Ethical and sustainable are the biggest buzzwords in fashion at the moment. Here are five brands trying to knit social consciousness with style this spring.
It’s called Ninety Percent because 90% of the profits are shared between charitable causes and the workers who make the clothes. Yes, 90%. The innovative business model is paired with a standout aesthetic: Ben Matthews, merchandise director, spent a decade at Net-A-Porter and an earlier stint at Topshop getting his fashion eye in, so these are exactly the clothes you want to wear now. Instead of the well-meaning but shapeless midlife-wear, think high-waisted trousers with a punchy front zip. The label was founded by Shafiq Hasan, a Bangladeshi businessman whose commitment to a healthy working environment for his 7,000 employees includes healthcare and free childcare. Customers can choose from a range of causes to help, including Children’s Hope, which supports underprivileged families in Dhaka.
The new premium collection from H&M’s Conscious range, made from enviromentally friendly and sustainable materials, is in store from today. The design team took inspiration from the colourful, bohemian aesthetic of Lilla Hyttnas, the riverside cottage that was once the home of Swedish artists Carl and Karin Larsson – a Scandi equivalent of Charleston House in Sussex. Christy Turlington Burns stepped in as model-ambassador for the lookbook. The grand, swirling print and kaftan-proportions of the dress – which is made of Lyocell, a sustainable fabric produced from eucalyptus pulp – makes for something that looks way more expensive than its £119.99 price tag. There’s also a striped collarless shirt, 100% organic cotton, which is a brilliant holiday buy for £59.99, alongside a halterneck ivory gown made from Econyl lace, which is created from recycled fishing nets and other nylon waste products. Don’t miss the jewellery: the sculptural tulip earrings in recycled silver (£39.99) are gorgeous.
“Being naked is the No 1 most sustainable option. Reformation is No 2.” Reformation is the brand that made sustainability sassy. It uses eco-friendly materials, recycles offcuts created during manufacturing and reduces its carbon footprint by manufacturing clothes close to where they are sold. The brand claims its jeans have saved 13.2m litres of water, 39.4 tonnes of CO2 and 11.8 tonnes of waste to date. This summer, a collaboration with plus-size model and body-positivity advocate Ali Tate has produced a chic 17-piece holiday collection available in sizes up to a US 22 (UK 24). Such is the buzz around Reformation that getting your hands on the stuff is tricky: check out resale sites such as Vestiaire Collective. Pre-loved fashion that was sustainable to start with is a win-win.
Just because People Tree is the grande dame of Fairtrade fashion doesn’t make it out of date. For 25 years, it has been at the forefront of making ethical clothes. The sustainable credentials are solid – and this spring’s collection is excellent. Part of an exclusive collaboration with the V&A, the print of this shirt is drawn from an 1883 wallpaper pattern designed by William Morris, reworked in modern colours. A jumpsuit in the same print is £119. See also: the recycled brass jewellery and organic cotton yoga wear.
Re/Done is not a fashion label, it’s a “movement”. Founded in downtown LA by Sean Barron and Jamie Mazur, the upcycled denim company fuses the spirit of vintage denim with the principles of sustainability. Each piece is unique, created from a pre-owned pair of vintage Levis. We love the cargo denim miniskirt, with four pockets (two on the front, two on the back) for ultimate hands-free summer vibes. Jeans get better with age, and Re/Done brings you denim in its prime.
Stella McCartney is a designer, a businesswoman and an environmental activist, but of the three, she says, fashion will always come first. “It has to, you see. Because the only way for me to start the conversation I want to start is by making a product that you want to buy and that you are going to spend your hard-earned money on. If the product is rubbish, then there is no conversation to be had. If I don’t have a successful business, then I’m an environmentalist who happens to be Paul McCartney’s daughter, and that is a conversation which lasts about three seconds. No one is going to come back for more of that chat.”
