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Designers today know that the real success of a fashion show is measured not in the looks themselves, but by the strength of its front row. For many, that means courting the latest Hollywood darlings or social media ingénues (see: Zendaya and Amelia Dimoldenberg) but the real coup is landing a royal, specifically a princess.
“Throughout history, fashion houses have had strong links with royal families, particularly in Europe,” explains Davina Chelsea, Tatler’s social editor. “I think people are fascinated by the younger generation of princesses following in the fashionable footsteps of their ancestors, as well as having an insight into a world that we don’t usually have access to.”
While you’re unlikely to spot a working royal on the front row, those lower down the pecking order are able to do as they please – and brands are eager to snap them up. “Inviting ‘real’ royalty is essentially going back to basics for couture,” explains Ivana Giachino, founder of communications strategy and talent partnering agency Lo Studio. “It is strategic to invite princesses to dress and nurture long-lasting relationships. They are the ultimate dream client: young and stylish, but they also convey to the viewers a very fairytale-like and romantic idea that has been lost lately. It is pure elegance and refreshing.”
The shows in Paris this week saw a particularly strong princess turnout. Princess Alexandra of Hanover was at Chanel, wearing her mother’s vintage LBD; Princess Eugenie of York made her fashion show debut at Fendi menswear; while Queen Sonja of Norway took her granddaughter, the TikTok influencer Leah Behn, to Dior.
Here’s everything you need to know about the front row’s newest stars.
Princess Alexandra of Hanover
When your grandmother is Princess Grace of Monaco, being stylish is in your blood. Princess Alexandra of Hanover, 24, is the younger half-sister of Charlotte Casiraghi, and the only daughter of Princess Caroline of Monaco and Prince Ernst August of Hanover. A regular presence at fashion week since she was 20-years-old, this week she made headlines for wearing her mother’s Chanel LBD, first seen in the Autumn/Winter 1990 couture collection, to Virginie Viard’s latest couture show for the fashion house. She was also a guest at the Giambattista Valli show on Monday evening.
Her wardrobe consists of both designer - she’s also a regular at Dior shows - as well as high street, including a very on-trend polka-dot dress from Reformation, which she wore to last year’s Monaco Grand Prix.
Alexandra might have bumped into her sister-in-law, Beatrice Borromeo (an Italian aristocrat married to Pierre Casiraghi) while in Paris as she was in town for the Dior show.
Princess Eugenie of York
Princess Eugenie, 33, made a surprise appearance at the Dior Homme show this week. The late Queen’s granddaughter, who works as an associate director at the art gallery Hauser and Wirth, has built up a relationship with the brand over recent years through creative director Kim Jones, who also designs for Fendi.
For the show, she epitomised Parisian chic, wearing head-to-toe black Fendi - a wool jersey dress with logo buckle belt, slingback heels, tuxedo jacket and Peekaboo ISeeU bag. While she has been criticised by some for her fashion choices in the past, her style has matured in recent years. Her Peter Pilotto and Zac Posen wedding dresses were particularly elegant and she is now often seen in Jones’s Fendi designs, including at last year’s Coronation.
Queen Sonja of Norway and Leah Isadora Behn
It was a family affair at the Dior show, as Queen Sonja of Norway took her granddaughter, Leah Isadora Behn, as her plus-one. The 18-year-old daughter of Princess Märtha-Louise of Norway and her late ex-husband, Ari Behn, Leah is carving a niche for herself on TikTok as a beauty influencer.
Dividing her time between her native Norway and Los Angeles (where her mother and her husband-to-be, Shaman Durek, live) her style is inflected with West Coast cool and a penchant for Y2K staples such as low-rise baggy jeans and crop tops, as is fashionable amongst Gen Z. For the Dior show, she wore a navy mini-dress, beige belted blazer and black tiger-print tights, accessorising with a nude Miss Dior bag borrowed from Queen Sonja.
Princess Maria-Olympia of Greece
A bonafide member of the international jetset, 27-year-old Princess Maria-Olympia is the daughter of Prince Pavlos of Greece and the New York socialite Chantal Miller. No stranger to fashion events, the genetically blessed princess has modelled for Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Cartier, and walked in the Dolce & Gabbana show that cast a roll-call of aristocratic names in 2018.
This week she was spotted on the front row at super-cool Swedish label Toteme, where she was a regal advert for the brand, wearing its signature black wool coat and T-lock clutch, which she paired with a simple shift dress and knee-high boots. Maria-Olympia would look good in whatever she wears, but she’s got a penchant for championing emerging names such as Alessandra Rich, Brock Collection and Monse.
The Princesses of Bourbon-Two Sicilies
Why invite one Princess to your show when you can invite three in one go? That was perhaps the thinking for the Giorgio Armani show, where Princess Camilla of Bourbon-Two Sicilies took to the front row alongside her daughters, Princess Maria Carolina and Princess Maria Chiara.
Hailing from the Spanish Bourbon house, which ruled over Southern Italy and Sicily from 1734 to 1860, Princess Maria Chiara made headlines last summer when she was linked to the then Prince Christian of Denmark who has since become Crown Prince following his grandmother Queen Margrethe’s abdication.
The mother-daughters trio reminded the world of their glamorous appeal in Paris this week, wearing opulent black and velvet at Armani. Maria Carolina and Maria Chiara were then spotted at Elie Saab the following day, peacocking in jewel-coloured gowns.