Whatever Happened To The Duchess’ Iconic Engagement Dress Designer

The dark side of the ‘Kate Effect’

The year was 2010. Kate Middleton was still being dubbed ‘Waity Katy’ and Prince William seemed to be taking his sweet time to propose.

But then everything changed.

During their nine-year courtship opinion was divided over “commoner Kate” as she was often dubbed, but the minute it was revealed that Wills had popped the question – and with his mother, Princess Diana’s ring no less – she instantly became the beloved future queen of England. The whole world went crazy. Kate crazy that is.

Posing in front of the press to officially announce their engagement, a rather timid Kate matched her late mother-in-law’s diamond and sapphire engagement ring perfectly to her blue Issa wrap dress.

It was a match made in fashion heaven and the dress sparked a major shopping frenzy with people desperate to get their hands on the dress. Thus the ‘Kate Effect’ was born.

You would think this would be a dream for a designer, to have their designs broadcast around the world, but Daniella Helayel says her studio just wasn’t equipped to handle the demand.

“From the day of the royal engagement our sales doubled,” Helayel told the Daily Mail. “I didn’t have the money to finance production on that scale. The bank refused to give me credit, and the factory was screaming for me to pay its bills. I needed an investor.” 

And it wasn’t just Kate who loved the label, other A-listers including Kylie Minogue, Jennifer Lopez and Liz Hurley were all fans of the Brazilian-born designer’s aesthetic. But that wasn’t enough to save the floundering company.

In 2011, long-time friend Camilla Al-Fayed bought a 51 percent stake in the company, but after just two years Helayel left as Creative Director and the label shuttered.

“I left because I couldn’t take any more,” says Halayel. “I felt so stressed that my hair went white and started falling out. I was broken by the end of it. I had a great business, which I’d built up on my own over a decade. To watch it evaporate was heartbreaking. I took two years out and didn’t design a thing. It was too painful. I don’t think people realise how much I suffered, but I have always believed that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I did a lot of yoga, I travelled to Los Angeles and Asia, and went back to see my family in Brazil.”

Now however, Helayel is back with a new label called Dhela, and it incorporates hints of Issa with a modern twist.

“‘It was a lot of clothes to make but it felt like a healing process,” said Helayel. ‘There are hints of Issa in my new label, but updated and matured. Jersey will always figure in my collections, although recently I’ve become very interested in knitwear.”

We wonder whether we’ll be seeing her new designs on the Duchess this time around…

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