Fashion and royalty are eternally linked, from Marie Antoinette’s pouf to Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress. (It’s easy to forget that the designer’s title was Princess until she divorced Prince Egon of Furstenberg in 1972.) And we’d be remiss not to mention Kate Middleton, whose fashion choices have captivated royal-watchers across the globe.
In that sense, Mafalda von Hessen is simply keeping up with tradition. The Italian-German princess is the daughter of Moritz von Hessen, who was the son of Philipp von Hessen and Princess Mafalda of Savoy. (Who was, in turn, the daughter of Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III.) Oh, and she’s related to England’s Queen Victoria as well.
Now that we have the family tree laid out, it’s important to note that while von Hesson is regal and beautiful, she’s also exceedingly warm and enthusiastic when greeting reporters in a Gramercy Park hotel suite just days before the official start of NYFW. Racks and racks of her very own collection, which she quietly launched in 2013, border the room. She’s wearing the line’s midi-length circle skirt with wooly tights and strappy sandals that she manufactured back at home in Italy.
Von Hesson’s look is rustic and folksy in a 40s-meets-70s way: never trendy or too buttoned up. And the rest of the 28-piece, mix-and-match collection reflects that. There’s a gold lamé polo dress, which she pairs with zip-front riding boots. Silk-crepe pajama pants printed with her own painting of spiked clouds. A flared jacket in the prettiest seafoam green. But the piece de resistance is certainly the cape-like coat inspired by one worn by her great grandmother. “I found it in our attic in Rome about a decade ago,” Von Hesson explained. “It had side slits like this, too, probably because she was hiding a knife in there!” (Princess Mafalda of Savoy was quite a brave soul: she may be best known for fighting against Hitler during World War II. He called her the “blackest carrion in the Italian royal house.”)
But history aside, Von Hesson’s fashion inspirations are not simply nostalgic. She’s a trained costume designer — earning her MFA at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts — who wants this collection to flourish into a legitimate business. “There are stores that I’m hoping will want to carry the line, but I’m superstitious,” she says. “Right now, I’m happy for it to be sold wherever is possible.”
It’s hard not to be charmed by Von Hesson and her easy, romantic style. But to dress like a princess, you will have to pony up. Prices start at around $650 for tops and skirts. A worthy investment, we say, for a taste of regality.