Being a woman in No 10 is no walk in the park: from Carrie Johnson’s rented frocks to Theresa May’s leopard-print kitten heels, each element of every outfit is thrust under the microscope.
The interest in Akshata Murty’s wardrobe is unique, however, given she and her husband, prime minister Rishi Sunak, are worth £529 million, ranking 275th on The Sunday Times Rich List earlier this year. A step out of place equates to a barrage of headlines blasting their extreme wealth.
Case in point: the stories written when Murty stepped out on the school run wearing £570 chain slippers by London-based designer JW Anderson in Feburary. Or when she paired her Gucci leather sneakers, also £570, with a smart blazer for the VIP opening of Frieze art fair in October.
It makes sense, then, that her first six months in Downing Street were sartorially defined by tradition. Now, that seems to be shifting. Arriving for the latest G20 summit, taking place in India this weekend, Murty paired a crisp white dress shirt, by British brand With Nothing Underneath, with a billowing floral skirt, which gives a nod to her heritage and the destination of the event.
In May, as she disembarked an aircraft in Japan for the G7 summit in Hiroshima, she introduced a shock of colour and looked sensational. Alongside her husband in a traditional grey suit, Murty opted for pop fuschia with a £95 cashmere jumper from Chinti & Parker, and bright green trousers, £165 from ME+EM.
These looks mark the beginning of a more adventurous approach to dressing, something that Murty has long been a fan of. The daughter of the Indian software billionaire N. R. Narayana Murty, she founded her own, short-lived eponymous fashion brand in 2011, telling Vogue India at the time: “Ever since I was a little girl I have always loved clothes. My mother, a no-nonsense engineer, was always baffled why I would spend so much time creating different outfits from my wardrobe. I’ve collected an eclectic mix of whimsical things that I find on the streets of Mumbai and Los Angeles, as well as staples from Gap and American Apparel. I layer them with funky pieces from vintage stores and the occasional Alexander Wang dress — I love his casual and fun, lightweight jersey dresses.”
Despite an interest in designer labels, her ‘first lady’ wardrobe was instead defined by modest brands and high street prices. No better was this displayed than over the Coronation, where a number of high profile appearances called for a host of looks.
It appears she enlisted the help of PR Isabel Spearman, who was seen at No 10 days before King Charles’ ceremony. Spearman previously assisted Samantha Cameron with styling, when her husband was in power.
The first in a string of outfits worn at the beginning of May was to greet First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska. Murty made a nod to the war torn country by wearing a blossom printed pale blue shirt from Ukrainian label Sleeper, with statement coffee-coloured slacks. The following day she received Jill Biden at home in a contrast print £325 silk dress from Rixo.
For the Coronation itself, Murty was one of the best dressed guests in her soft blue, jacquard dress by London based designer Claire Mischevani. “It was an absolute pleasure to dress Mrs Murty, for such a momentous, British occasion,” the designer told The Standard. “As an independent British brand, it means so much to see our pieces worn to such occasions.” The following day it was back to Boden, as she opted for a heart print shirt from the brand, which she paired with another bold set of slacks — this time, in vivacious red — and swapped heels for more sensible, black leather shoes.
In general, Murty tends to avoid high heels, it was reported in her Tatler cover feature last December. The story goes that she swapped them out for flats on meeting Sunak at Stanford University in 2004, “ so as not to emphasise his more modest height.”
Kalyani Chawla, who is an Indian PR maven and former Vice President at Christian Dior Couture, has been impressed by Murty’s style evolution. “I love her understated practical elegance,” she says. “She can afford the best brands but chose H&M to enter her new role as the PM’s wife. Old money brings in that certain I-can’t-be-botheredness which is more obvious than someone who styles every outing aware of paparazzi!”
“Her parents are truly revered for their philanthropy and charity work and are so very under the radar,” Chawla continues. “Akshata’s quiet, non fussy personality shows perfectly through her wardrobe.”