Praise be for Gabriela Hearst. Her Demi satin tote found its way into the hand of the Duchess of Sussex yesterday, and lifted her outfit from “business as usual” to almost directional. For a woman partial to a Strathberry tote and a roster of simple designer clutch bags, the Demi is big news.
The £1,695 (AED 8,000) accessory with rotund body and looped handle was enough to steer eyes away from the cream Emporio Armani coat and nude suede Gianvito Rossi heels the Duchess chose for a day visiting crowds in Sussex, her namesake county. Yes, the moss-green & Other Stories blouse and matching Boss leather skirt worn underneath were suitably safe and ladylike, but the pale color palette marks a step back from the sleek black tailoring that appeared to have become her calling card in recent weeks. Alas, she can’t turn to Givenchy for every royal engagement.
Back to the bag: aside from its distinct proportions, which have made it popular with the street-style set, Gabriela Hearst is an interesting choice for the Duchess, who has not openly professed an interest in sustainable fashion before. Although a New York dweller who undoubtedly caters for professional women with busy work and social schedules, Hearst takes inspiration from the Uruguay ranch she grew up on. Ninety-nine per cent of her materials are sustainable. Yes, they are the most luxurious materials available, but each piece is thoughtfully designed, hand crafted and has a purpose – something that is rarer than one might think in the fashion industry. This authenticity has garnered Hearst a cult following.
Take her first handbag, the Nina, for example. Hearst launched the leather tote in October 2015 with just 25 units. In a few months there was a waiting list with over 1,000 names on it. Years down the line, it is still difficult to secure the Nina in some colors, and each has a microchip in it, because fakes have become inevitable.
While it could seem insensitive to some that the Duchess has chosen an eye-wateringly expensive bag to wear on a state visit, the Demi tote suggests that she will be diversifying her wardrobe to make thoughtful choices. And if she merely loves Gabriela Hearst as many who perceive the Demi as an art object do, then it’s gratifying to know that she feels confident enough to inject some personality in her public-facing outfits.
This article first appeared on Vogue.co.uk