When Kate Middleton wore a classic little black dress to the theater earlier this week, it had more than one hidden design element.
The 1950s-style black bouclé dress, which featured a pleated skirt and sparkly buttons from the vintage-inspired British couture label Eponine London, featured a hidden floral lining and a discreet button swap.
“The inside of that dress is just spectacular,” Jet Shenkman, founder and creative director of the brand, tells PEOPLE. “I think a dress needs to be as luxurious inside as it is on the outside – and hers featured a lovely cow parsley print, just in bloom.”
Attending a special performance of Dear Evan Hansen at the Noel Coward Theatre alongside Prince William on Tuesday, the royal mom added a touch of sparkle to the chic understated dress with glittery Jimmy Choo heels and a matching clutch.
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“It was very pretty and it was lovely to see her in black, I thought that was a nice change,” reveals the former stylist, who is based in Kate’s London neighborhood of Kensington.
Originally part of the designer’s Autumn/Winter 2018 collection, the dress, which featured a subtle sparkle, coincidently had a royal theme long before Kate had ever set eyes on it, with crown motif silver buttons.
“We decided to change the buttons and use something a little more sparkly,” Shenkman confirms, adding that the original crown buttons “would not have been entirely suitable.”
Founded in 2012, Eponine London (named after her family’s favorite Les Misérables character) has been worn by Kate several times since she discovered the small brand in 2016, wearing a retro-inspired red and white gingham skirt suit by the label. “It literally changed our business overnight,” recalls Shenkman. “We never, ever take it for granted – it really is just the biggest compliment for us and we feel so grateful.”
While the designer remains tight-lipped on how involved Kate is in the design process, she does say that most of her couture customers come to see her several times — for an initial consultation, a toile fitting and at least one proper fitting, sometimes two.
“I would rather remain discreet about the specifics, but I can say that she is incredibly nice, very warm and very kind, really just how she comes across in public,” she shares.
More recently, the label has also started to sell ready-to-wear, all available to buy online.
Kate has been praised in recent months for upping her fashion game with a more modern, daring look, including starting a millinery trend with her love of retro hatbands.
“There has been a bit more experimenting going on which I think is really lovely but I think she’s quite consistent in what she wears,” notes Shenkman, who also runs a local mental health charity in her spare time. “She likes soft dresses, nipped in at the waist, I think she’s really nailed it!”
Receiving orders from all over the world since Tuesday’s theatre outing, the designer, who specializes in using fabrics sourced from all over the world (this one was from a French mill which used to belong to Coco Chanel), says she couldn’t be prouder to work with Kate.
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“People used to ask who my dream client would be and I always said the Duchess of Cambridge – when it came true, it was just amazing – what a great story to tell my grandchildren when they grow up!” she says.
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