domenica 22 maggio 2016

The Duchess Dictionary: Tartan

So, as I've just recently come back from a short trip to Scotland, I was inspired to have a look at tartans connected to the Duchess of Cambridge.

Known in Scotland as "Her Royal Highness The Countess of Strathearn", Catherine (and William, of course, although I can't quite picture him in a kilt!) has her own tartan in shades of red, gold and deep forest green:

Kinloch Anderson, Royal Warrant Holders as tailors and kiltmakers to the Queen, the Duke of Edinurgh and the Prince of Wales (known in Scotland as the Duke of Rothesay), state on their website that the Strathearn tartan was most likely adopted by Queen Victoria's father, the Duke of Kent, who was Colonel of he Royal Scots between 1801 and 1821. The name Strathearn is derived from the old Stewartry of Strathearn in Perthshire, central Scotland. The Strathearn title has long been connected with the Royal Family: apart from Queen Victoria's father, who held the double dukedom of Kent and Strathearn, there were Prince Henry, a son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, who was created Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn in 1766, and Queen Victoria's third son, Prince Arthur, who was created Duke of Connaught and Strathearn in 1874.

Catherine debuted a silk scarf in her tartan at the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on 3 June 2012:


It is a product by Scotweb Tartan Mill, handmade in Scotland using the finest pure spun silk. Catherine's is in the Strathearn No.2 Modern tartan, with the brand's exclusive hand-knotted five-knot fringe detail. The scarf is available in wide choice of tartans and priced at £295/€420/$385; there's usually a waiting time of 4 to 6 weeks for it.
If you're after a cheaper repli-kate (who isn't?), Scotweb offers the same scarf in pure new wool, priced at £85/€120/$110 and aptly named the Kate Middleton Scarf. Measurements are exactly the same, although apparently the distinctive hand-knotted fringe motif is no longer available on this style.

From Scotweb: "Woven at the same artisanal mill in the Scottish Borders, this version is produced in fine wool rather than silk - so you can get the look, but at a fraction of the price. It's extra-long too, just like hers". Even better, the new wool option is in stock at time of writing, and ready to ship.

The scarf is really soft, despite being made of pure new wool, which I find tends to be prickly. My scarf has no care label, but even without one, there's no doubt this is an item that requires professional dry cleaning, or you'll risk ruining the fringing.

The Duchess has subsequently worn (or carried) the scarf at Prince William's appointment as a Knight of the Order of the Thistle in Edinburgh on 5 July 2012...

...and later on 5 April 2013 on a visit to Dumfries House in Ayrshire, during an official 2-day trip to Scotland with her husband and father-in-law:

On another Scottish trip, this time in May 2014, the couple were presented with a giant teddy bear wearing a Stathearn tartan kilt as a gift to Prince George:

Of course Catherine has worn other tartans over the years, as well as the Strathearn tartan. During the April 2013 visit to Scotland she debuted the "Workers" coat by Moloh, in shades of navy and grey (the style has been revamped in navy and black damask for A/W 2015):

The coat was repeated for church at Balmoral in September 2013:

The Black Watch coat by Alexander McQueen has been worn twice so far, too - the first time on a visit to her former prep school, St Andrew's in Pangbourne, Berkshire, in November 2012, just before her first pregnancy was announced...

...then again on Christmas Day the following year:

This remains one of my favourite-ever coats of hers, and I do hope we'll see it again some day!
Incidentally, the blanket placed in the carriage that brought William and Kate back from Westminster Abbey after their wedding to ward off any potential chills was in the Black Watch tartan, as shown in the aerial photograph below:

Additionally, there's the cashmere-mix tartan wrap in claret by Really Wild Clothing, which was first worn for the early morning church service at Christmas 2013 (below left) and later at a friend's wedding in December 2014 (below right):

Quickly restocked after initially (unsurprisingly) selling out, the wrap seems to have been included in the permanent Really Wild catalogue and remains available at £135/€175/$196 plus shipping. Described as a "luxury Scottish cashmere mix wool wrap in a warm tartan consisting of claret and navy checks", it measures a very generous 216 x 70 cm, including a short fringe. While the cashmere content is minimal (just 5%), it gives a pleasantly soft feel to the wrap, making it a great choice for those first autumn chills (admittedly, a long way away now we're heading into summer, but it pays to be prepared!).

