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Kate Middleton's Favorite Issa Designer Returns with New Label Dhela

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fashion fans rejoice! Daniella Helayel has launched a new label called Dhela. Daniella Helayel was the creator and designer of Issa, which shuttered some years ago. Issa was once Kate Middleton's favorite brand. It was the McQueen or Packham of her then closet, and she wore the chic jersey dresses to a panoply of events, from glittering galas to tasks as menial as taking out the trash. On November 16th, she wore her now most iconic Issa when she stepped into the state apartments at St. James's Palace with a sparkling sapphire on her left hand and Prince William at her side, to announce she would soon change from Miss Middleton to an HRH. 


Brazilian beauty Daniella Helayel, the brand's founder and designer, sold 51% of the company to Camilla al-Fayed, and as many suspected, that was the kiss of death for any hopes of further royal patronage. (learn why on my 2011 post here) Kate wore her last Issa, a purple jersey, on July 1, 2011 to an evening fireworks display on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
Although she must have a closet chock full of the label, we haven't seen her wear Issa in more than five years. 


Despite this, it seemed Issa would skyrocket with Kate's fame, but instead, (to the distress of Kate fashion fans everywhere) the entire label tanked shortly after. I read a few reports that the company was unable to meet the stratospheric demand, but with the launch of her new label, Daniella has given a very frank interview discussing the ins and outs of her beloved label's demise. I started following Kate when she debuted on the ski slopes of Klosters, so for me Issa remains one of Kate's most iconic brands. I don't think I can appropriately summarize the interview, and so if you are interested, I encourage you to pop over to this link and read it in full. I will pull a comment from Daniela assuring us that although her new label Dhela is a fresh start, it will have some throwbacks:
There are hints of Issa in my new label, but updated and matured. Jersey will always figure in my collections, although recently I’ve become very interested in knitwear. I’m really pleased with the first collection.
I personally think, and I suspect that you will agree with me, that if the shoe fits wear it. If it ain't broke, don't fix it....whatever other adages your grandmother taught you. Issa has something that really worked, and by chance it went south. No shame in launching the same theory under a new name. I'm on board for Issa 2.0, aka Dhela. 

Dhela.com

Speaking of Issa success, let's quickly run through some of Kate absolute greatest Issa of all time! It is really hard for me to choose my favorite Issa evening gown, because both the gunmetal and the pink halter neck are drop-dead gorgeous, but I think the gunmetal wins thanks to the mix of sharp geometric and soft flowing lines. Kate wore this in 2009 when she hosted a table at the Saatchi Gallery in London on behalf of Starlight Children's Foundation.  Although Kate had been active in a number of charity events as a singleton, this was one of her later initiatives when she really knew she was looking at just a few more years of quiet before she would ascend to royal status. She was confident and glowing. 


Coming in second in my favorites, and I think a very popular fan favorite generally, is this sparkling Issa featuring a daring plunging neckline. 


The pink halter-neck is a close second among my favorite formal dresses pre-wedding. Kate wore this to the Boodles Boxing Ball in 2008 at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London.


One of the Meades was competing in the boxing match that night to benefit Starlight. William and Kate were joined by Harry and Chelsy Davy and a bevy of their social set. Here Kate chats with Guy Pelly, one of William's best friends.


Although the blue engagement Issa is the most iconic, another blue frock from the label (often overlooked when tallying her Issa) is the electric dress she wore to Harry Meade's wedding just before the news broke that she was engaged to William. That was a custom Issa, which makes you wonder what kind of collaborations Kate might have had with the label had al-Fayed not gotten on board: 


This is far from an exhaustive list of Kate's Issa collection. She owns the lucky dress in hot pink, black, and white. This halter top dress that Kate was photographed in on a number of occasions before her marriage is Issa. Here, Kate Middleton is pictured wearing it as she returns from work on an August evening in 2007.


Below is Kate on a night out with girlfriends in 2007. They had dinner at a West London restaurant and then continued the party at favorite watering hole Boujis. This dress is also Issa!


