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WWDStyle issue 03/08/2011

Royal watchers are eagerly anticipating Kate Middleton and Prince William’s April wedding, but that union had nothing to do with designer Matthew Williamson’s decision to take the plunge into bridal.

In fact, the London-based designer was on the case long before the royal son made things official by giving Middleton Princess Diana’s sapphire engagement ring. Williamson first tested the waters a year ago by unveiling a capsule collection of wedding dresses through Net-a-porter. Beyond the natural progression from eveningwear to wedding dresses that many designers choose to pursue, he had proven sales figures to back up his inclination. The fact that many fashion-conscious brides-to-be were selecting dresses from his eveningwear for themselves and their bridesmaids was another reassuring point.

This story first appeared in the March 8, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Even before he designed this full-fledged collection, Williamson knew firsthand how exacting brides can be. He designed customized wedding dresses for his sister Andrea, his best friend Chantal Kerzner and, more notably, for Kelis’ wedding to Nas. The latter asked for a gown the color of green grapes, so that is precisely what Williamson made. “It was so fitting of her personality and style that she was delighted with the result,” he said.

The 12-piece collection he has developed is offered in more traditional shades. A parachute gown, a poppy georgette embellished shift dress and a tulle cocktail dress with hand-sewn ivory-colored feathers are a few of his personal favorites. Each style required significant craftsmanship, including fine embroidery, ornate beading and the use of luxurious natural fabrics such as a buttermilk-colored silk satin dress printed with a hand-painted abstract wintery scene accomplished through a burn-out technique. To complement that design, there are one-shoulder bridesmaid dresses softly draped in the same fabric and fitted at the waist. Williamson also created jewel-encrusted mink and rabbit fur shrugs. But there are more relaxed styles as well, like sheer ivory silk maxidresses with plunging necklines and ruffled skirts covered with Swarovski crystals for beach-bound destination wedding brides.

Williamson may host a trunk show April 9 at his Meatpacking District flagship in New York. The collection wholesales from $1,400 to $3,300.

It is too soon to tell where Williamson will catch the April 29 royal wedding but the designer is certain Middleton’s look will be copied far and wide. “I mean, who doesn’t want to look like a princess on her wedding day?” he said.

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