Cambridge's Bhutanese skirt
The skirt was made especially for Kate by tailors in London, using fabric sourced from local weaver Kelzang Wangmo who is based in Thimphu and often weaves for the royal family in Bhutan.
Speaking over the phone from Bhutan to The Telegraph Kelzang Wangmo revealed that it usually takes five people three months to create these fabrics, which are woven by silk and cost on average $1,500, or £1,000. These fabrics are made by hand with no use of machinery, with Kelzang and her team relying on traditional techniques from making the texture to dyeing the material.
It was confirmed that Kelzang created the fabric for the Duchess of Cambridge, but this was a complete surprise to Kelzang who can not recall creating this specific fabric and had no idea that the Duchess was going to wear one of her pieces. Kensington Palace shared a video on their Twitter account of Kelzang's reaction to the news.
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The Duchess paired her Kira with a £520 lightweight cream wool cape from Paul & Joe, featuring intricate embroidery created in India - a fitting example of how Kate uses her clothes to flatter host nations.
On their first day in Bhutan, the royal couple met the Dragon King and Queen of Bhutan at the capital. The 25-year-old Queen of Bhutan, Jetsun Pema, is known as the 'Kate Middleton of the Himalayas'. And just like Kate, Jetsun is a powerful influence on the fashion in her country with Bhutanese people paying close attention to what she wears. The yellow traditional ankle-length dress, referred to as a 'kira', she wore to her wedding took weavers more than three years to make by hand.
Kelzang's team tell The Telegraph that they have experienced the 'Jetsun effect' first hand and that many people in Bhutan request fabrics to replicate Jetsun's kiras. The team reveals that the people of Bhutan by contrast know very little about the Duchess' style. However just like Jetsun, they expect that people will try to copy the blue and purple pattern the Duchess is wearing today and request similar fabrics.
"Usually royal families request silk, because it's something expensive and of great value, and so they wear silk," Kelzang says of designing for royals. "Jetsun on occasion will wear intricate patterns, with expensive fabrics, but usually she wears simple Kira designs. In Bhutan she is pretty much a model. People want to wear what she wears and like to copy her patterns." So do they think they will get requests based on Kate Middleton's look today? "Absolutely! Yes yes, of course."
In 1989 a strict dress code was enforced across Bhutan, with violators subject to heavy fines. Men were required to wear a Gho, a knee-length robe tied at the waist, and women a Kira, an ankle-length sari-like garment accompanied by a light jacket known as a Tego. Although the rules are now more relaxed, Kelzang explains that there has been little Western influence on how the majority of women in Bhutan dress and most people remain proud to wear traditional kiras.
Nonetheless. the proliferation of mobile phones is beginning to open up the younger generation to Western fashion, which is captured by Karma Wangchuk on his street style blog Bhutan Street Fashion Project, which he started in 2010.
“Fashion freedom is an individual choice and in Bhutan it’s very balanced,” he explains to The Telegraph. “The trendy girl you see at a club in the capital Thimphu might look like any female in New York or London’s club scene. The only difference is you will see the same girl in Kira going to college or work the next day.”
“In a homogeneous world where we are all getting ‘McDonald-ised’ by cheap, fast fashion, it’s nice to stick to our roots and have an identity,” Wangchuk says of the importance of national dress. “When our country is squashed between two giants, like India and China, it’s so easy to lose our identity.”
And, as if more proof were needed that The Duchess of Cambridge is taking her responsibility to fashion seriously on this Royal Tour, she changed out of her Kelzang Wangmo skirt into an embroidered tulle evening gown by Tory Burch for dinner with the King and Queen of Bhutan. The dress is still available on Net A Porter for £1,160 but, given the Kate effect, the question is: for how long?
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