Last month, McCartney became one of the most powerful independent voices in fashion. She bought out the 50% share of her company that had been owned by the luxury giant Kering to become sole owner, a move she describes as “a crucial patrimonial decision”. An estimate by a Citigroup analyst put the label’s sales at around €260m (£226m) last year, a figure that, when combined with a lucrative Adidas partnership, makes Stella McCartney a significant brand, but still a minnow compared with Kering’s flagship names, Gucci and Saint Laurent. Instead of being a minor Kering label, Stella McCartney is now a proud indie. When you consider that, for a new generation of millennial consumers, the Beatles are receding from pop culture into the history books, the move means that Stella, at 46, has assumed control not only over the destiny of her brand, but over what the name McCartney stands for in the 21st century. “Owning my name changes my mindset,” she says. “It’s about legacy. My grandfather [Lee Eastman]’s motto was ‘staying power’, and I’ve always been about the long-term.”
McCartney is at the V&A in London for the launch of Fashioned from Nature, an exhibition opening on Saturday that tackles the complex relationship between fashion and the natural world. In other words, the very axis McCartney has been obsessing over for two decades. She was an outlier when she launched her cruelty-free, sustainably minded brand in 2001, but has found the centre of gravity shifting in her direction. “When I was younger, just saying you were vegetarian at someone else’s dinner table wasn’t often a pleasant conversation. So I learned early on how to navigate those conversations and I learned early on that there were ways of introducing a different mindset.”
Her own glossy image – in a classic camel sweater and elegant white trousers worn with very high-heeled vegan court shoes she is, as always, lightly tanned and subtly blow-dried – is a world away from what she terms the “crochet your own sweater and carry a hemp handbag” cliche of eco-fashion. She combines a fiery outrage at fashion’s environmental footprint – “1% of clothing is recycled! Only 1%. I mean, what are we doing?” – with a relentless upbeat passion for beautiful clothes.
“I come at fashion with lightness of heart. I shot my last ad campaign in a landfill site for a reason, and to make a point, obviously. But the models looked happy, there was lightness, there was colour. My messaging is not the kind that is going to make you panic or feel rubbish about yourself or not sleep at night, because I don’t think that achieves much.” McCartney and her family – husband Alasdhair Willis and four children Miller, 13, Beckett, 11, Bailey, 10 and Reiley, 7 – live in London but spend weekends in the Worcestershire countryside, where she rides her horses and tends her garden. “Everything comes from nature. I mean, where does colour come from, if not from nature, from the changing of the seasons? Every fabric we use is emulating something from nature. Nature is … oh man, it’s magnificent, isn’t it?”
Many of fashion’s great artists have been obsessed with nature. Christian Dior was a knowledgable gardener who channelled his passion into pieces such as his 1952 Vilmorin dress, hand-embroidered by the house of Rebe with thousands of tiny daisies. Alexander McQueen dressed women in dresses of razor clam shells, headdresses of antlers and shoes modelled on armadillo hooves. But the relationship has a dark side, from the fur trade to the monumental environmental impact of a global fashion industry that expends the Earth’s resources on clothes that are surplus to requirements. A survey of 2,000 British women by Barnardo’s last year found that the average piece of clothing was worn just seven times before being thrown away.
The Stella McCartney pieces chosen for the exhibition reflect the contrasting emotions swirling around clothes and natural beauty. A catwalk outfit from last year features a horse print from the Stubbs painting Horse Frightened by a Lion, referencing the love of the countryside, of animals, and of horses in particular that McCartney inherited from her mother, Linda McCartney, still a constant presence in Stella’s world 20 years after she died. In another display case, the Mylo Falabella Prototype 1 is a handbag created in collaboration with the biotechnology company Bolt Threads, using a groundbreaking alternative to leather made from mycelium, which is the root structure of a mushroom. (“Please don’t call it mushroom leather, will you,” pleads a V&A spokesperson wearily. “Mycelium is completely different from mushroom leather.
From what feminism looks like on the red carpet to how to dress ethically, fashion finds itself in the eye of the moral storm. The primacy of individual choice is the ideology of our age, and what we wear is the most public manifestation of that. It has become fashionable among prominent designers to make a moral stand and renounce fur: Donatella Versace last month joined Gucci and Michael Kors in proclaiming her brand fur-free. McCartney is happy to see this shift, although, from where she stands, it has taken too long. “Fur … it’s so medieval,” she sniffs. A personal ideology that was rooted in animal rights grew into “being mindful of the impact that fashion has on the environment, and became a conversation about this industry being the second most destructive industry that there is. And once you are aware of that, as a lover of nature and of life, you can’t ignore that.”
