Anna Valentine - Biography
The beautifully finished creations in luxury fabrics produced by designer Anna Valentine and her business partner Antonia Robinson under their label Robinson Valentine were appreciated by the elite few for over a decade with relative anonymity. That was until they were introduced, through a mutual friend, to a certain Camilla Parker Bowles.
In 2001 the pair began a collaboration with Camilla who asked them to "soften her look" that would eventually bring them world renown. "I think we did a camel coat first," recalls Anna, who is the creative brains behind the partnership. It was followed by a cream column dress for a 2002 charity party at Somerset House, a creation which marked a turning point in Camilla's image.
Having never studied fashion, Anna and Antonia met on a pattern-cutting course at a Hammersmith college. "I'd made clothes since childhood. Then when I was having singing lessons, I made clothes for friends to pay for the (lessons)," says Anna. Having decided to launch their own range, and supported by the Enterprise Allowance Scheme, they opened a tiny corner shop in Wandsworth - a far cry from Anna's current, beautifully appointed atelier in Kensington.
During the Eighties they turned out party dresses and puffball skirts, landing their first high-profile client in 1993 - Serena Stanhope - who asked them to create her going away outfit for her wedding to the Queen's nephew, David Linley. As the brand gained a reputation for its sophisticated clothes other social butterflies followed suit, including Patti Palmer Tomkinson and Lady Sarah Chatto.
But it was a spring 2005 commission which was to propel Robinson Valentine into a whole new realm. A month and a half before Camilla wed Prince Charles the design duo were approached about making the outfits the bride would wear on her big day. "How do you find an absolutely exquisite fabric in six weeks?" asks Anna, who nevertheless rose to the challenge.
As expected all eyes were on the sartorial choices made by Camilla, who had previously come under fire for her dowdy style. And the results - a white chiffon dress for the civil ceremony and a porcelain blue gown with matching coat for the religious ceremony - were an unequivocal success. The two wedding outfits won plaudits throughout the fashion press and suddenly Robinson Valentine was on the name on everyone's lips.
"I love dressing the Duchess," says Anna. "She gives us a lot of her own input, but is always very happy for us to suggest things. She likes something understated and well tailored with a nice detail. Nothing too flouncy." Clearly impressed by her mother's choice of designer, Camilla's daughter Laura Parker Bowles also turned to Robinson Valentine to create the dress for her nuptials with Harry Lopes. Jemima Khan is also a client.
While Antonia has quit London for family life in Cornwall, Anna now the sole name on the label is busier than ever producing outfits for the Duchess Of Cornwall, who's been known to wear five or more of her creations in a month. An off-the-peg collection was also on the cards at one point, but whatever the future holds, Anna will always be remembered for - and credited with - transforming Camilla's style and helping change the public's perception of her.