In the short time that she's been in the media forefront, this fashionable young woman has shown that her style is accessible -- wearing labels many can afford -- while looking as regal as any other royal family members. What she chooses to wear will show on the world stage, some for the first time.
One company currently basking in the glow of Middleton's new fame is Reiss, who designed the cream dress she wore for her official engagement photo. Amazingly, the dress is one that had been in Middleton's closet for more than a year.
"The dress is a phenomenal story," Laurie Marco, Reiss' president for North America told StyleList. "She bought the dress for 159 British pounds, about $329 U.S. To have a woman like her wearing our dresses, Reiss feels so honored and privileged."
Marco shared with StyleList her thoughts on Middleton and what her choices are going to mean for her company.
StyleList: Tell us about Kate Middleton and the dress in the official engagement photo.
Laurie Marco: Kate Middleton has been a customer for years -- she's shopped in our West London store and has worked with the staff -- no one in particular. She buys staple Reiss pieces.
StyleList: Is Reiss her favorite label?
L.M.: She doesn't seem to be one to wear one brand or one label. She's more of a real person. She wears more what we call bridge labels -- Reiss, Jigsaw and Whistles. I think she'll do her own thing. When Diana got engaged she was frumpy -- there is no comparison to Kate, who is a pretty savvy 27-year-old who likes clothes and looks great in them."
StyleList: Will Kate Middleton be the U.K.'s Michelle Obama, with people writing about what she's wearing and how she's combining high and low?
L.M.: She will because she's down-to-earth. She's beautiful whether she's skiing or taking the garbage out. There's a softness to her -- she's very natural -- and she has the girl-next-door look to her. She's not above all of this, which women find very inspiring. Look, she chose an existing dress from her closet that was a year old for her royal engagement photo."
StyleList: That speaks to her pragmatism, and it works out for you.
L.M.: It shows you can pick something today and wear it for years. The dress is from the core of our collection. She also has a coat from three years ago and we have a similar one in the collection today. The core pieces are changed each season, are slightly different and come from what our clients want. If it sells out, we will bring it back. With our core pieces, we give our customers what they want.
StyleList: But this dress is coming back exactly the same.
L.M.: Our decision to reissue the dress was a no-brainer. The press was phenomenal in New York and Los Angeles. Three Mondays ago, our phone was ringing off the hook. We got calls from areas in the country we have no representation. I immediately said we'd take the dress back in the U.S. stores. The dress is a staple Reiss look. We're bringing it back in cream for spring-summer. It will be in the stores in silk crepe at the end of January.
StyleList: For many Americans, this is the first time they're hearing about Reiss, but you've been operating here since 2005.
L.M.: We have over 100 stores in the U.S., U.K., Middle East, Far East, Copenhagan and Russia. We have 70 or 80 stores in the U.K. and just nine in the U.S. -- in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles -- so we're a much more exclusive brand here and are not as reachable. We don't buy into the U.S. markdown strategy. We have two sales a year, in July and in the winter, usually January, but we started before Christmas this year.
StyleList: What kind of expansion plans do you have for the U.S.?
L.M.: Before the market crashed (in September 2008), we had all these plans, but then we realized not every place is like New York. We're building our brand awareness. We're looking at opening shop-in-shops in a department store -- we're talking with Bloomingdale's -- and we're feeling out the demographics in other cities.
StyleList: Who is the customer?
L.M.: We're very open-minded about our customer. She may wear a dress from Reiss and shoes from Zara. She buys her dresses from Diane von Furstenberg and her knits from Vince. Our men also shop at John Varvatos and J. Lindeberg.
We're in a unique position. We're a privately owned company; David Reiss is our founder and owner. We're celebrating our 40th anniversary in business in 2011. The excitement over the dress is a great lead-in to that.
Meanwhile, check out Kate Middleton's ever-evolving style (including the mesh dress that won the Prince's heart).