The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have touched down in Islamabad and are kicking off their ten day Royal Tour today. Princess Diana championed Pakistani designers in the nineties; Camilla often wears it in London; and now, it’s Kate’s turn to have a go at it. In anticipation of all the fashion that is to come, Lahore-based writers Laaleen Sukhera and Mahlia S. Lone are predicting what Kate will wear on her inaugural trip to the place her mother-in-law loved so much.
Thanks to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Visit, it’s Pakistan’s moment in the spotlight. The timing couldn’t have been better for both nations: Pakistan has long struggled with her public image, while Britain is preparing herself for Brexit. And nothing seems to top off diplomacy more than interesting sartorial choices that incorporate designers from the hosting nation!
From sought-after couturiers to popular high street labels, sustainable brands and ethically-conscious products, here is a curated selection of Pakistani design, artisanry, and entrepreneurship that incorporates contemporary aesthetics with traditional craftsmanship and indigenous textiles.
Before a big tour like this, there’s always a good bit of hopefulness amongst designers in the hosting nation as whoever she wears will instantly be elevated. People magazine suggests she’ll likely go with Hassan Shehryar of the HSY label in Lahore. The bookies’ choice might well be Rizwan Bayg, a Karachi based couturier, as a mark of homage to her late mother-in-law, but even Rizwan isn’t entirely sure.
“Diana was experimental when it came to fashion and Kate is more classic,” he says. Rizwan designed Diana’s memorable shalwar kameezes for her frequent visits to Lahore in the 1990s, when she was pursuing a romantic relationship with Hasnat Khan, the British-Pakistani cardiologist. Her three-piece outfits were custom-designed at the request of her friend, Jemima Goldsmith, the former wife of Pakistan’s current Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and contained plenty of traditional hand-embroidered motifs.
During a 2013 interview with Julian Day, costume designer for the Diana biopic starring Naomi Watts, Julian told me, “Diana created a style for the royal family. Kate is following in her footsteps, a proxy really. Kate is a very classic dresser.”
The Duchess of Cambridge is, however, unlikely to be as comfortable with Pakistani embellishments as Diana was. The country’s runways teem with multiple fashion weeks and rarely shy away from swathes of fabric, oodles of color, and miles of dazzle. As a result, many of our sartorial picks for Kate have a fantasy element to them, looks sported by contemporary Pakistani women at soirées and ballrooms that we wish she might make her own, possibly adding some texture or—dare we say—pizzazz to her ladylike wardrobe of Jenny Packhams, Temperleys, Sarah Burtons, and Jigsaws.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Kate shied away from the more elaborate creations by Pakistani fashion labels, and we’re sorely disappointed that her tiaras aren’t likely to be accompanying her on this visit. Nevertheless, she’s expected to make some symbolic fashion choices in the manner of former foreign tours.
As this is the Duke and Duchess’s maiden voyage to Pakistan, the visit may be perceived as a meaningful gesture echoing Diana’s fondness for a nation that held her in deep fondness and one that looks forward to welcoming her son and daughter-in-law to its shores. As they follow in her footsteps and make visits to cancer charities and centers of education, William and Kate will be honoring Diana’s legacy while creating meaningful new memories and relationships of their own.
Diplomatic Galas, Islamabad
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expected to attend a state banquet at the Presidency in Islamabad in the tradition of multiple former occasions hosting the Queen, Princess Diana, and Prince Charles, and Camilla, where they will mingle with a number of Pakistani luminaries from the government, the arts and other circles. The British High Commission is also likely to host Kate and William at their premises, home to one of Britain’s largest foreign missions in the world.
State Dinner at the Pakistan Monument:
“I think this look would suit the Duchess because it’s a classic fusion of the East with the West,” says designer Faraz Manan of the jacket. “It’s a tailored English cut with subcontinental embroidery techniques in soft pastel colors.”
Reception at the British Residency:
“This dress depicts the power of Mother Nature in the form of jungles as natural habitats,” says designer Omar Mansoor of the dress.
“This hand-crafted piece reflects our region’s rich cultural heritage and exquisitely handcrafted embroideries,” explains Shehla Chatoor of the cape.
Historical Monuments, Lahore
Will and Kate are expected to pay visits to key landmarks during their trip. As the country’s cultural capital, the city of Lahore is home to Pakistan’s national monument and symbol of freedom, the Minar-e-Pakistan tower; Emperor Aurangzeb’s 17th century Mughal masterpieces, the Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort; and the Victorian-era residence of the Governor of Punjab, constructed during the British Raj.
Excursion to the Minar-e-Pakistan:
“Keeping in mind Kate’s personal aesthetic and lean physique, this is one of many looks we’d recommend. She does like to wear local craft and culturally relevant clothes of the countries she visits,” says Khadijah Shah of Élan.
Touring the Lahore Fort:
“This is a great example of our opulent cultural heritage and rich tradition,” says Rana of the tunic and skirt. “I think its regal style would suit the Duchess well.”
Visit to the Badshahi Mosque:
“This look is ethereal and classic, just like Her Royal Highness,” says Maheen of the tunic and trousers.
“It’s an easy high-impact glamorous look and an amalgamation of various Pakistani folk techniques and motifs,” says Kamiar Rokni of the caftan.
Scenic Principalities, Northern Pakistan
As the guests of Prince Aga Khan, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be visiting the picturesque Gilgit-Baltistan province. The Duchess might engage in some friendly sports with schoolchildren in her wedges or hiking boots in Hunza Valley, while the Duke might sport a Chitral cap in the tradition of his mother to keep the evening chill at bay or attempt a chakkar at Shandur, the world’s highest polo ground. The couple also might enjoy a romantic night under the stars at Khaplu Palace, a beautiful boutique hotel.
Boating at Lake Attabad, Hunza
Overnight Stay at Khaplu Palace
“If I had to dress the Duchess, this is what I’d envision her in,” says Hassan Shehryar of HSY of the sari and jacket.
The World’s Highest Polo Ground at Shandur
Social Causes, Lahore and Islamabad
When Prime Minister Imran Khan created Shaukat Khanum Memorial, a cancer hospital in memory of his mother, Diana was a key supporter. The former cricketer turned politician, hosted Kate and William this morning. The duchess wore an emerald green tunic by Catherine Walker with cream pants by Pakistani designer Maheen Khan. The duo are also expected to visit key charities, schools and deserving causes funded by the U.K. government in the country.
Visiting Cancer Survivors at SKM
Visits to Schools and Orphanages
Climate Change and Environmental Awareness Trips
“I’d love to see the Duchess in a traditional yet contemporary outfit like this,” says Maheen Khan of the kameez and lehnga. “The colors are clean and bright and very flattering for her hair and skin tone. It reflects the grace and beauty of our women.”
—Laaleen Sukhera and Mahlia S. Lone