Hello, and Happy April to everyone.
For months there has been discussion about the possibility/likelihood the Duchess was working with a new stylist while Natasha Archer is on maternity leave. It turns out she is; Richard Eden broke the story last weekend in his Daily Mail column.
The Duchess of Cambridge has secretly drafted in a talented stylist who has been advising her on her wardrobe.
Out go the stiff coat dresses and Home Counties lady look. In comes a more modern, sleek style, such as the £800 Gucci pussy-bow blouse and wide-legged trousers she wore for an engagement earlier this month.
She is an old friend from St. Andrews University, where she was the Hon Virginia Fraser (her father is the third Baron Strathalmond, thus the honorific before her name). Below, Prince William and Ms. Fraser at a 2008 Royal Marsden fundraiser.
In 2012 Ginnie (as she refers to herself) married another old friend from school, Oliver Chadwyck-Healey. Like William, he attended Eton.
Before their marriage, the couple attended Kate and William’s wedding.
Being a Vogue staffer, this wedding was always going to be a fashion conundrum.
Early that morning we discovered our boiler had packed up. As I took a freezing shower, my lips turning blue, I bellowed to my boyfriend, now long-suffering husband, “I bet Kate isn’t having a sodding cold shower at The Goring!”.
Emilia and I set our sights on the ultimate double act: a high waisted watermelon pink skirt and a bubblegum pink trapeze-sleeve silk top. It was fun, it was bold, but it was also elegant. I wore the trademark LK Bennett patent nudes (because sometimes there just isn’t any other shoe that works for an occasion like this).To my mother’s horror I didn’t wear tights but instead followed my now tried-and-tested formula of Bobbi Brown foundation mixed with Benefit High Beam to make skin near-perfect.
As mentioned in the stories, Ms. Chadwyck-Healey now has her own consulting business, VCH Style.
At Vogue, Ginnie was retail editor, a role that involved hosting reader events and industry trend talks. Her skill was in translating fashion information for real people rather than edgy fashion shoots.
You can see how all of this would be invaluable to the Duchess, whose every hiking boot and clutch bag is analysed and scrutinised. While Catherine has a very distinct sense of her own style, she is not interested in spending hours poring over fashion pages and reading designer profiles.
The stylist also has an Instagram page. Many of the brands worn on the page are familiar. Below left, a Beulah London dress and on the right, an Erdem top.
From the VCH Style site: “Ginnie’s mantra is ‘Condense, Curate, Create.’ It applies to all ages, all spending levels. Her service is to personally ‘condense’ your wardrobe, sort through and ‘curate’ new ways of wearing pieces you never knew worked well together and ‘create’ space for new pieces that Ginnie then advises on.”
Here you see Ms. Chadwyck-Healey wearing LK Bennett (left) and Alessandra Rich on the right, in a photo with friend and Vogue alumni Emma Elwick Bates.
You may remember we saw the Duchess wearing Alessandra Rich for the first time in family photos marking Prince Charles’s 70th birthday.
Below, the stylist with jeweler Kiki McDonough in another Instagram picture.
The impeccably organised Chadwyck-Healey’s style is, in fact, similar to Kate’s, but with a fashionable and more colourful, pattern-clashing twist — she’s far more Gucci than LK Bennett.
So far, Chadwyck-Healey’s influence has been seen in the duchess’s decision to don a slinky purple pussy-bow blouse by the Italian fashion house, a sparkling mint Missoni dress on an evening out in Belfast and a blue caped Mulberry coat that fast became a social media sensation.
The Missoni dress mentioned above that the Duchess wore in Belfast.
The Telegraph’s Fashion News & Features Editor, Bethan Holt, suspected Ms. Chadwyck-Healey was assisting Kate. From a column she wrote:
In recent months, there’s no doubt that Kate has upped her fashion game and naturally the industry rumour mill fast turned to who might be responsible for the subtle yet significant shift in her look. With the duchess’s usual PA/ wardrobe adviser, Natasha Archer, on maternity leave, the presence of a smart new strategist with impeccable understanding of the balance between the requirements of Royal protocol and exerting fashion influence was palpable.
