Is it floaty? Is it flowy? Is it worn by the Duchess of Cornwall? It’s probably an Anna Valentine design.
In 1986, after meeting in a pattern-cutting course, Anna Valentine and Antonia Robinson formed a small design studio in South London. They named it straightforwardly: Robinson Valentine. Anna was the creative engine powering the duo, and they spent the eighties designing frilly concoctions for that go-go decade. As the eighties gave way to the more streamlined nineties, Anna began designing the simple and flowing garments that would become her trademark.
Eventually, they moved to the higher rent district of Kensington and obtained their first royal client, Serena Stanhope. In 1993 they designed her going away outfit for her honeymoon. (That “Suess” hat – designer unknown – is indeed a “wowzer moment!)
The firm designed outfits for the aristocratic crowd and for Lady Sarah Chatto. Eventually, they came to the attention of their biggest client, Camilla Parker-Bowles, who is shown below with Anna Valentine. Their first collaboration was in 2001 when Camilla approached the team with the request to “soften her look.”
Robinson Valentine received the commission for both Camilla’s ceremony and wedding blessing ensembles only six weeks before the event, which makes the resulting dresses even more remarkable.
For the civil service at Windsor Guildhall, Camilla wore a silk basketweave coat over a white dress with an embellished hem – pieces she has cleverly recycled since then.
The blessing ensemble was a masterpiece of thoughtful dressmaking. The Classic Bride did not go too “bridal” but instead wore a gown that was both fit for a future Queen and just plain beautiful. The damask coat featured gold embroidery at the neckline (inspired by Camilla’s mother’s jewelry). There was the faintest hint of a train and the swish of a blue chiffon dress underneath.
Camilla’s wedding gear must have been a big hit within the family, too, because when her daughter Laura married a year later, she chose Robinson Valentine to design her gown.
Antonia Robinson has moved on to focus on her family life, but the brand continues as Anna Valentine. The Duchess has remained loyal, and Anna Valentine’s designs are a constant in very public moments of her life. The designer has provided daywear for such events as the 2017 Trooping the Colour and the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
On overseas tours to warm climates, you will often see the Duchess wearing a Valentine or two. During the trip to Jordan in 2021, the Duchess wore two flowing Valentine outfits. She managed to stay both cool and chic.
— Rebecca English (@RE_DailyMail) November 16, 2021
Just last June, at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Camilla executed a Valentine re-wear, repeating a sharp Valentine navy jumpsuit.
Does the designer do right by the Duchess? Let us know your thoughts!