We haven't seen the Strathearn scarf, or any other tartan item, repeated on recent visits to Scotland (the Le Kilt skirt worn in Edinburgh in February this year appeared distinctly more dogtooth than tartan to me, as did the Christopher Kane separates worn in October 2015), but one could argue that tartan retains a special place in Kate's wardrobe, after seeing the clothes she selected for her now famous Vogue 100 photo shoot, which included two tartan shirts:

giovedì 5 maggio 2016

Kate-Inspired Purchase Review: Riva Diamond Cluster Drop Earrings by Monica Vinader

Hello, everyone! The long-promised review post on Catherine's "Riva" earrings is finally here, hot on the heels of the latest wear by the Duchess!

The Duchess of Cambridge first wore these (together with the matching "Riva" Diamond Cluster Bib necklace) on 21 October 2014, to attend a glitzy evening event, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards at the Natural History Museum in London.

Catherine looked fabulous in a baby blue "Half & Half" evening gown by Jenny Packham, powder pink "Agata" strappy sandals by L.K. Bennett, bespoke pink snakeskin Alexander McQueen clutch and sparkly Monica Vinader jewellery (Daily Mail article here). It was the first time the Duchess had worn anything by the brand, launched by Spanish jewellery designer Monica Vinader in 2002, which is popular with royal ladies, including the Countess of Wessex (who owns their aquamarine and rose gold "Siren" Stud earrings) and Princess Eugenie (who was photographed at her graduation wearing the brand's "Fiji" Friendship Bracelets), as well as a number of other celebrities.

Then, earlier this week, the Daily Mail featured an interview with Ms Vinader herself, where the designer discusses, among other things, how the brand was suddenly and quite unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight after the Duchess of Cambridge wore the Riva set. Quoting from the interview:
‘I knew nothing about it as my press team had lent them to her people and they’d told them to tell no one else in the company,’ says Monica.
‘I was on holiday in Florence, sitting outside a café. The friend I was with suddenly looked over at a man reading a newspaper and said, “Isn’t that the Duchess of Cambridge wearing your earrings on the front page?” It was the most surreal moment – I was thrilled.’
So there was a bit of a mystery when the Duchess rewore the set just a few days later, on 4 May, to view the "Vogue 100 - A Century of Style" exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London, of which she is patron. Did she borrow the pieces again? Has she, in fact, purchased them?
My friend Anna of My Small Obsessions thinks the repeat was done on purpose to address those claims, and I agree with her it's probably no coincidence the set resurfaced so soon after that interview.
I'm inclined to think she possibly did buy the set eventually. Just before the royal tour of New Zealand in April 2014, news reports emerged that Kensington Palace staff had selected 4 pieces of jewellery by local brand Tory & Ko. Jewellers for the Duchess to consider wearing. The pieces were sent to the Palace on loan. In fact, Kate didn't end up wearing any of the selected items and all were sent back, but it was reported at the time that, had any been worn, the Duchess would have bought them. Anyway, this is nothing more than speculation and I suspect we'll never know for sure whether the Riva set was loaned again or purchased in the meantime, so now on to the rest of my review!
Both the earrings and necklace feature Riva's signature organic shape and pave set diamonds on rose gold plated vermeil on sterling silver. The earrings total 0.32 carats and retail for £745 (€1,005/$1,190), while the necklace totals 0.84 carats and is currently available for £2,000 (€2,700/$3,200). It was love at first sight with the earrings, so a while ago, at a time when the £/€ exchange rate was slighlty more favourable (about €60 in my favour, so not bad! By the way, the currency converter on the website doesn't appear to be adjusted every day with the stock market fluctuations, so it does pay to wait around a bit for a better rate if you're interested - like I said, there won't be a massive difference with the day's rate, but still I saved €€) I took the plunge and ordered them!

First of all, top marks for packaging and presentation! The earrings came in a branded Monica Vinader carrier bag and box tied with magenta-coloured twine and were accompanied by an envelope containing the certificate of authenticity (Monica Vinader is committed to ensuring ethical sourcing of their products; their diamonds are sourced through suppliers who adhere to the Kimberley Process and the World Diamond Council's System of Warranties, preventing the distribution of conflict diamonds both in rough, cut and polished stones. Conflict diamonds are those smuggled by rebels to finance wars against legitimate governments) and a handy little gadget in the form of a ring sizer.

The four shapes that make up the earrings are delicatly mobile:


The earrings are incredibly elegant: very unique and distinctive. They can be easily dressed up or down. I've been known to wear these in the daytime as well, the diamonds are rather subtle and heck!, with that price tag I want to get maximum wear out of them! :-)

Love the look but not so much the price tag? The Riva mini diamond hoop earrings channel the same style for a fraction of the price.

Has anyone else committed to a really big replikate purchase, or is planning to? I'd love to know! I'm currently saving up in the somewhat futile hope of some day being able to afford a pair of Kiki oval green amethyst earrings, so I need all the motivation I can get!