Fashioned from Nature is the latest in a procession of fashion-related museum shows, with an Azzedine Alaïa retrospective at the Design Museum and the V&A’s take on Frida Kahlo’s wardrobe and image hot on its heels. Central to it, says the curator, Edwina Ehrman, is the need “to get away from the idea that sustainable fashion should look quirky. We need leaders like Stella McCartney, who can tell scientists what the future needs to look like.”
An exhibition is always telling a story about the era it is staged in, as much as about the past. Fashioned from Nature spans a time period from 1600 to the present day, but it is a very different show than it would have been even a decade ago. Awareness has grown exponentially around the environmental impact of the fashion industry, which produces greenhouse gas emissions of 1.2bn tonnes a year, larger than that of international flights and shipping combined. To tackle this, “we need to completely rewire the hierarchies of fashion”, says Ehrman. The mindset by which a dress made up of rare materials imported from far-flung corners of the globe is the first to be put in a museum is finally being challenged.
Those who scoff at the notion that the modern consumer might be made to read a shirt label and be impressed by, say, flax – a sustainable fibre because, when grown in the right climate, it needs no irrigation – should be encouraged by the clean eating movement, argues Ehrman. “The way the modern consumer behaves around food – reading the label, taking pride in knowing about ingredients, wanting to identify as the type of person who is knowledgable and makes informed choices – shows what is possible.” But for this to happen requires us “to reconnect with fabric, and fabric has been forgotten in modern fashion, which is all about surface and decoration. If we feel fabrics again, engage with our clothes on a tactile, sensual level, we might start valuing them sufficiently to be motivated to sew buttons back on, or hems back up.”
The emotional trigger of ethical fashion has long belonged to animal rights. McCartney’s refusal to use leather and fur is the one fact everyone knows about her. Many of the most startling exhibits in Fashioned from Nature are those for which animals have grotesquely suffered: a pair of Brazilian red-legged honeycreeper birds made into earrings, their tiny bodies dangling like pompoms, would have been a prized accessory for a fashionable woman of the late 19th century. A dress made in the 1860s features embroidered “flowers” with the petals made up of about 5,000 iridescent green beetle wings, most of which would have been harvested from live beetles.
But as awareness of animal rights pushes fur towards being a footnote in fashion history, fast fashion has become the focus. The poor record of workers’ rights in the production of fast fashion, its convoluted supply chains, environmentally reckless dye processes and short wardrobe life make cheaply produced garments the villain of the modern fashion piece. The circular economy is the buzz phrase in the industry – McCartney recently partnered with the RealReal, a resale company, to encourage shoppers to keep clothes in circulation by selling them on. But the issue cannot be tackled on a meaningful scale until it engages with the consumer who has neither the budget for designer fashion nor relatives dropping off piles of hand-me-down cashmere.
There is just one high-street garment in Fashioned from Nature, a dress made from recycled ocean plastic from H&M’s Conscious range. McCartney’s elegant ethics are beyond the budget of most people. She says she wishes more people “would save up and buy one thing at Stella McCartney instead of the 20 things they buy from a fast-fashion label”, but I am not convinced that most family budgets work like this. McCartney’s label takes another step upmarket this year with the opening of a new London flagship, on which she has been working “like a bat out of hell”, situated, symbolically, on Bond Street. (Her previous store was just off London’s main luxury drag.)
What’s more, her name has been mentioned as a possible wedding dress designer for Meghan Markle. “I read this morning that you are designing the royal wedding dress,” I say to McCartney as she is preparing to leave. She laughs and raises a sceptical eyebrow. “Oh, you did, did you? You’re hilarious. How many designers have you said that to today?” That’s not a denial then, I point out. “Well, you didn’t actually ask a question.”
Wear it with a heel to stride in one direction, trainers to step out in the other
Whenever I have gone looking for dresses to wear in the daytime in the last year or two, I have found myself choosing between two opposing armfuls.
