25-Sep, 20:47

09:48, March 20 178 0

2017-03-20 09:48:03
On the Runway: The Duchess of Cambridge Wears Chanel on ‘Brexit’-Tinged Trip to Paris

LONDON — The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in Paris this past weekend, flying the British flag on their first official visit to the French capital, as well as spearheading a thinly veiled effort at soft diplomacy as Britain prepares to leave the European Union.

The two-day trip, which began on Friday when Prince William and his wife, Catherine, flew to the city in a private jet and then were driven to the Élysée Palace for a meeting with President François Hollande, was an opportunity for many things. The couple met survivors of the Paris and Nice terrorist attacks, to symbolize cross-border solidarity in the face of a shared threat. On Saturday, they attended a rugby match, Wales versus France in the Six Nations tournament, long a source of fierce national rivalry (Wales lost, 20-18).

And with numerous staged photo opportunities in the visit to creative and commercial capital of the fashion world, the duchess used the city as a catwalk to subtly raise the bar in the art of diplomatic power dressing.

The show began in an understated way: the duchess started her tour in the same green Catherine Walker coat she had worn at an engagement in Britain earlier that day. She often makes a point of recycling her outfits for public appearances (all the better to show how really, underneath it all, she is just like the rest of us). But this look, bedecked with big gold buttons and with a black velveteen collar and sleeves, had an additional poignant touch: Catherine Walker was a favorite designer of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the trip was Prince William’s first official visit to Paris since his mother was killed in a car crash there 20 years ago.

Familiarity also proved appealing later in the day when, at a British Embassy reception, the duchess wore a simple sleeveless black dress by Alexander McQueen, the British design house that created her wedding dress (and shows its collections on the Paris Fashion Week schedule). And Jenny Packham, another of the duchess’s go-to British designers, created a an ice-blue, high-neck, delicately embellished gown for the glittering black-tie gala to celebrate the best of British and French relations, an event attended by the actresses Audrey Tautou and Kristin Scott Thomas.

The duchess has long chosen her favorites within the British fashion industry to wear on the global stage. But, given the trip’s profile, it was hard not to think that championing some of the British female talent leading the industry charge in Paris, like Stella McCartney, Phoebe Philo at Céline, or Clare Waight Keller, installed at the helm of Givenchy just last week, might have reflected a defter touch in sartorial tradecraft.

Still, the stakes were higher than usual. In the wake of the vote by the British public in June to leave the European Union — and with Prime Minister Theresa May shortly set to invoke Article 50, beginning talks for the so-called Brexit, the royal family is being used by the Government and Foreign Office as “Brexit ambassadors” to maintain Britain’s links with Europe. Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are scheduled to travel to Romania, Italy and Austria later this month; the Cambridges are to visit Germany and Poland in July.

So, the visit across the English Channel to France called for an out-and-out charm offensive.

And as a result, it was no real surprise that the duchess chose Chanel — the house widely seen as the grande dame of Parisian fashion — as she posed for photographs with her husband on Saturday with the Eiffel Tower in the background and well-wishers waving Union Jack flags nearby.

The 35-year-old mother of two wore what appeared to be a modified version of a look from Chanel’s 2017 pre-spring ready-to-wear collection, priced on the brand’s British website at £8,350, or $10,350: a black tweed coatdress with bracelet-length sleeves and a box-pleated skirt, accented with multicolored embroidery and a black belt with the house’s signature interlocked double Cs. She also carried a small burgundy quilted leather top-handle bag finished with the legendary emblem, and underscored her French luxury statement with a necklace, earrings and watch by Cartier.

The choice was immediately met with murmurs of approval from the French news media, which had grumbled about the tour for weeks beforehand.

A little black dress worn by royalty in the City of Light. Rarely has a formula for sartorial homage been so simple and so effective.