That’s short enough! Jacques Azagury, one of the Princess’s favorite designers, tells us how he is now auctioning off the iconic designs that defined her final years.

That’s short enough!  Jacques Azagury, one of the Princess’s favorite designers, tells us how he is now auctioning off the iconic designs that defined her final years.

A warm summer evening and crowds gather outside the Tate Britain museum in London to catch a glimpse of royalty, rock stars and supermodels arriving at a fundraising dinner marking the art fair’s centenary.

A flurry of flashing lights greets guests including Viscount Linley and his then-wife Serena, singer Bryan Ferry, model Iman, comedian Steve Martin and artist Damien Hirst.

But the undisputed guest of honor that night – July 1, 1997 – is Princess Diana, who is also celebrating her 36th birthday. As always, as she accepts gifts from well-wishers, all eyes are on what she’s wearing: a black gown by fashion designer Jacques Azagury, with the Queen Mary’s Art Deco diamond and emerald necklace around her neck.

The princess had planned to wear another dress, but abandoned it at the last minute in favor of a black Chantilly dress embroidered with sequins and beads by Azagury, which the designer had gift-wrapped and delivered to Kensington Palace that day.

Princess Diana arrives at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice for a reception as part of the 1995 Biennale exhibition
Diana attends a party and dinner on her 36th birthday at the Tate Gallery in 1997
Diana visits Washington, United States, at a dinner hosted by the American Red Cross

“I was thrilled that she chose to wear the dress I gave her,” he told me now. “It was her way of saying thank you.”

The Princess, ever so generous, wrote a formal thank you. That day, her last birthday, she spent quietly in her apartment at Kensington Palace, where she received 90 bouquets and, according to Tina Brown’s biography The Diana Chronicles, listened to Prince Harry’s colleagues sing Happy Birthday over the phone from Eton.

At one point, she sat down at her desk in her office, filled with photos of her children, blotters and silver jewelry, and wrote a letter of thanks to Azagury for the dress. ‘Dear Jack. ‘I was so emotional when I opened your package!’ She wrote on her red-bordered stationery in the royal cipher. “I am so happy that I got this beautiful dress for my birthday.

‘Thank you more than I can say for making this day so special. Lots of love from Diana x’

The letter, which the designer kept in a vault for 26 years, will go under the hammer next month at Leigh Auctions, in Penzance, Cornwall, along with a similar version of the black lace dress. When making an original copy of the princess, Azagury always made a “twin” with the same measurements, which he kept in his archive.

Now, after he has retired from the fashion industry and closed his eponymous store in London’s Knightsbridge, he has decided it is time to sell Diana memorabilia.

Jack Azagury’s personal collection will be on display at Lay’s Auctioneers, Penzance, Cornwall on 7 December. Pictured is Jacques Azagury, Diana’s fashion designer
Diana arrives at the Royal Albert Hall in Swan Lake wearing a dress designed by Jacques Azagury

On December 7, twins of five of Diana’s most famous dresses, dubbed the “Famous Five”, will go on sale, along with letters, Christmas cards, patterns and a toilette (a version of the garment made from cheaper fabric, and used for fittings). ).

The birthday dress, plus the letter, is estimated to fetch between £15,000 and £20,000 – but it could be worth much more than that. The mere association with Diana is highly desirable these days, and a number of other pieces have fetched very large sums recently.

See, her black sheepskin sweater, made by British brand Warm & Wonderful, sold in September for nearly £1 million. Widower Luis Pito sold three of Diana’s dresses to his late wife, Elaine, who bought them for £50,000 at Christie’s in 1997, a month before Diana’s death. Listed at £500,000, it sold for £1.35 million

Diana loved Azagiore’s dresses so much that she did not place them in Christie’s auction of 79 of her dresses, which raised £1.96 million for the Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund and the AIDS Crisis Fund. Later, the famous five were put on display at her childhood home at Althorp in Northamptonshire. They are now believed to belong to Princes William and Harry.

“I’ve enjoyed (the twins) for the last 26 years,” explains Jack, who was born in Morocco but has lived in London since the 1960s. I don’t want to lock them in a safe, never to be seen again. I would really like to pass it on to someone else who can enjoy it.

It’s been almost 40 years since Jack met the princess for the first time – at the New Romantics Collection fall-winter 1985 at London’s Hyde Park Hotel. Anna Harvey, Vogue’s fashion editor, tapped him on the shoulder and told him there was someone she’d like to meet. “I turned around and she was right in front of me, which kind of hit me,” he recalls. Then we were literally just talking.

“She had this charm that made you feel at ease within seconds. A few weeks later we got a call from the palace saying: ‘Princess Diana would like to visit your atelier.’ ‘Is that going to be okay?’ That was really the beginning of our relationship. I usually take it all in, but I have to admit that every time I saw Diana wearing my clothes, I felt very excited.

Jacques and his sister Solange were invited to Kensington Palace to discuss the dress she wanted, the first of 18 he would make for her – a ballerina-length gown, with a royal blue organza skirt and a black star-embroidered bodice.