A black wrap dress that we became very familiar with in the days leading up to the wedding is classic Issa. Here Kate is pictured doing a spot of shopping on April 20th, just nine days before her wedding, closely trailed by her PPO: 


It remains to be seen if Kate wears any of Helayel's new label. In many ways, it seems that Kate has moved on and I wonder, even starting fresh, if the label will be removed enough from the al-Fayed connections. Even if Kate doesn't wear any Dhela, as long as Helayel produces her tried and true core designs and incorporates her signature flair for color and fabrics, Dhela is sure to be a hit. 

43 comments:

  1. What a fun post! Thank you, Jane!

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  2. Thanks for the post, Jane! I miss those Issa days...Kate always looked amazing in Daniella's dresses :) My favourites are in the exact order as you put them, Jane. I absolutely loved the gunmetal dress she wore to the charity event, that is my all-time favourite outfit from her pre-engagement days. Funny how the top two choices are both extremely low-cut! ;) I also loved her Lucky dresses...the sheer back of the black one she wore while shopping was daring, she always seemed very confident when wearing this label. I wish we would see Kate in Daniella's new label Dhela, but as you mentioned, I think Kate may have moved on...but you never know!

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    1. Yes, you never know! I hope that she wears Dhela--it would be so fun and I am sure she'd look incredible in them. I do love the plunging necklines--I don't know if that is a good thing, but I always have loved them. :)

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  3. I'd be willing to guess that Daniella is hoping Kate doesn't wear her new line, if the increase in demand from the Kate effect is really what rang the death knell for Issa. But I read the interview and wasn't impressed with Daniella's attitude--she seemed incredibly self-involved and desperate to prove how popular Issa was in its heyday. Good on her for launching a new brand, I guess, but I think Kate will skip it.
    -TMM

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  4. I thought the interview was a bit self-serving. And selling 51% of the company and being surprised she lost control..huh?

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    1. Most interviews are self serving, why else would one do them??

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    2. But the key to a successful one is not to be so obvious.She missed.

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    3. ...to provide facts and information?

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    4. Many designers, at one point, lose control over their companies. They either have to start over or do a pitched battle to regain control. It is a very hard industry even for those selling and doing well. Calvin Klein had to borrow 25 million dollars from David Geffen to save his company or he would have been kicked out. He had one weekend to find the money. It's a cut throat business. Don't judge so harshly. It's not like running the local small business.

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    5. The DM article seemed to me to be mostly whining and name-dropping. Sure, opening and owning any business--even a small local one--can be difficult and stressful. And there may be special challenges for designers. But selling a controlling interest is always risky. At least after she lost her business (during the time she pointed out she was suffering greatly) she was able to do nothing for 2+ yrs but yoga and traveling abroad to Brazil, LA, and Japan. And still has a townhouse in Chelsea. If only owners of most failed small businesses could be so lucky.

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    6. Having the DoC as a customer (even former) doesn't hurt any potential business ventures.

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  5. Enjoyed this post, Jane but was really looking forward to hearing your Ivanka Trump story+fashion you promised us next! When can we expect that post please?:)

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  6. The last photograph is one of my favorites ever. I never get tired of seeing it. I thought she looked amazing during that last shopping trip as a single gal.

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  7. She always looked great in the Issa dresses and they were so well fitted. However, imagine the shrieks of horror if she wore such low necks now.

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    1. The purple is my favorite, both the color and style. Very sophisticated and lady-like.

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    2. I love that one too!

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  8. very interesting throwback! the new collection looks promising, but as you say, Catherine moved on and those Issa dresses probably were in a different price range from what she wears now... speaking of "closets full of dresses"... I sometimes wonder where all this is stored... what do you think? xo, anna

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  9. Mary in Nebraska, USAFebruary 24, 2017 at 11:55 AM

    I love the new collection! Bright colors, alluring, yet comfortable. They would look great on a variety of body shapes. In this case, to heck with the duchess. I want these for ME!!!

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  10. Mary in Nebraska, USAFebruary 24, 2017 at 11:58 AM

    I love the new collection! Bright colors, alluring, yet comfortable. They would look great on a variety of body shapes. In this case, to heck with the duchess. I want these for ME!!!

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    1. Haha, Mary, I like your way of thinking! Forget Kate, these designs would suit anyone :)

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  11. Beautiful dresses. The Mail article takes a close read. She does not actually say Kate ruined her business. She clearly was not a good manager as she had been having financial issues for several years. Hopefully the experience has wised her up to either hire some really good mangers or to have learned herself from her mistakes.

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  12. This was a fun look back and an interesting discussion idea. I have to agree with lizzie that she should never have sold a controlling interest and then been surprised when the new CEO took the company in a direction she didn't like. As for the "Kate effect" mentioned, high end designers say "sold out" all the time. She could have done that and brought the style back in her next collection with a different print. Better to leave them wanting more than to tick them off because you can't deliver. Not a good business manager. She also should have known that the customer who put her name on the map would never be associated with anyone connected to the al-Fayed family. Had she been living under a rock for the past 20 years? Yea, for those who love her style to get it back but I think her "Kate ship" has sailed. I also agree that the Duchess of Cambridge would never wear quite the daring necklines Kate Middleton wore.

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    1. Business is much tougher than most understand. She was obviously promised things when she sold that later turned out to not be true. Like many artistic people, she's a blessed designer and finds the business side more of a challenge.

      Kate has worn several things very low cut as a princess. I remember a green lace dress that was cut almost to her belly button. Kate has no boobs, butt, or hips (like me). But she has a very willowy shape that many don't. Showing off her shoulders and torso highlights her best features. I hope she wears this designer again. Her fashion choices need a shot in the arm that this would provide.

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    2. "Kate has no boobs,butt, or hips..." Or, " This type of style doesn't flatter...or is not appropriate..for her figure." Same thought without graphic comments.

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  13. What a fun retrospective! And I can see Kate in the new red Dehla (far right). Oh, youth! That plunging neckline dress! The pink gown! The gunmetal! Thank you Jane!

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  14. I enjoy looking back at Kate's single days. Didn't she have "it" all along? 😊

    The dresses looked wonderful on Kate, but I admit to not being a fan of the dress with most plunging neckline. I'm no prude, but I just wonder why...what is so flattering about it?

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    1. Royalfan, I love the single Kate (aka vintage Kate) photos too! I tend to prefer how she dressed all those years ago. I guess she had fewer restrictions back then.

      Some of my favorite older photos of Kate are of her, hand in hand with Pippa, braving the paps.

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    2. Jay, I think the main reason I enjoy looking back at these photos is because, in my heart, I always felt that she was "the one" and it was just a matter of time. Kudos to William for getting it so right!

      By the way, I miss the peep toe shoes. :-)

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    3. I love the peep-toes, royalfan. I remember the Queen wore them at one time.

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    4. Yes, she did, Anon 1. :-)

      Peeptoe pumps can also be a good transitional style (re: weather). And I'd also like to see Kate wear slingback pumps (day or night).

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    5. Yes, she did have a certain aura even back then, royalfan. Plus, she looked so calm and collected. Not sure how she managed it with all those cameras pointed at her.

      Like the peep-toes too!

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  15. I never knew Catherine had so much Issa. She looks fantastic in Issa. Too bad she'll never wear any of those dresses again. I would love to see some of those get worn now.

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  16. I really miss the Issa days. These are some of my favorite dresses ever. I especially like the gray and pink evening gowns--both are absolutely stunning in their simplicity! And I love the short black dress she wore a few days before her wedding. Also, Kate never looked better than the day her engagement to William was announced. In my opinion, her dress, her hair… everything came together in an effortless way. She looked so pretty and natural that day!

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  17. You say "She owns the lucky dress in hot pink, black, and white." are there pictures of this, or how do you know? Thanks :)

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    1. Here is a link to some pics of Kate (& Pippa) in the Lucky dress from Google Images (I hope the link works!): https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/66/e2/58/66e258a22347f0783f5e8a1e1494f75b.jpg

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  18. Oh I adore that gunmetal gown. Kate is sheer perfection in it. All those gorgeous creations suited her. What fun to look back over the years. That was a great label for her, too bad it was ruined by the presence of Al Fayed.

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  19. Love them all, except for the cow print :)

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  20. Just wondering if we might see a dress from the Indian tour, tomorrow at the Anglo-Indian reception.

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    1. I think that's highly likely, Jean. Or maybe even something from Saloni, either new or a repeat?

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