Her blue-blooded title may evoke daydreams of bejewelled tiaras, gallant princes and stately castles, but Marie-Chantal Claire, Crown Princess of Greece is anything but antiquated. The mother of five children with Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, she is also the founder of a kids' apparel label, whose designs have been spotted on mini-fashionista-in-waiting Harper Beckham — not too shabby for a woman whose traditional role as a princess comprises mostly making public appearances on behalf of her lineage.
Based in London, the Princess first conceived the idea of starting her eponymous label while she was pregnant with her third in 2001. “I wanted to work and start up a new brand, something fun and playful in children's luxury,” she writes in an email interview with Prestige. “I wanted to offer gorgeous fabrics and great quality, a one-stop shop for mothers, from socks to smocks, party dresses to nightwear.”
In fact, her children, ranging in age from five to 17, have been a great influence on her creations for her label, she reveals. “They tell me what they like and dislike [about my designs]. I am quite preppy, clean and athletic at heart — that's my aesthetic, so I bring that into our home and the kids are the same way, so we all influence each other.”
Unlike many children's clothing labels that are either overly frou-frou or uncomfortably old-fashioned, her designs for babies and children up to age 12 are well-fitted contemporary-classic pieces made in the best possible materials for a child to run about and play in. There are soft comfortable onesies and bibs with tongue-in-cheek embroidery, such as “breakfast” and “supper” for babies, while older children get tailored coats and comfortable shrugs, clean-cut frocks, ballerina shoes and laced-up brogues.
“I always try to remember that it's a children's collection and my philosophy is that they should look great. Children should look like children, not like mini-adults,” she declares.
In particular, it is her eye for detail and motherly knowledge of what children want in their clothing that sets her designs apart from the masses. “Drawing up a dress doesn't mean that it'll come out looking that way if all of the crucial elements don't come into play as well. It has to fit, as well as look and feel good both on the inside and out; that's a priority for me,” she says.
The Marie-Chantal label currently has four boutiques, comprising two in London, one in Hawaii and one in Guam. It is also stocked in premium retail locations, including Barneys, Harrods and Neiman Marcus in 20 different countries — a sure sign that the astute businesswoman has filled an important gap in the childrenswear market. Now, parents in Singapore — who the Princess says possess oodles of “stylish sophisticated elegance” — have the chance to check out the Marie-Chantal range without having to travel abroad. Kids 21 has just started to carry the Spring/Summer 2014 range of Marie-Chantal gift sets and baby wear, and will expand the range to include older children from Fall/Winter 2014 onwards.
The princess says this is the right time for her to grow her label in the region, where consumers are known for their love of luxury. “The consumers in Asia love children and childrenswear. They have grown up with luxury brands and are comfortable dressing their children the same way,” she says. She should know. Her father is self-made millionaire Robert Miller, co-founder of the international travel retail chain DFS (Duty Free Shops), which was first launched in 1970 in Hong Kong, where the Princess spent her early years, leaving a lasting impression on her.
Displaying an impressive understanding of the Asian family culture, which she terms the “five-pocket effect”, she notes that it is not just the parents, but the entire extended family — including the grandparents, aunts, uncles and godparents — who will shower a child with pretty things. “It is important [for Asian families] to dress their children well, so it's exciting for us at Marie-Chantal to enter this market,” she says.
Although her label is now a success in its own right and poised to expand even further with her focus on Asia, she had to overcome a few road bumps along the way. In a candid interview with European lifestyle GG Magazine in March 2012, she reveals that her unconventional decision to start her own label was met with a few raised eyebrows by her in-laws. Her father-in-law is Constantine II, the King of Greece from 1964 until 1973, when the Greek monarchy was abolished.
She was quoted as saying: “I must say it wasn't well-received but it was something I needed to do. I really wanted to be independent, to have a voice. I believe that as a woman, it is important to have something that is your own, be that work, a hobby, or something else.” But there is certainly no bad blood between her and her in-laws. In the same interview, she points out that unlike other European royals, whose job is to “represent their country and to be glamorous ambassadors”, Greece is a republic and she and her husband are not “waiting to go back to Greece as a royal couple”. Instead, she said: “We get on with life!”
As it is, life for this working royal is a whirlwind of family and work. She is also a trustee of the Royal Academy Trust and a board director of DFS, now a division of Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy. Despite the many roles she has to juggle, at the end of the day, the princess relies on a deceptively simply formula when it comes to time management. “It's all about keeping a healthy balance and priorities in check. First and foremost, I am a mother so prioritising is so crucial. I keep a calm head and the kids feed off that.”
Of course, we mustn't forget that picture-perfect princesses are also made of flesh and blood, she reminds us: “I have my good and bad days, like everyone else.”
Ah, sounds like a people's princess.