British Royal Family

Inside Princess Diana's friendship with designer Catherine Walker

The People's Princess had an intricate and intertwined friendship with one of Britain's most celebrated designers.

By Chloe Lal
Two decades may have passed since the death of Princess Diana, but for the beloved royal, her incredible fashion sense has stood the test of time.
To this day, Diana is regards as one of the world's most celebrated fashion icons... And many cite that down to her friend, designer Catherine Walker.
Having created over 1000 pieces for Diana, the French-born designer, who passed away in 2010, first started dressing the royal following her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles, but it was the evolution of her style following her 1992 divorce that catapulted the Princess as a bonafide fashionista.
In a new interview with Hello!, Said Cyrus, widower of Catherine Walker who founded the company with his late wife, chatted about working with the royal.
"We saw our job as giving [Diana] the tools of her trade," he explained to Hello!.
"As the relationship developed, we took the combination of her job and our support very seriously."
Speaking of the Princess, he reminisced, "Diana was always very polite, very courteous and very appreciative. She was never late for an appointment, which for a busy person shows respect, and whenever she wore a dress that was admired she’d thank us."
WATCH: A look inside Princess Diana's incredible relationship with designer Catherine Walker... Article continues below!
He shared two of his favourite designs that Diana wore.
The first was a beguiling pearl, sequin and crystal embroidered lace halter-neck gown that was created for a charity gala back in 1996, held in Washington hosted by Ralph Lauren and Anna Wintour.
The second holds bittersweet significance with many royal fans remembering Princess Diana donning a red belted day dress.
The Catherine Walker creation was the outfit that she wore in what would be her last daytime public appearance back at Northwick Park Hospital, just a month before her tragic death in August 1997.
Unbeknownst to anyone, this would be Diana's last public outing.
Diana knew the power of fashion, turning to it to help raise money for those who were less fortunate.
In 1996, she famously hosted an auction at Christie's in New York where she sold many of her iconic pieces and donated the profits to charity.
"We were all very optimistic about how much the dresses would raise for the Princess’ charities," Said reflected.
"I think she will always be remembered for her humanitarian work. In the end, she used her dresses to save lives."
Diana dressed in one of Said's favourite Catherine Walker designs.
The French fashion queen clearly held a dear significance to Diana, with her friend Alison Reid revealing that Diana was buried in a black dress, one of Catherine's creations.
Catherine, who was notoriously private, spoke very little on the matter, describing as her final design commission as "the saddest and most difficult commission of my life".
Speaking of their relationship in the early days, Catherine said, "We weren't without our similarities."
"We were both tall, both shy, both coming to terms with a new career and we had both seen our parents divorce in early childhood."
Catherine was incredibly loyal to the royal, rarely speaking about their friendship.
A few years ago, Catherine's friend penned a piece about how instrumental she was in helping Diana evolve her style.
"After Diana’s separation from Prince Charles in 1992, clothes became even more important to her.... Together, the two women devised a joint strategy of ‘defiant’ frocks — body-conscious but without vulgarity," Alison shared with the Daily Mail.
"Her purpose, after the divorce, became to reassert herself as a beautiful woman — and it was during those years that Catherine made some of her most brilliant creations."
It's clear Diana has paved the way for the next generation of royals to enjoy what they wear.
Kerry Taylor, who's company has auctioned several of Princess Diana's frocks, spoke of the impact of her legacy.
"If you look at the ’90s Diana, it’s a very different woman,but later she looked toned and happier in her life," she mused.
"Her influence meant that royals didn’t have to be dowdy. You didn’t have to wear pastel colours, a massive handbag and hat. You could love fashion and look good. She was a breath of fresh air."
The designer helped Diana come out of her shell, creating some of her sultriest pieces.
The beloved Princess adored what she described as her "Elvis Dress". Dubbing it because of the collar, Diana wore it on two occasions.
It's through fashion that Prince William's wife, Duchess Catherine, holds on to her connection with her late mother-in-law.
Royal watchers have noted the many ways the 35-year-old keeps Diana's memory alive, from the way she dresses her kids, her charity work and of course her love of couture.
Back in 2011, in a poignant and significant move, during her first royal tour as William's wife, the couple were in Canada when Kate wore a grey sheath dress by Catherine Walker, on the day after what would have been Diana's 50th birthday.
Since then the Duchess has turned to the British house for many of her celebrated looks.
Kate often turns to the British fashion house.

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