 25 years, another somewhat American practice. And she eats a lot of vegetable and farrow based foods, which to me seems like a Californian practice, but she never drinks coffee and always drinks tea, the epitome of Britishness.
To me, she seems to bring her different cultural practices to her designs too. While at Chloe, she used a lot of romantic, flowy silk and chiffon pieces, which scream California but also brought in some French staples like leather mini skirts and structural coats. Her collections represented the initial goal of Chloe, “luxury pret-a-porter.” In a November 2016 interview with Numero magazine, she talked about navigating the would-be cliché result of remaining steadfast to Chloe’s Bohemian 70s look. She understands how to embed the mood of the company, the free spirit, the stylish comfort, into creative and thoughtful looks.
When she began at Givenchy earlier this year, she brought a lot of her international sensibilities but once again stayed true to the Givenchy brand with darker colors and edgier silhouettes. Meghan Markle is herself modern, but not severe, just like Givenchy under Wright Keller. Moreover, she is known for her international style, wearing a combination of Canadian, American, and English designers.
Together, the two women made a great pair in creating HRH the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding dress, which reminded my friends and I a great deal of the style of Audrey Hepburn, who, like the two women, was known for her international style and manner. It had sharper, more modern lines, then previous royal wedding gowns but was not angular. The boat neckline showed a bit more skin than we’re used to, but, like royal tradition dictates, she wore long sleeves. It was tight to her body, but not figure hugging, which shows a more American bridal style. My favorite part of the look was the veil, which features the flower of all 53 commonwealth nations as well as the golden poppy, the flower of California. If that doesn’t scream international, I don’t know what does, and there is no better choice than Waight Keller to create the symbol commencing the new life of this very international princess.