Diana, Princess of Wales, is undoubtedly one of the biggest fashion icons of the 20th century. From her immaculate off-duty style to her tactical ‘cleavage bags’, Diana never looked anything less than flawless. Now, more than 20 years after her untimely death, designers like Off White’s Virgil Abloh are still paying sartorial tribute to the late royal in their new collections.
During her life, Diana’s relationship with designers was reciprocal, with the Princess wearing some of the fashion industry’s most highly regarded brands, including Dior and Versace. But it seems there’s one famous designer Diana couldn’t bring herself to wear like the rest: Chanel. And her reason is heartbreaking.
Speaking to Harper’s BAZAAR Australia in 2018, Australian designer Jayson Brundson recounted his encounter with Diana while helping style her for a hospital charity event during her last visit to Australia in 1996.
“I was very good friends with Jo Bailey and Jo was appointed her hairdresser while she was here on the visit,” Jayson recalled. “She hadn’t been divorced very long and Jo knew I was a massive fan. He had an assistant going with him every day to the Ritz Carlton in the morning to do her hair for the day. So he said to me, ‘would you like to come as my assistant?’ on the Saturday and I said, ‘yes of course I would, I’ve love to’.”
“We went to the Ritz Carlton in Double Bay, it was on the top floor I think. There were lots of body guards, so we went through the ladies in waiting, and then we went into the huge living room area and we waited for her and she came out in a bathrobe.”
“Jo started doing her hair and chatting, I was just there holding a brush and thinking ‘Oh my god, I’m touching the hair of Princess Diana’, completely star stuck. And she was on the phone to Madonna, as you do, and I think they were talking about divorce.”
“Then, after Jo had finished her hair she had to get ready for a hospital visit, and she said I’m going to wear a cream Versace skirt suit. It was a very fitted jacket and pencil skirt, and she said, ‘but I don’t know what accessories to wear with it.’
“Jo then said, ‘well Jayson’s really good at these things so why don’t you ask him?’ and I was kind of put on the spot. So she said, ‘alright, well I’ll go and show you what I’ve got’.
“She went back to her bedroom, and she came out holding like handfuls of shoes and bags and just dumped them all down on the couch. Then then said, ‘what do you think?’, so I went through them all and I found a pair of Chanel shoes, and I said, ‘well these would look great with the Versace’ and she said ‘no, I can’t wear linked Cs, the double C’.
“So I asked why, and she said, ‘it’s Camilla and Charles’.”
“Then I saw she had some Guccis and I said they’d look great, and she said, ‘alright, I’ll wear the Gucci’s and that was it.”
Jayson added that while Diana had worn Chanel in the past, her reluctance to wear the French brand when he saw her was all about the timing.
“It was definitely the timing, it being post-divorce. She would have seen linked Cs and they would have just reminded her of Charles and Camilla. The shoes were quite boldly Chanel, I think they had gold linked Cs on them. And I think for photo optics, people would have honed in on that considering it was so fresh after the divorce as well.”
“I don’t think she had anything against Chanel, I mean few women do, but I think it was about the linked Cs and what it could stand for,” he added.
Diana’s post-divorce style was undoubtedly different from that during her married life, steering away from royal extravagance in favour of more classic, understated designer pieces.
“At the time she was going through that very chic minimalist stage after the divorce, so I think she’d kind of gone against the image of the big hats and the ruffles and everything. It was all very cleaned out and streamlined. Her hair was very quite short and very simple and she was going for the really simple Versace, body conscious knee-length suits and dresses and the little pearl necklaces. It was sort of that later style of hers where it was very streamlined.”
Jayson initially recalled his encounter with the late Princess in a commemorative Facebook post: