The Duchess of Sussex has made no secret of her enduring obsession with Audrey Hepburn.
Meghan artfully photographed and uploaded stacks of books on the Hollywood star – described as ‘bedtime reading’ – to her now-closed Instagram account.
Her defunct blog The Tig also paid glowing tribute to the aesthetics of the fashion icon’s ‘preppy chic’ look.
‘Think Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face,’ she wrote in a post three years ago.
But no one could have imagined then that she would follow so closely in Hepburn’s footsteps by becoming the muse for fashion house Givenchy.
The Duchess embraces Givenchy designer Clare Waight Keller at the British Fashion Awards last week. She is wearing a bespoke black velvet gown by the fashion house estimated to be wroth £20,000
Meghan’s latest appearance at last week’s British Fashion Awards – where she presented Keller with a trophy for British womenswear designer of the year
Today, there is no doubt that the Duchess has played a central role in reviving the fortunes of the fading French brand.
Not only did she choose Givenchy’s British artistic director Clare Waight Keller to create her wedding dress, but she has continued to be an ambassador for the brand, wearing the label at public outings around once a month.
Her collection is estimated to be worth more than £250,000.
Meghan’s latest appearance at last week’s British Fashion Awards – where she presented Keller with a trophy for British womenswear designer of the year – saw her, once again, in Givenchy.
So close are the pair that Keller was permitted to stroke the (impeccably well-dressed) Royal baby bump.
Thanks to their partnership, the label is enjoying its highest prominence since its heyday in the 1950s and 60s, when its classic style was synonymous with Hepburn. Now, it is associated instead with ‘The Duchess of Givenchy’.
Meghan wowed her groom – and the world – in May in a bespoke Givenchy wedding dress and 16ft-long train stitched with flowers from 53 Commonwealth countries. The estimated cost is £200,000
Last month’s visit to meet chefs at the Hubb Community Kitchen, who collaborated on her community cookbook, saw Meghan finish off her outfit with Givenchy’s £790 ‘GV3’ black ankle boots
Another wedding, another Givenchy outfit. the Duchess wore this bespoke navy coat dress to Princess Eugenie’s nuptials in October, worth an estimated £8,000
The label’s parent company LVMH appears to be reaping the benefits. Turnover on fashion and leather goods is up from £9.7 million last year to £11.7 million in the first three quarters of this year.
In its interim financial report, for the first six months of this year, it states: ‘Givenchy benefited from the success of Clare Waight Keller’s first collections, presented with an exclusive staging at several emblematic boutiques.
The main highlight… was the design of the Duchess of Sussex’s wedding gown, with media coverage of the event generating extremely high visibility for Givenchy.’
So who is Clare Waight Keller, and how did her partnership begin with one of the world’s most closely scrutinised women?
A return to the trusted Givenchy for Meghan’s first solo outing at the Royal Academy of Arts’ Oceania exhibition in September. The velvet appliqued midi dress with sheer panels cost £2,960
This elegant Givenchy cape dress, estimated to be wroth £8,000, was Meghan’s choice fr her first joint engagement with the Queen in June. Her accessories are also Givenchy: a £899 clutch and £340 ‘Double G’ belt
It started in such secrecy that Keller, a mother of three, didn’t even tell her American architect husband Philip. Even the Arnault family, which owns the brand, were kept in the dark.
Birmingham-born Keller, 48, who studied at the Royal College of Art before working for Calvin Klein in New York, became the creative head of the fashion house in May last year and had been burying herself in the brand’s archives when she received a phone call.
It was November 2017, immediately after Prince Harry and Meghan’s engagement. The request came completely out of the blue: the Royal bride-to-be wanted Keller to design her wedding dress.
‘I think she had seen my work and knew what I did,’ the designer said after the wedding.
Arriving in Ireland in July, Meghan wore the first of four jaw-droppingly expensive outfits for her Irish tour. The Givenchy £1,199 patch pocket skirt was matched with a £600 crew-necked top, also Givenchy
The Duchess opted for a £1,885 Givenchy trouser suit for a trip to Dublin’s Croke Park in July. There’s also her trusty £340 ‘Double G’ belt and a new £1,765 ‘GV3’ frame bag – plus her trademark sky-high heels
‘I think she loved the fact that I was a British designer and working in a house such as Givenchy, which has got its roots in a classical, beautiful style of course from the time of Hubert [de Givenchy] himself.’
The pair met late last year to discuss possibilities. But it was in January, while Keller was designing her debut couture collection for Givenchy, that she found out she had just four months to produce this year’s most famous dress.
Meghan’s vision, which was elegant, classical and timeless, was true Givenchy. All ‘seven or eight’ fittings with the bride were done personally, in secret, in London.
In a magazine interview published yesterday to promote the opening of Givenchy’s new flagship store in London’s Bond Street, Keller said: ‘The dress went backwards and forwards to Paris to be worked on in the atelier.
