SHE’S a doyenne of the fashion pages and her style choices are among the most scrutinised in the world.
But as images of Kate Middleton’s first foreign address splashed across morning newspapers, it was a certain hand-held accessory that caught the eye of many headline writers.
The Duchess’ elegant umbrella, held aloft to shut out the Singapore sunlight on her royal visit, became a significant feature of several news reports as she was pictured pausing for reflection at the Kranji Commonwealth War Memorial on Wednesday.
However, the dainty sunshade hailed not from the catwalks of New York, Paris or Milan but a warehouse in an industrial estate in Polbeth, West Lothian.
Family-business Brollies Galore, which has been selling bespoke umbrellas online since 2003, received the royal seal of approval a fortnight ago, when staff from Clarence House called unexpectedly enquiring about a certain £26.50 Thai parasol they had in stock.
Director Linda Naysmith, 63, said: “They said it was being bought specifically for the Duchess of Cambridge and they needed it in a hurry because they were going on a tour. Of course, we had no idea where. They said they had been scouring through the internet and came across this design they liked.
“We’ve sent a bird-cage umbrella to Buckingham Palace before but it was through the back door and I think it was for a member of staff there rather than the Queen!” No-one at the West Calder outlet could have imagined the white, handmade brolly, fashioned from the bark of a mulberry tree, would attract the whirlwind of attention it received from the world’s media.
“I was cooking tea when my daughter Christine shouted me through from the front room and the Duchess was on the TV news holding our umbrella,” said Mrs Naysmith. “When the footage of Kate Middleton came on everyone was jumping up and down and we phoned everyone that works for us.”
The family-run firm supplies scores of exotic umbrellas alongside a line they create themselves. Capital style expert Lynne McCrossan said of the royal brolly: “Kate is really graduating up the fashion ranks with this parasol and is starting to channel iconic personalities like Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onassis.”
Mrs Naysmith said she was not expecting a “rush” for the brolly but said she hoped to find out how it went down with the Duchess via an automatic feedback e-mail sent to customers.