Headlines may be dominated by the controversy surrounding the alleged ‘royal racists’ named in the Dutch translation of Omid Scobie’s new book, but the Princess of Wales cut a powerful, glamorous figure on the red carpet at the Royal Variety Performance on Thursday evening.
At the entertainment world’s annual fundraiser for the Royal Variety Charity, Catherine deployed what has always been an effective tool for diverting attention onto the cause at hand: her wardrobe.
It’s the first time we’ve seen her wear London-based label Safiyaa; the gown was a bespoke take on the £1545 Talina design, which features a high, jewelled neckline and split floor-length sleeves. Catherine’s version featured more structured, angular shoulders - a power shoulder, if you will - which made for a more contemporary and commanding silhouette.
Safiyaa is a label previously seen on the Duchess of Sussex at the Royal Variety Performance in 2018, when she wore an abstract floral top by the label. Meghan also chose a turquoise caped Safiyaa gown in Fiji earlier that year and a striking red gown for her final evening appearance as a working royal in March 2020.
Although the Princess’s look for Thursday’s engagement will have been planned well in advance, the events of this week don’t seem to have deterred her from wearing a label so synonymous with Meghan.
Besides, Safiyaa, which was founded in 2011 by Daniela Karnuts, is renowned for its confidence-boosting creations. “What we wear should accentuate and elevate how we feel and what we project,” Karnuts told the Telegraph earlier this year. “As a designer, it’s my job to incorporate this spirit. If I can help any woman with that, I know I have succeeded.”
A source of inspiration could also have been Penny Mordaunt’s look at King Charles’ Coronation in May. Mordaunt’s dress, also by Safiyaa, and in the same ‘Poseidon blue’ shade as the Princess’s Royal Variety gown, shed a fresh spotlight on the label as one that can marry tradition and modernity. The label is also a favourite with Michelle Obama - another woman who’s no stranger to the world stage.
Of course, the Princess of Wales’ focus is less likely to be on what others have worn in the past, and more about what she needs to achieve and convey with this appearance.
Attention on the Royal Variety Charity is one objective. Representing the King and Queen with the required gravitas is another. Being a good host to Crown Princess Victoria (whose dress, scarf, bag, necklace and bracelets were all by Swedish ‘It’ label Toteme) and Prince Daniel of Sweden, also in attendance, is another. And then there’s the expectation to simply dazzle as a Princess.
By now, Catherine has a strong handle on fashion as a form of language. She knows when to be literal and when to be subtle, and this was a slick example of judging the moment and the mood.
The message from this appearance was clear: it’s business as usual - but make it glamorous.