From AP: What dress Kate Middleton will be wearing when she marries Prince William on April 29 remains one of the most eagerly anticipated and closely guarded secrets of Britain's royal wedding. This weekend, a new contender was reported in the Huffington Post: Sophie Cranston, the relatively unknown designer behind the line Libelula. Here's a look at the names being thrown around the couture rumor mill.
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One of Sarah Burton's funky Fall 2011 designs.
Burton, appointed creative director of Alexander McQueen shortly after the designer's death in 2010, is widely tipped among the British press to be Middleton's dress designer — despite Burton's denials. Some believe she may be covering up her involvement to maintain secrecy. The Telegraph reported that Burton was "chosen for the discretion afforded by her relatively low profile, as well as for her alternative take on elegance."
Burton's work is said to have caught Middleton's eye when she designed an off-the-shoulder wedding dress for Sara Buys, a fashion journalist who in 2005 married Tom Parker Bowles, the son of Middleton's future stepmother-in-law, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
The designer, who was raised in Manchester in northern England, has dressed Cate Blanchett, Lady Gaga and Gwyneth Paltrow. She joined McQueen in 1996 as an intern and in September presented her first womenswear collection in Paris. Her clothes were not as dark or dramatic as McQueen's, but still bold enough to make her a fashion-forward choice for a royal bride.
One of Princess Diana's favorite designers, Oldfield is best known for his couture evening dresses and bridalwear. He counts Queen Rania of Jordan, Jerry Hall, Barbra Streisand and Catherine Zeta-Jones among his celebrated clients.
Oldfield's style is traditional and timeless, and his gowns, made in classic bridal fabrics like crushed velvet and taffeta, would befit a formal occasion like a royal wedding. Middleton's mother and sister Pippa were spotted in his boutique earlier this year; Sophie Wessex, the wife of Prince William's uncle, has become the latest royal seen at the store, adding to speculation that Oldfield is crafting several gowns for the royal wedding.
Oldfield, from northwest England, studied at Central St. Martin's College of Art before starting his ready-to-wear label in 1975 and his couture label in 1978.
A luxury bridal fashion designer based in London's swanky Chelsea — an area frequented by Middleton and her well-heeled friends — Lepley is known for her romantic, classic style. Lepley, who made wedding gowns for celebrities Davina McCall and Ulrika Jonsson, was an early frontrunner as a designer for Middleton. Lepley grew up in Nottinghamshire, studied at the London College of Fashion and launched her bridal business in 1988.
Known for Bohemian designs that use traditional embroideries and intricate embellishments, Temperley makes bridal gowns that are ethereal and vintage-inspired. Middleton's mother and maid-of-honor sister Pippa were recently snapped in Temperley's London showroom, fueling gossip that she may be designing the bridesmaids' dresses or the wedding gown. Temperley studied at Central Saint Martins and the Royal College of Art. She is from Somerset in southern England.
Conran's trademark style is clean and understated, and his bridal line is dominated by regal, modern silhouettes. Conran, known as one of Princess Diana's favored designers, made the wedding gown of Princess Margaret's daughter Lady Sarah Chatto in 1994 as well as heiress and model Jasmine Guinness's wedding dress in 2006. The designer studied at New York's Parsons School of Art and Design before launching his label, which now spans clothing, perfumes, furniture and tableware. He is the son of British designer Terence Conran.
Sophie Cranston won the Designer of the Year award at Graduate Fashion Week in 1999 and then went on to work with Alice Temperley and Alexander McQueen before founding her own label, Libelula ("dragonfy") in Spain. As Libelula grew in stature, she returned to south London, where the label has attracted a devoted following. She is known for her use of bright, exuberant colors and has designed numerous bespoke wedding gowns and bridesmaids outfits.
Wakeley, a self-taught designer, launched her label in 1990 and has since dressed celebrities including Scarlett Johansson, Demi Moore, Kate Beckinsdale and Dita Von Teese. Her bridal line is contemporary and glamorous, with lots of slinky, bias-cut silk dresses — perfect for an outdoor or beach wedding but perhaps not so for traditional church ceremonies. From Chester, central England, Wakeley worked in the U.S. for a designer and retailer before starting her own brand.
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Sandra Bullock, in a romantic Jenny Packham gown at this year's Golden Globes
Another designer with a vintage-inspired bridal line, Packham's wedding dresses are often unstructured sheaths that dip low in the front and back — not exactly royal wear. Packham opened her first ready-to-wear shop in 2008 and her bridal gowns are now much sought after among British brides. She also owns a bridal accessories boutique called The Boudoir. Born in Southampton in southern England, Packham studied textile and fashion design at St. Martin's College of Art.
DANIELLA ISSA HELAYEL
Brazilian designer Daniella Helayel founded her label Issa in 2001 and has since been widely known as Middleton's favorite go-to designer for feminine, elegant dresses. The Daily Mail went as far as to say that Issa has become "a name synonymous with Kate."
Although she had dressed Hollywood stars from Madonna to Sharon Stone, the designer had not been well known until Middleton wore a blue silk Issa dress to announce her engagement to Prince William in November. The dress — and numerous knock-offs — became an instant sell-out.
Issa is known for soft silk jersey dresses in bright, tropical colors, but Helayel does not have wide experience with bridal gowns.
Castigliano, a popular bridal designer with six boutiques throughout Britain, set up her first bespoke bridal boutique in Surrey in 1991, specializing in contemporary wedding dresses. She has been quoted saying she hopes Middleton finds a gown to show off her "tiny" waist.