In these days of austerity, there's no better boost to your brand than a Kate Middleton endorsement. So when the Duchess chose to wear Whistles for her engagement photos as well as for high-profile outings at the Jubilee Concert, Olympics Closing Ceremony and during her tour of LA, dresses sold out within seconds, websites crashed under the furore and international style stars sat up and took notice (Elizabeth Olsen for one). The British brand must be raking in the cash with Kate's every appearance, right?
Actually no, according to Whistles' chief executive. Jane Shepherdson tells the Business of Fashion that the Duchess' impact on actual sales is not as colassoal as you'd think thanks to her notoriously thrifty ways. 'She wore a blouse [in the royal engagement photos] which was actually from a few seasons ago, which we weren’t running,' Shepherdson says in the interview. 'So in that instance, it raised profile certainly, but it didn’t do anything for sales.' It did, however, bring a swarm of shoppers to the Whistles website where similarly femininine designs are up for grabs.
So what of the current designs Kate's worn? 'I suppose the biggest impact has been on a dress she wore at the [Olympic] Closing Ceremony,' Shepherdson reveals. 'It’s a style that’s been very successful for us anyway — a printed silk dress. That weekend, we sold out of it. Well, of what we had... I couldn’t say it lifted our total sales by 50 percent that week, because it didn’t'.
Jane Shepherdson | Photo: Courtesy of BoF
So, in fact, the whoops that Kate is saving our economy may be a tad exagerrated. As Shepherdson points out, Whistles might have sold out of that 'Bella' dress, but there were only 150 available in the first place so it's hardly surprising that it got snapped up so quickly. Besides, this is a style of dress that is continually in demand — it comes in an array of different prints and is always popular, even without a royal seal of approval.
Not that the Whistles maven isn't appreciative of Kate's support, of course. 'It raises profile, it’s great, we get known in countries we’re not known in,' shes says. 'But it’s not going to turn us into a success overnight because she wears it. Fortunately, she looks great in it and it’s a great advert, but no more than that.'
Does this mean the Kate Effect is losing it's sartorial sway?