20 Years After her Death, Off-White Looks to Princess Diana for Inspiration

Even before the Spring/Summer 2018 show invitations hit the post, there was talk that Princess Diana might be the inspiration of choice for the latest round of seasonal runway shows. Twenty years after her death, the trend-setting princess - who went from "Shy Di" to the highly-watched "People's Princess" in only a matter of time - seemed an apt point of reference, especially given her penchant for fashion and the industry's fondness of her

As noted by the Observer in August, "Considering this summer marks the 20th anniversary of her passing, it’s pretty likely that the runways will include quite a few nods to the Princess of Wales. Over the past few months, her life has been revisited in a number of mediums, including the Kensington Palace retrospective of her life and clothing, plus a spate of documentaries that dug deep into the drama that surrounded her at almost all times." 

The proposition of Princess Diana-as-muse was a fitting idea given that Princess Di was a fashion fan, herself. According to the New York Times, Diana - some of whose favorite designers included Gianni Versace (she was in attendance at the designer's funeral, which took place just over a month before her own death), Ralph Lauren, and Catherine Walker - amassed annual expenses in her "most dedicated clothes-horse years" that were estimated to be about $1.2 million, including "separate five- and six-figure bills" for clothing. 

And the fashion industry was quite taken with her, as well (and not just because she was a good customer). Speaking of Diana just after her death, Giorgio Armani said: “She found that style of her own, strictly controlling any temptation to overdo things, and favoring clean, modern lines that set off her great face and figure in a very up-to-date way.”

Valentino Garavani echoed Armani, saying: “She was a beautiful woman with a beautiful body. She had escaped the rules of the princess and the clothes a princess was supposed to wear and wanted clothes that were right for the new woman she had become.”

As for the Spring/Summer 2018 season, any existing doubts as to whether the late Princess' style would make its way onto the runway were put to bed when Virgil Abloh shared a Diana-covered mood board on Instagram in August, along with a caption that read: "One woman, 40 Off-White looks in the works come September."

The post was followed up by invitations for Abloh's brand's Spring/Summer 2018 show: The invitation for the Milan-based brand (that shows on the Paris calendar) bore an image of Diana along with the text “Natural Woman," a dead-giveaway for Off-White’s S/S18 inspiration.

As noted by British Vogue ahead of Thursday’s show, Abloh’s mood board for the season consisted of “29 photographs of Princess Diana in all states of dress: on a playing field in a t-shirt, baseball cap and jeans; opening a car door in dark slacks and a blazer; ensconced on a red chair at a 1981 exhibition in a floating, off-the-shoulder gown, her head tipped forward sleepily.”

The publication went on to state that "like a few other designers this season, Abloh had been inspired by the barrage of commemorative photos of [Diana] that have surfaced in recent months. In an era where the personas and wardrobes of public figures are tightly managed, Abloh was inspired by the free manner in which Diana experimented with her image in the Eighties and Nineties."

"She was a strong individual that despite her position had her own personal taste and it came out through the clothes," Abloh told Vogue. "There is no stylist at play here.’”