“The first time Solange and I went to the palace together was so surreal,” Jack says. We looked at ourselves and thought: Are we really here? Diana loved coming into the shop and to our workrooms in Soho. I think she liked the workroom atmosphere, and was always jumping up and saying hello to the workforce.

“But often, time wouldn’t allow for that, so I would go to the palace with the dress on and have it fitted. The children would walk and run around the room while we were trying to work and then their nanny would take them away.

The first of the five celebrities is the short red dress she wore on June 8, 1995, in Venice at a fundraising gala for the Serpentine Gallery in London, during her separation from Prince Charles. Determined to outdo the future Queen Camilla, who fled to Venice for cover when news of her affair with Charles broke in 1992, Diana visited the city three years later, wearing a red silk beaded two-piece dress that showed off her long dress. Legs.

I then sent Azagury and his team a thank you note.

“I didn’t know when I planned to wear it until I saw it in the papers,” Jack recalls. “It was much shorter than the other dresses I made for her. Everyone was wearing shorter skirts and she wanted to be more fashionable, so the edges of her skirt slowly crept up.

After that, Diana would always turn to Jack when looking for a “deadly” dress.

On the night her famous Panorama interview aired, for example – 20 November 1995 – she attended a dinner and fashion show for cancer research at Bridgewater House in London, wearing a long black silk dress, with a sequined lace bodice and fishtail hem.

“It was a very quick turnaround,” Jack says. “She confided in me that she had the interview and wanted something simple and very sexy to wear on the night (of the broadcast).”

I knew exactly what we were dealing with, so I wanted it to be exciting. I tried on three dresses and we decided on this. Then beat her in three days.

“I saw her for the final fitting on the morning the interview was scheduled to air. She seemed relieved. She knew it was going to cause a stir but she said, ‘I didn’t say anything bad.’ I didn’t say anything wrong. I just said everything as it was.” He. And she was right. I think it was her way of moving on.”

The third dress in the auction is a “double” version of the red silk dress that Diana wore to a Red Cross dinner in Washington, USA, on June 17, 1997. With an embroidered bodice, a low back, a long skirt, and a matching sash, decorated at the end with red bugle beads, it complements the Her skin tone is perfect. It is sold with Jack’s knee on the princess as well as the styles.

“She almost didn’t wear that dress,” Jack admits. “Diana’s butler, Paul Burrell, called me at home at seven in the morning and said, ‘Jack.’ Is the dress on the way?

I said: What dress? He said: The red dress. I said: Oh my God. It’s not over yet. “We leave at 11 a.m.,” he said.

So, I asked two girls to meet me at the store right away and they went straight to work. We arrived at the palace just before they left.

Diana called and said: Jack. You got me into a flap here, and I said: I was in a flap!

The dress wasn’t half made this morning. Then we just laughed about it.

Jacques also created the ice-blue silk georgette number, with crystal bugle beads and decorated with bows on the straps, which Diana wore on June 3, 1997, at the Royal Swan Lake Gala at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

It is sold with an order form that reveals Diana’s measurements: 39.5, 29, 36 inches. “I think this was the culmination of all the dresses I’ve made for her,” Jack says. “It had all the ingredients to make it exciting.”

Princess Diana’s thank you letter to Azagury, for her birthday dress, left, and her Venetian dress, top

“At that point, Diana was very confident, knowing herself and how she wanted to look. She wanted to be shorter but Paul and I were like, ‘Okay. That’s short enough.’

“I loved this dress so much that I came up with the idea of ​​gifting her a more glamorous version. She had no idea I was making it and was amazed at how it came together without any preparations. It was the last of my dresses she ever wore.”

The last time Jack spoke to Diana was on the morning she left for the south of France, when she called to say she was sending him a package. That was August 21, 1997, ten days before her death in Paris.

He says: “I was returning home from a club at six in the morning, and I was entering my apartment when I heard the phone ringing.” It was my girlfriend who said: Turn on the TV.

I said: What is it? “Diana was killed in a car accident,” she said. I was completely numb, in shock and disbelief.

‘At the funeral, I sat in the front row and felt in control until the casket arrived. When I saw it, I broke down and cried.’

Jack hopes to be in Goa, India, with his partner David Harrod, a retired accountant, when the sale goes through. “I’m not sentimental about the past,” he says.

But there’s one item he’ll never sell – the framed photo, which came in this parcel: Diana in three poses wearing three of her five famous dresses, captioned: “Dear Jack.” Lots of love from Diana. s

“When I got to the store, the butler was outside and gave me this package,” he recalls. “Inside was a framed photo of her in three of my dresses, her favorite. I was really touched.

I thought: Oh my God. This very busy woman was still kind enough to do something like this for me. She would choose those pictures herself and the frame. It was the last token of her affection I ever received.

Jacques Azagury’s personal collection goes on sale at Lay’s Auctioneers, Penzance, Cornwall on 7 December.

(tags for translation) Diana

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