At 6 a.m. eastern standard time this morning, Kate Middleton emerged from her car outside of Westminster Abbey in a custom white silk dress with lace sleeves and a handmade, eight-foot long train, and the international fashion industry breathed a collective sigh of relief. The dress was by designer Sarah Burton, the creative director of Alexander McQueen, a long rumored frontrunner and certainly a favorite for the role — but how much of Kate’s choice was actually left to chance?
In November, the Metropolitan Costume Institute announced that Alexander McQueen would be the subject of its 2011 exhibit. If you’re not familiar with the Costume Institute, it’s the fashion focused arm of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum — as well as one of Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour‘s largest projects. Considering, among other things, Wintour’s opinion of McQueen, it’s safe to say that she had a strong hand in selecting the late designer for the exhibit. Here’s how the Wall Street Journal describes their relationship:
When Wintour took over as co-chair of the gala in 1995, it was an in-grown Park Avenue cluster buss that generated around $900,000 a year in donations… “Anna’s changed our attitude—she’s brought us to new levels of thinking of what we can do, but without ever losing sight that we’re working in a museum context here,” [says Met president Emily Rafferty.] In all, Rafferty credits Wintour with raising $75 million for the museum’s Costume Institute since she arrived—$55 million through the benefit gala and $20 million through corporate sponsorships for exhibitions. “That’s an awful lot of money,” Rafferty says.
In other words, what Anna wants, Anna gets. And she wanted McQueen.
When Prince William and Kate announced their engagement that same month, the dress frenzy was immediate. Daniella Helayel of Issa and longtime bridal designer Bruce Oldfield were fast favorites, while Catherine Walker (who ended up designing Carole Middleton’s ensemble), Sophie Cranston, and Alice Temperley all had their names thrown into the ring. But through all the speculation, there was a steady drumbeat of consistency: Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.
In March, it was reported that Middleton had sought the advice of British Vogue editor in chief Alexandra Shulman who had, in turn, recommended the bride choose McQueen. While British Vogue refused to confirm the specifics of Shulman’s conversation with Middleton, they confirmed that the conversation had, indeed, happened.
Wintour, it should be noted, was editor in chief of British Vogue from 1984 to 1987.
Vogue editors operate independently of one another, but in 2010 Wintour was the first to successfully convene a meeting with every single one of Vogue’s thirty international editors in attendance. As S.I. Newhouse, chairman of Advance Publications, which owns Vogue parent Condé Nast, put it in that same article: “She has a remarkable ability to impose her will.”
The Costume Institute’s Savage Beauty exhibit opens on Wednesday and the Anna Wintour-hosted gala honoring it is on Monday. And on this very Friday, the princess bride in what may well go down in history as the world’s most watched wedding wore McQueen. While McQueen was definitely an obvious choice for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being the label’s British DNA and the designer’s recent passing, it’s certainly fortuitous.
Let’s not underestimate the power of Anna.
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Alexander McQueen Exhibit To Open At Next Year’s Met Gala!
Brand Anna [WSJ]