Piled over the left arm: the daytime TV presenter dress. This is pretty much skintight, but makes itself businesslike by being made of suit-tailoring wool or felted cotton and having sharp angles at the shoulder or an asymmetric hem. In its unadulterated form, it is in a plain, bright colour (best under the cameras), but is also available in monochrome. It claims to be a direct descendent of Roland Mouret’s Galaxy, although this provenance is hazy. It can be sexy in an Ivanka Trump Does Date Night kind of way. Sort of high-class bad taste.
In the opposing pile, the modern floral frock. This is a dress for Instagram, rather than daytime TV. It is long and loose, probably with a floral print on a dark background, and constructed in tiers that get wider towards the bottom, like a Fab lolly. It may bare the shoulders, but conceals your legs and arms. It probably has shoelacey bits which you tie at the neck or wrist or both. It is more me-time than date night. More free-spirited than power dressing. It is basically a nightie you are allowed to wear in the daytime.
But next time I go shopping, I reckon things will be different. A compromise is emerging. The newest shape to hit the catwalks for spring will be in all the shops soon, mark my words, and it looks something like the dress I’m wearing here. The silhouette is fit-and-flare. Some elements are taken from the first genre of dress: crucially, the shape acknowledges the fact that you’re a flesh-and-blood human being rather than an airy wood nymph. But in other ways, the mood is more similar to the second style of dress. The shape at the top is soft and unshowy, without darting or upholstering, which makes it feel relaxed and unarmoured.
This is a dress, then, which you can take in either direction. Go a bit more dressy and add sparkle or an elbow-length sleeve and you’ve got a date-night dress, although hopefully without the Ivanka angle. Make it floral and take it up a size, and you’ve got this summer’s picnic-selfie frock. (The stripe is somewhere in the middle.) Wear it with a heel to stride in one direction, trainers to step out in the other. Choose from a double-breasted blazer as a cover-up, or shoulder-robe a denim jacket. This dress comes in guises to cover all bases. Sometimes a compromise is the best of both worlds.
Like any person, I’m embarrassed by a lot of what I wore in high school. I look back in horror at the low-slung jeans and the layered tees. For what it’s worth, however, I got one thing right: My prom dress. I found it in a vintage store. It was a ’40s cut with a floral pattern on top and a floor-length, cream-colored skirt that hung straight. It was timeless and flattering and I probably should find a reason to re-wear it.
I flashed back to this outfit, and how proud I was of it, after seeing Kay Cannon’s Blockers. The comedy, about a group of parents trying to stop their daughters from losing their virginities on prom night, is hilarious, moving, and unusually smart about the various ways young women approach sex. It’s respectful of the three girls at its center, and that respect is evident in their prom ensembles. The outfits worn by Julie, Kayla, and Sam — played by Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon — are distinctive and cute, reflecting their wearers’ burgeoning senses of style — just like mine, I’d say. In a movie full of butt-chugging and vomit gags, the fashion is taken refreshingly seriously.
With apologies to the costume designer of Pretty in Pink, the most famous movie prom dress is notable for being hideous. In 1986, Molly Ringwald’s Andie ruined a perfectly nice vintage dress with scissors, creating an ill-advised concoction of pink polka dots and inexplicably bare shoulders. Andie’s dress is unintentionally laughable, but other prom scenes aim for the ridiculous, like when Rose McGowan is outed as a murderer wearing an overwrought updo in Jawbreaker. Most school dance fashion on film, though, is disappointingly bland, filled with spaghetti straps and pastels. Carrie White’s slip dress is unimpressive before being covered with blood; Sandy Olsson’s hand jive attire is basic, white ’50s kitsch.
In Blockers the most traditional dress belongs to Julie, who, in many ways, has the most traditional story line. She’s the first to announce that she’s planning to have sex with her long term — for high school, anyway — boyfriend. She envisions rose petals on the bed and a very specific candle burning.
Costume designer Sarah Mae Burton says she assumed the character would consider her formalwear with the same amount of care. Burton — who was eager to do a prom movie — discovered in her research that today’s teens pour over Pinterest in planning their perfect evening. “I put together a mood board that wasn’t necessarily about the dresses in the images but the feeling they evoked and the sort of very romantic, glamorous evening that [Julie] would be preparing herself for,” she tells the Cut.
