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Handicapping Kate Middleton's wedding gown designer: The dark horses

April 25, 2011 |  1:16 pm


The frenzy over the royal wedding is reaching a fever pitch. It seems like every 15 minutes, a new story comes across the transom about who will be designing Kate Middleton's wedding gown. So what else can you do but jump in the fray? Each day this week, I will be blogging about some of the designers in contention and my thoughts about their chances. I'll start with the two dark horses.

Libelula Libelula: Libelu-who? Don't feel bad if you haven't heard of this label. I didn't know it, though the Huffington Post's royal correspondent Yvonne York insists Libelula is the one. It's designed by Sophie Cranston, whose website explains that she "honed her skills in the backrooms of Saville Row and Bellville Sassoon." She worked behind the scenes at Alexander McQueen and Temperley before taking a sabbatical in Andalucia, Spain, to learn the Spanish language and flamenco dancing. That is where Libelula (which means dragonfly in Spanish) was born, though it is now based in London.

Cranston's signature is the kind of close-fitting, bias-cut silhouette that Middleton favors. (The princess-to-be wore a black velvet Libelula coat to a friend's wedding in January.) Cranston specializes in dresses in colorful floral prints, as well as separates, which are available at speciality stores in Britain. The price range, $300 to $600, would suit Middleton's accessible fashion tastes, and signal to the world her intention to be a modern-day royal.

The label has a bespoke bridal collection, with gowns in similar silhouettes (see left) to the short dresses, many with short flutter sleeves and a minimum of surface embellishment in keeping with Middleton's clean style. A relatively simple Libelula gown could be a nice canvas for an elaborate floral headpiece or jeweled tiara. There's also little chance that the gown would ever look dated, as Princess Diana's does now. But I think ultimately, it would be an underwhelming choice.

Middleton is expected to wear two to three other dresses throughout her wedding day, however, and I could see a short Libelula dress (perhaps with some flamenco ruffles?) at the private celebration in the evening.

Issa: Certainly, no designer has benefited more from her association with Middleton more than Issa's Daniella Issa Helayel. (Helayel, a native of Brazil, designed the now-famous royal blue silk jersey dress Middleton wore to the engagement news conference in November.)

But wedding gowns are something that Helayel, based in London, hasn't really done. She's more of a day-to-evening, Diane von Furstenberg-type designer. So again, I'm not sure Issa would fulfill the fairytale fashion moment we are all hoping for on Friday. 

Helayel could make a great going-away dress though. Her signature silk jersey would certainly be comfortable for traveling to Australia, the Middle East or wherever--at this moment--the couple is rumored to be honeymooning.

Tuesday, we'll look at the sentimental favorites.

--Booth Moore 


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Top photo: Kate Middleton, in an Issa design, and Prince William pose in St. James' Palace in London after announcing their engagement. Bottom photo: A wedding dress by designer Sophie Cranston's fashion label Libelula, retailing at 750 pounds ($ 1225 US dollars) is displayed at the Katharine Bird shop in Battersea, south London, April 18, 2011. Credit: Paul Hackett/ Reuters.