The caped Mulberry coat, another piece from the Northern Ireland trip, is a design several have pointed to as evidence of the tweaks to Kate’s wardrobe.
Ms. Chadwyck-Healey has also shared some family photos on Instagram; below, with her two little girls.
Having spent her youth frequenting the boutiques of the Kings Road in Chelsea, Chadwyck-Healey recently quit South Kensington in west London to live near Pangbourne in Berkshire with her husband and daughters, Maggie and Nancy, becoming part of a fashionable “girls-gone-mud” set.
So far, so gilded, but Chadwyck-Healey has also spoken publicly, and movingly, about her experience with postnatal depression. She wrote in 2016: “My interest in food vanished, my tearful moments grew. I wondered how people did this whole ‘two under two’ business. I was scornful of myself.” The piece was honest on a relatable subject that is still taboo for many.
Ms. Chadwyck-Healey posted about her own situation on Instagram. It is a topic Kate has expressed an interest in; she has spent time learning about maternal mental health and spoken about the issue.
Updated accessories have been noted as another sign of the changes in Kate’s wardrobe. Below left, a Manu Atelier Micro Bold handbag first carried in Dundee. On the right, the Aspinal Midi Mayfair bag that we first saw in October of last year. The bags are considered something of a departure because as a rule, the Duchess carries clutch-style bags.
We wrap up with a few more thoughts from Alexandra Shulman’s column.
Catherine is not remotely interested in being a clothes horse, she knows that it’s a huge part of the job and will want to be seen as being at the top of her game.
I would expect her to introduce some new names to the Duchess’s repertoire, or encourage her to bring some of those she has in her private wardrobe on to the public stage.
We’ll leave today’s topic with another design worn recently, the Alexander McQueen one-shoulder column gown from the BAFTA Awards in February.
In her comment, Caitlin asked a good question: when is Natasha expected to return? The answer is that I don’t know; I’ve not seen anything about a timeline. In the UK women can take up to a full year of leave, so it could be quite some time before Natasha is back at Kensington Palace.
If wondering when we’ll see the Duchess again, it could be a few weeks. George and Charlotte are on their school breaks, with classes resuming for both on April 24th.
UPDATE APRIL 8:
The newest issue of Hello! magazine offers a different perspective on the role being played by Ms. Chadwyck-Healey. The story, “The truth behind Kate’s new glow and edgy fashion sense,” notes Natasha Archer has been more involved in Kate’s wardrobe than described.
Despite widespread reports that this bold new look has been honed by Ginnie Chadwyck-Healey, HELLO! can reveal that, while the former Vogue staffer has given occasional advice, Kate’s much-admired wardrobe continues to be the work of her long-time PA and stylist, Natasha Archer.
The story goes on to say:
Natasha is on maternity leave following the birth of son Theo in December, but she planned outfits for the Duchess ahead of her time away and works behind the scenes as needed. “Natasha has been meticulously organised in her work, styling the Duchess despite her pregnancy and maternity leave,” a royal source told HELLO! “She is incredibly loyal and does a great job.”
You can read the entire piece here.
UPDATE #2 APR 16: There is additional coverage of the story indicating Ms. Chadwyck-Healey has not been involved in Kate’s wardrobe choices to the degree described by other media. More from this Tatler story:
‘Tash’, as she is affectionately known to friends and members of the household, had diligently pre-planned the Duchess’ wardrobe according to her longstanding diary prior to taking maternity leave to have her son Theo with her Royal Photographer husband Chris Jackson, late last year.
With such a huge job on her hands in fashionably presenting the future Queen of England to the world, she regularly speaks to contacts from various fashion houses and people such as former Vogue staffer Ginnie Chadwyck-Healey, who despite reports Tatler can clarify has not taken over the main role.
‘I think it’s fair to say Tash was a bit upset at the rumours, particularly as she worked so hard to pull all of the looks together,’ one source told Tatler of the stylist who was honoured with Royal Victorian Order (MVO) in the New Year Honours list for services to the Royal Family. ‘Kate is very fond of her and has been supportive during her pregnancy. She hasn’t been replaced.’