When jewelry designer Pippa Small flipped through the pages of Hello! during last year’s royal visit to Bella Bella, B.C., she could hardly believe her eyes. The Duchess of Cambridge was wearing one of Small’s own pieces: large kite double-drop earrings. “I was hugely thrilled!” Pippa enthuses.
And with good reason. While the U.K.-based designer immediately started getting congratulatory messages from family and friends, this wave of well-wishers was soon followed by what the fashion world calls the “ Kate Effect” – an instant spike in demand for the earrings.
Like many local and international designers before her, Pippa watched in wonder as her product swiftly sold out. She’d been designing jewelry for 20 years, she says, but overnight, Kate had elevated her work to the world stage. “It brought a whole new following,” she says. “It was fantastic.”
This phenomenon is one that fashion watchers have long marvelled at. When Kate married Prince William in 2011, she walked down the aisle in a breathtaking ivory satin and lace gown from Alexander McQueen’s newly appointed creative director Sarah Burton. The gown was hailed in the press as “the wedding dress of the decade” and Sarah instantly became a household name. “I had no idea it would be as big as it was,” the designer said. “Only the night before, seeing all the photographers outside the abbey, did I think, ‘Oh my God. This is massive.’”
Of course, Kate’s global popularity has only grown since then, allowing her to continually shine the spotlight on the brands she loves. She has chosen Alexander McQueen designs for several notable occasions since, including her sister Pippa’s wedding to James Matthews in May, and most recently in Belgium, where Kate wore the white coat-dress she was first photographed in at Princess Charlotte’s christening.
Indeed, the duchess has wholeheartedly embraced her new role as a fashion ambassador, championing fledgling and established lines alike from Britain, Canada and beyond. The best part? The frugal fashionista is equally famous for recycling favourites, so designers often see their clothing and accessories get several turns on the global stage.
Perhaps no designer has felt the love more than the young Canadian-born, London-based Erdem Moralioglu. Kate stepped out in a navy lace shift from his eponymous line during her 2011 tour of Canada, and has since made Erdem a wardrobe staple, helping transform the fashion house into a major global player, worth upwards of $15 million in annual sales. These days, style icons like Keira Knightley can’t get enough of his romantic designs, and his seasonal runway show is one of the hottest tickets at London Fashion Week.
Kate’s trendsetting style has also boosted the likes of British fashion designer Jenny Packham, known for her ready-to-wear collections and bridal dresses. Jenny had the honour of dressing the Duchess for her debut engagement as a royal in 2011, in an unforgettable champagne-hued creation adorned with Swarovski crystals at the annual Absolute Return for Kids black-tie charity gala, a highlight of London’s annual social calendar. In the years since, Kate has remained a loyal client, selecting other pivotal moments – including first public appearances with both Prince George and Princess Charlotte – to don Packham designs. In the case of the buttercup yellow shift she wore outside St. Mary’s hospital after Charlotte’s 2015 birth, dress sales increased by 58 percent.
The Kate Effect struck yet again in 2014, when the duchess opted for a dress from Temperley London – now a go-to label for the royal – for the Action for Addiction gala. The woven black, cut-out, fit-and-flare cocktail frock sold out in just one day.
Among Kate’s other favourites is Beulah London, an ethical fashion label founded by her friend Lady Natasha Rufus Isaacs and Natasha’s childhood pal, Lavinia Brennan. “I was so excited the first time I found out that the duchess had chosen to wear one of our dresses,” Lady Natasha said. “We were a relatively unknown and young label, and it definitely helped spread the word.”