Julie’s the kind of girl with a Sixteen Candles poster on her wall. And, true to that ideal, her dress — a modification of a Nha Khanh design — has a full tulle skirt. But it’s also a bold red, almost a hint that unlike the heroine of that movie in pale pink, Julie isn’t going to wait around for a boy to whisk her away. She’s going to orchestrate her own destiny.
Kayla’s dress was chosen with that same sense of identity. Kayla’s life up until this moment has been defined by her athletic achievements. “I remember those girls from high school that you were like, Damn, I haven’t seen you wear anything but sweatshorts like ever,” Burton says. That’s Kayla, and her two-piece reflects that. She bares the most skin of any of her friends — to the dismay of her overprotective dad (John Cena) — but at the same time she’s showing off her physical accomplishments.
As Burton notes, the top has a sports bra feel. The material is sparkly and sturdy. It works in conjunction with Kayla’s chill but focused personality. She’s up for trying anything her druggie date has brought along, but she’s also totally in control. While she ultimately decides she’s not ready to have sex, she’s not going to completely deny her own pleasure. Instead, she suggests her dude go down on her. He does.
According to Burton, Sam was the hardest to dress. Of the trio, she has the most nuanced arc: She begins the film closeted, going along with her friends’ sex pact because she doesn’t want to be left out of their shared experience, but over the course of the night embraces her own desires. An early draft of the script noted that she had a crush on Tilda Swinton, so Burton first tried some asymmetrical, Swinton-esque gowns on her. But when Adlon tried on the Self Portrait gown she ended up wearing, her character came into focus. Its Wednesday Addams white collar and Edward Gorey color scheme nod to her interest in fantasy without being overt.
By contrast, Sam’s love interest Angelica (Ramona Young) fully embraces a Lord of the Rings aesthetic, wearing a cloak she designed for Galadriel cosplay. Initially, the script called for Angelica to wear a tuxedo, but Burton demurred: “The more we dug into it it was like, okay, why does the one [already out] gay female character have to be in men’s clothing? Why can’t she be in a beautiful dress?”
The realities of production required Burton to alter the off-the-rack items she found for Julie, Kayla, and Sam. All the skirts were cropped shorter since mobility is key in the hijink-heavy, sometimes messy plot. She also needed to wrestle up multiples, which sometimes meant frankensteining new dresses from pieces with similar fabric. Still, Burton wanted some element of verisimilitude. Kayla’s outfit came from Ellie Wilde, a prom line under bridal retailer Mon Cheri, and extras wore gowns from brands like Sherri Hill and Rachel Allan. The dresses aren’t cheap exactly, but prom is a racket in the real world. (According to a Visa Inc. survey the average cost of prom was $919 in 2014.) “We wanted to make sure that it was something that felt like they would actually have access to,” Burton says. “Perhaps they saved their allowance or their part time job money toward it.” The dresses don’t feel like they were plucked from the runway, but more crucially, they feel like looks the women wearing them would choose. Maybe in real life they wouldn’t fit quite so well, but I’m willing to accept a little movie magic.
Blockers works because it’s on the side of the high schoolers, and the parents are routinely called out for the insecurity that leads them on their mission. The movie never questions whether these girls are capable of making their own decisions about their bodies — when it comes to both sex and clothes.
To some, “What are you wearing to the Kentucky Derby?” is the most important question of the season.
Louisville natives know what you wear to the Kentucky Derby is just as important — if not more so — than the horse you’re betting on at Churchill Downs. Because of this, planning your Kentucky Derby attire can be daunting.
Have no fear! Here’s some help in deciding what to wear (and not to wear).
Hats aren’t mandatory at the Kentucky Derby, but they might as well be. While most women aren’t used to wearing big, sometimes gawky hats, the majority of Derby-goers are sporting some type of head accessory at the track.
The style of hat is up to you, and you’ll see a little of everything at the track. Go for something more elegant than a pool or beach hat, and you can also wear a fascinator, which is basically a hat on a headband.
Hats can be expensive and hard to find, so we suggest swapping hats with friends and family to cut down on costs. Or, make one yourself. Pinterest can be your best friend around Kentucky Derby time. And don’t be afraid to jazz it up. The more unique, the better!
