Changing of the Guard at Kensington Palace-Cornelia James

Changing of the Guard at Kensington Palace

Those who take an interest in such things will be aware that the Duchess of Cambridge’s long term personal assistant, Natasha Archer, has gone on maternity leave and the ‘stylist’ brief has been passed to Ginnie Chadwyck-Healey.

Those who take an interest in such things will be aware that the Duchess of Cambridge’s long term personal assistant, Natasha Archer, has gone on maternity leave again. 

Does it matter and will we notice the difference?

The last time that Natasha took time out it was rumoured that she had been replaced - temporarily - by Ginnie Chadwyck-Healey.  It always seemed that Natasha’s input was a ‘girls go shopping together’ type of arrangement - more of a well informed second opinion than actual style counsel. Ginnie, however, an ex editor at Vogue, was nothing if not a fashion pro. Beady eyed bloggers immediately claimed to have detected a subtle sharpening in the Duchess’ style - less Jenny Packham and Catherine Walker and more Missoni and Gucci.  

They point to the Gucci pussy bow shirt that she wore to the Henry Fawcett Children’s Centre in March 2019 as a mark of the regime change and the fact that she wore the shirt back to front sparked a furore of excitement and speculation. ‘Artfully clever style thing’ or mistake? We don’t know about that but we do know that the Duchess already had form in this regard. Sensationally... we can reveal that we had seen the Duchess wearing her gloves on the wrong hands.

It could of course have been another example of an ‘artfully clever style thing’. As glove makers, we are obsessive about gloves in general and the wearing of them on the right hands in particular but nobody else seems to have noticed and, in any case, she looked good.

In truth we hold the Duchess a little closer to our hearts for the fact that she can make the odd misstep and still look good. We don’t want our royals to be pin sharp stylish - we value a touch of human frailty over ostentation and we like the mix of high street and couture.

We still have fond memories of the Duchess at the Cheltenham Festival in 2013 when she was still very much the fashion ingenue rather than fashion icon.

Duchess of Cambridge, Cheltenham

In detail - in fashion terms - it's a disaster. She is wearing an old coat on which the buttons have clearly been moved a good three inches to accommodate what will shortly become the third in line of succession to the throne, a hat which can best be described as 'jaunty' (a word that should only be used with a dollop of irony) and the same old boots that she always used to wear. And yet… she looks great.

Obviously she is young, good looking and happy - demeanour plays such a large part in the art of looking good. And - of course - she is wearing a really good pair of gloves which somehow bring the whole sum of disparate parts together and transform the motley into something really quite stylish.

There is an air of exuberance and improvisation that is quite charming. A certain sense of frugality lies at the core of the British monarchical system - the image of the aristocrat in shabby tweeds is a key style note.

Quite clearly - eight years on from Cheltenham - the context has changed, the scene has shifted. The Duchess is never less than perfectly groomed and has developed a look that - mostly - suits her. 

What can we expect from the style interregnum occasioned by Natasha Archer’s second spell of maternity leave?

Indisputably and inevitably, the operation is more ‘professional and coordinated and in keeping with the organisation required to support a future queen. What she wears is subject to so much scrutiny and has to fit in with so many, often conflicting, parameters that we really shouldn’t be surprised that she has taken on some professional help. Increasingly there is talk of a brand ‘Kate’ that may be used to promote the values associated with the Royal Family. 

In any brand the packaging is an important part. ‘Fashion’ has its place but the packaging should not be developed to the point where it obscures the value of the main asset. Fashion is for today but style endures and the Duchess has a sense of style which should be allowed to flourish. It is inconceivable that the ‘shifted buttons’ of Cheltenham will ever be seen again but we hope that all sense of improvisation and fun will not be sacrificed on the altar of brand and that, from time to time, ‘the girls’ will be able to just go shopping and have fun.