Channeling My Fair Lady at Ascot in June with a bespoke white Givenchy dress, worth about £8,000. Her accessories are also Givenchy – £375 ‘Infinity’ pumps, a £340 belt and a £1,390 satin ‘minaudiere’ clutch
On a balcony overlooking the Cenotaph for last month’s Remembrance Sunday, Meghan wrapped up in a black Givenchy coat, worth about £2,000
‘But no one in the team knew who it was for, because after the couture show in January, a number of high-profile orders had come in.’
Keller only told her husband of her coup the day before the wedding when she had to drive down to Cliveden House to spend the night with the bridal party.
It was only when Meghan stepped out of the car into the Windsor sunshine that the secret was revealed.
Keller, who was wearing dark navy, emerged from the shadows to place the train on the steps of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, prompting headlines around the world.
The wedding dress was to be just the beginning of Meghan and Keller’s collaboration.
Givenchy has become a key part of the Duchess’s signature look, setting her apart from other Royals who rarely, if ever, wear the label.
when meeting the King and Queen of Tonga in October, Meghan wore a Grecian-inspired white gown coupled with a £1,390 black silk ‘minaudiere’ clutch with a jewelled clasp
The Duchess has worn Givenchy for many of the key events in her Royal calendar, such as her first Royal tour to Australia and New Zealand, and her first joint engagement with the Queen in Cheshire in June.
Meghan and Keller’s closeness was evident to all observers at the British Fashion Awards.
Addressing the audience, Meghan said: ‘I feel especially proud to announce tonight’s winner who, yes, is a British designer leading on the global stage with vision and creativity but, also, with incredible kindness – which is why, when I met her for the first time 11 months ago, I knew that we’d be working very closely together.’
Their bond is clearly based on a shared love of fashion. Both have a similar sense of style and a collection of Manolo Blahnik shoes.
Meghan has the designer’s BB pumps in five colours and Clare has a lizard pair she loves.
Their joint interests extend to the great outdoors and their much-adored pets. Still, their heritage makes them unlikely bedfellows.
Another entirely Givenchy outfit for the Duke and Duchess’s public walkabout in Rotorua, New Zealand, this October. She has the same £600 to in green, and the matching pleated skirt worth £1,199 is bespoke
Meghan hails from Hollywood while Keller comes from the industrial West Midlands, where she grew up the eldest of three children.
It was a childhood she would later describe as ‘very ordinary, very humble, surrounded by flyovers’.
However, she had two talented parents: her mother Diana, a legal secretary, from whom she inherited her skills as a seamstress, and her engineer father Russell, who was a talented draughtsman.
After completing a degree at Ravensbourne College of Art and a masters in knitwear at the Royal College of Art, a tutor sent her portfolio to Calvin Klein.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle in May. It was November 2017, immediately after Prince Harry and Meghan’s engagement. The request came completely out of the blue: the Royal bride-to-be wanted Keller to design her wedding dress
Prince Harry and Meghan wave from the Ascot Landau Carriage. Meghan’s vision, which was elegant, classical and timeless, was true Givenchy. All ‘seven or eight’ fittings with the bride were done personally, in secret, in London
There, she worked alongside another of Meghan’s muses – Carolyn Bessette, who married John F. Kennedy Jr.
Four years later, the ambitious designer was off to Ralph Lauren for the launch of his bespoke men’s Purple Label collection.
Then, in 2000, at the age of 29, she returned to London to work for Gucci’s Tom Ford.
Her big breakthrough came when she turned around the fortunes of Scottish knitwear brand Pringle.
Her work there won her the coveted Designer of the Year trophy at the Scottish Fashion Awards.
But it was only in 2011, when she took over as creative designer at Chloé, that she began to achieve public acclaim.
She is rumoured to have left because the label wouldn’t give her ‘salary increases proportionate to sales’ but was keen, too, to return to Britain for her twin girls’ education.
These days, she spends half the week in the family home in World’s End, Chelsea, the rest in Parisian hotels for Givenchy.
She has immersed herself in the brand and befriended its founder, the late Count Hubert de Givenchy, who told her that Givenchy was ‘all about the shoulders, darling’.
Sadly, he died in March, two months before Meghan walked down the aisle in a dress which showed to the world that it was indeed all about the shoulders.
Talking about being the first female designer at Givenchy, Keller said recently: ‘I can understand why people touch on it, because of course whenever women get into higher positions it’s always something to be applauded.
‘But I don’t think we should anchor everything on that, because it’s so important to actually think of women as strong creatives: people who can bring and contribute something, rather than just purely for the fact that they’re female.
‘It’s through the work that I do that I’m able to push up higher and be so successful.’
A mantra, it seems, which is not so different from that of the Duchess of Sussex herself.