Dress like you’re going to a chic daytime wedding
The Kentucky Derby is a fashion spectacle like no other. Fit in by putting a little effort into your dress. Like you would at a wedding, you’ll see more women in dresses than anything else at Churchill Downs. But you’ll also see jumpsuits and rompers.
Tie in a manicure, a statement necklace and a cute clutch (as long as it fits these dimensions), and you’ll look like the rest of track regulars.
(Pro tip: Try Rent the Runway for a designer dress that you don’t have to spend a month’s rent to purchase. You get the dress (and/or accessories) for four days and have to give it back, but it’s well worth it. Insurance is included, just in case you get stuck in a muddy situation.)
There’s an official dress code in some areas of Churchill Downs, depending on where you’ve snagged tickets.
If you’re a first-timer, make sure you understand the environment of your seats. Are you in the air-conditioned comfort of the Turf Club? On a picnic blanket weathering the elements in the infield? In a covered clubhouse box … or an uncovered one? If you don’t know, find out and dress accordingly.
As for dress codes in the boxes at the track …
Business casual dress (meaning shirts with collars for guys; no denim, athletic shoes or “inappropriate” clothing) is required in the Turf Club, Trophy Room and Millionaire’s Row, where you can split your time between air-conditioned dining rooms and outdoor terraces, some of which are covered. Guys, a jacket is required in the Derby Room and The Mansion.
If you’ve got tickets to the clubhouse or grandstand seats (which are also reserved), casual attire is permitted, although you’re unlikely to see any of it.
Just remember, though, you may be waiting in long restroom lines and hiking up stairs. Comfort should be a consideration when thinking about your feet.
And if you’re in the infield, there’s no dress code, but plenty of people dress up. Just remember, you’ll be walking a ton and sitting on the grass … or mud. So, if you insist on heels, they should be practical wedges and not crazy-high. Or skip them altogether for pretty sandals or flats. There are even flats that fold up, which could come in handy if you can stash them in your bag.
And, if it’s raining (like it seems to do every year), go for rain boots.
Pro-tip: Take cute “before” pictures in your heels and then swap them for the comfortable ones!
You will get burnt. You’re outside for nearly 12 hours, after all. Sunscreen is smart, even underneath your makeup, ladies and gents.
Try makeup setting spray
This is great for women who don’t want to ruin the makeup they applied in the wee hours of the morning. It will keep your makeup fresh for hours — great for those who sweat or if you’re worried about mascara streaks when it rains.
What to wear to the Kentucky Derby for men
Guys, a classy tie is the easiest way to make your outfit as unique as you are. Whether it’s a traditional tie or a Southern-inspired bow tie, you’ll be rocking that outfit.
Think about pastels for your outfit to capture some red carpet Instagram-worthy pics.
Downsize your purse
Fashion, comfort must blend together for a successful Derby outing. Taylor Riley/Courier Journal/Wochit
Trust us, you don’t want to juggle a gigantic bag along with your julep and racing program. Facility restrictions forbid purses larger than 12 inches in any direction.
The small purse size means you can carry only the essentials (cardigan, sunscreen, flip flops, sunglasses case, etc.) in a clear plastic bag (no larger than 18 inches by 18 inches).
Layer for anything
You really never know what the weather is going to be like in Kentucky in early May, so dress for anything that Mother Nature can throw at you — hail, rain, humidity, frigid temps. A cardigan is great for your shoulders, for the cold or for covering up sunburned skin.
You aren’t allowed to carry an umbrella, so pack a light poncho for unexpected showers. It doesn’t take up much space, and you can use it to cover damp seats.
What not to wear to Kentucky Derby: Stilettos
No way. If you have to have those babies for a little more height, we suggest throwing them on just for initial pictures, then leaving them at home. Consider something a little lower with more surface area and less likelihood of getting caught between cobblestones. If you love heels, try a chunky block version that offers stability and style.
Avoid jeans or athletic shoes
You can technically wear them in the infield, but you’ll be in the under-dressed minority. Sandals, loafers, flats or driving moccasins are all better low-key options.
Skip the Spanx
They may be standard wear for these kinds of dressy events, but if it’s hot, you might want to reconsider. Try a looser dress for the often uncomfortable Derby Day.
Meghan Markle’s choice of designer for her royal wedding gown will be as much an expression of her personality as her fashion tastes. The question is, which route will she take? Will she nod to royal tradition, wearing a designer endorsed by Queen Elizabeth? Declare herself a rebel with a fantastical gown by an emerging talent? Or perhaps embrace her image as the people’s princess with something from a more accessible designer?
Stella McCartney: ‘Fur’s not sexy’
Though preliminary sketches from Israeli designer Inbal Dror were leaked by TMZ in December (Dror confirmed that she was approached by the royal family about potentially dressing Markle), the selected designer’s identity will likely remain a heavily guarded secret until the nuptials on May 19. But that fact hasn’t quelled speculation, with bookies, biographers and so-called insiders putting in their two cents.
Stewart Parvin Couture Bridal Collection Credit: Courtesy Stewart Parvin
Katie Nicholl, a long-time royal correspondent and author of “Harry: Life, Loss and Love,” believes Markle will ultimately make a more conservative choice.
“I know that the smart money — as far as the bookies are concerned — is on Stewart Parvin, who is one of the queen’s dressers. That would be a very, very clever choice if it is true,” Nicholl told InStyle in March. “I think it’d be a clever choice because it would get her brownie points with the queen and certainly with the London fashion brigades.”
Discovering the Victoria and Albert Museum after dark with Erdem
Parvin, who was made a member of the Royal Victorian Order in 2016, has dressed the queen for over a decade. As for his bridalwear, it is understated and elegant, which may appeal to the soon-to-be royal. Speaking to Glamourin 2016, when her Suits character Rachel Zane was meant to be getting married, Markle said: “Classic and simple is the name of the game, perhaps with a modern twist. I personally prefer wedding dresses that are whimsical or subtly romantic.”
Erdem Spring-Summer 2017 Credit: Ki Price/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
Her penchant for the romantic is one reason why award-winning Canadian-born designer Erdem Moralioglu is considered a likely choice — so likely that, as recently as December, the British betting company Ladbrokes placed the odds at 2/1. Based in London, the designer is known for his hyper-feminine, ethereal dresses and signature florals.
Markle wore a maxi dress from his pre-fall 2017 collection to a wedding in Jamaica with Prince Harry last March, and referenced him as “a designer I’ve been wearing for years” in her September 2017 Vanity Fair profile.
Roland Mouret Spring-Summer 2018 Credit: Tristan Fewings/BFC/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images for The British Fashion Council
But for all its weight, the wedding is still a personal occasion, and there is a chance Meghan will turn to one of her many designer friends to dress her on the day. French designer Roland Mouret, who is also based in London, has been friends with Markle since they met in hotel elevator in Istanbul years ago, and she’s worn his fitted, contemporary dresses on a number of occasions.
But when pressed by WWD about his involvement February, Mouret demurred: “Mmmmm, I don’t want to say. No comment. It’s … there is no comment on that. She’s a friend. And that’s … I can’t say.”
Ralph & Russo: The making of a couture gown
(It’s worth noting that Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen, persistently denied that she was designing Kate Middleton’s dress up until the day of the wedding, when it was revealed that she had, in fact, designed the dress.)
Ralph & Russo Haute Couture Autumn-Winter 2017 Credit: Peter White/Getty Images Europe/Getty Images
New York-based designer Misha Nonoo, a close friend rumored to have introduced Prince Harry to Markle in 2016, is also considered a contender, but it seems unlikely: Nonoo’s style veers more cocktail party than wedding chapel.
Several other British designers, including Kate Middleton-approved Jenny Packham, Victoria Beckham, and, unsurprisingly, Burton are also contenders at the bookies. But the most compelling option is Ralph & Russo, Britain’s only haute couture house.
Markle wore an exquisite black-and-gold gown by designers Tamara Ralph and Michael Russo in her breathtaking engagement photos released in December. The engagement dress, part of the house’s autumn-winter 2018 collection, had a reported $75,000 price tag, and one of the brand’s dresses can take up to 300 hours to make.
But regardless of who emerges victorious, they are guaranteed to cause an international frenzy. On May 19, Markle’s life will be forever changed, and the same can be said for her designer of choice.