*Exclusive interview with designer Christina Stambolian*

Just in case you missed my post this week about my exclusive interview with designer Christina Stambolian I am posting the interview here as well as at my website.

Christina designed the beautiful black short evening gown that became known as “the revenge dress” and was worn by Princess Diana to the Serpentine Gallery in 1994 on the evening Prince Charles admitted adultery in a television interview with Jonathan Dimbleby.

Diana in Stambolian dress lot2gown123

I’d like to say a big thank you to Christina for letting me interview her and for taking time out of her schedule to answer my questions.

Please can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you have been a designer ?

I feel that I have been a fashion designer since I was very very young, but I started my professional career as a designer when I was 23. I finished a French school in Greece, and then went to an art school in Athens, where I studied life drawing, architecture, theatre and stage costume, and textile and fashion design. I then went to London and worked as a freelance designer for a few years.
The largest and most important part of my career was with D.P. Designs.
In 1979, I established my own label with this company. Over the years, I did about 12 catwalk fashion shows. I also had a boutique in Paris, in Rue de Tournon, and then a boutique in Beauchamp Place.

Can you tell us about your memories of meeting Princess Diana when she came to your boutique in Beauchamp Place in London ?

I was thrilled to see her walk into the Beauchamp Place boutique with her brother, Earl Spencer. She looked bright and happy. She found a short woollen dress and a silk sleeveless blouse which she liked, and she purchased both of them. The main purpose of her visit, however, was to discuss the commission of a dress for a special occasion.

In what year did you design the dress for Princess Diana that would become known as the "revenge" dress?

In September 1991.

What was your inspiration when you designed the dress ?

Of course, I was always thinking that maybe one day Princess Diana would commission me to design a dress for her. I had seen her on TV news in the early 80s wearing a long green jersey velvet dress, with a wraparound skirt, designed by me, and quite possibly bought by her at one of the boutiques we supplied at the time. So I had something in mind for her that would show more of Diana and less of the dress. I always found that the clothes she wore from then on were well-designed but not sexy or feminine enough. I already had some ideas in mind when I came to design the dress.

Did you have a picture in your mind of how you wanted the dress to look when you were sketching it ?

Yes, I did, as I said above, but we had to discuss it and change a few things, as she was a little apprehensive at the thought of showing too much upper leg and body. In all, she maybe felt the idea was a little too daring. In the end, I convinced her that the design would be sensational. She after a while, and a nod from her brother who thought she should go ahead, my assistant took her measurements.

Christina sketch wm img009wked

Did Diana have an idea of how she wanted the dress to look?

I don’t think she did, but she liked the idea of a black dress.

How did Princess Diana react when she tried the dress on for the first time?

We had to make a date for a fitting, which sadly could not be arranged there and then for fear of harassment from the paparazzi. Consequently, she turned up without prior arrangement and so I didn’t see the fitting. The dress was finally delivered to Kensington Palace two weeks later. So, I don’t know her initial reaction when she tried the dress on, or even if she tried it on at all at that stage.

How did you feel when you saw Diana on the news wearing the dress to the Serpentine Gallery?

I had never seen her in the dress before, neither on TV or in any photographs. In fact, I had the impression that she had never worn the dress before that occasion. I was extremely surprised to see her in that dress after so long. Obviously she must have kept it in her wardrobe. Apparently, her butler had advised her to wear the dress on that day, saying he felt it was suitable for the occasion. There is an account in a book by Georgina Howell which details this.
A bit of extra information … I met Diana in London at a Christy’s reception prior to the charity auction of her dresses. She expressed her delight at the interest shown at the auction. When I told her how sensational I thought she had looked in the black dress, she confided to me, behind cupped hand, ‘Just between us, I had to squeeze myself into that little dress.’ Presumably her body had changed a little between buying the dress and actually wearing it!

Do you think Diana wore the dress that evening to make a statement?

Personally, I feel that she didn’t wear the dress between 1991 when it was designed and 1994 because she was constrained by protocol. So perhaps she did wear it because she felt free to do so. I was very proud to see her wearing the dress and she looked exactly as I had imagined she would in it – elegant and quite stunning.

Who do you think Diana was sending a message to that evening by wearing the dress?

Well all I can say is this … Princess Diana wore the black dress on the same day that Prince Charles disclosed some personal indiscretions about himself to Jonathan Dimbleby in a TV interview. It’s up to individuals to draw their own conclusions.

Can you reveal where else other than the Serpentine Gallery that Diana had worn the dress?

I don’t know whether she has worn the dress before or after that occasion.

How did you feel when the dress was labelled the ‘revenge dress’ and became so famous?

I didn’t have any feelings about it either way.

How did you feel when the dress sold at the famous auction of Diana’s dresses at Christie’s in New York for £39,000?

I was at the auction and it was quite a symbolic and memorable event. I was pleased to be there. After the sale, I was pleased to meet the Scottish collector who bought the dress. We became quite good friends, in fact. He has been showing the dress at various events in Scotland to raise money for a Scottish children’s charity called Children First. So from that point of view, the sale of the dress did a good thing.

The dress has been involved with several charity events; does this make you feel proud?

Yes, the dress has been used to raise money for some charities in Scotland. I was also pleased to donate two watercolour designs of the dress for a major charity event in aid or Norwood and Demelza House, in association with Sotheby’s, held at Planet Hollywood, London, on 25th March, 1993. Children First have also sold two other dresses of mine to raise money for charity on the back of the ‘revenge dress’. I also still sell watercolour designs of other dresses for charity and I will continue to do that.

How did you feel when Princess Diana died?

Shocked and deeply saddened. Her unique personality and kind, generous nature is a real loss. In her memory, I continue to support her charities and the memorial fund by every professional means open to me.

Would you have liked to design other dresses for Princess Diana?

Princess Diana had indicated to me that when she was ready, she would come back to me for another dress, but of course that never happened.

How did you feel when companies like the Franklin Mint released doll-sized copies of your dress?

They had my permission for that and I had been working alongside them for a while with regard to that doll.
I also signed about a thousand authentication certificates for them.

Would you ever consider writing a book about the dress and the journey it has been on since it sold at auction?

Yes, possibly, as it’s quite an interesting story and there is a lot to tell, but I’m not a good writer!

Would you like to design Kate Middleton’s wedding dress for her wedding to Prince William?

If they asked me, of course I would say yes! But it would be a bitter sweet experience because it would bring back so many memories.

Are you working on any new designs for a celebrity at the moment?

At the moment, I’m travelling a lot. I do have a permanent exhibition at the Georgio de Cirico Gallery in Greece, my homeland, where some miniature dresses and many sketches are on display along with a replica of Diana’s black dress, of course. I’m also involved with an art school in Greece, where I advise on fashion classes.

I’d just like to say what a pleasure it has been to interview and thank you again Christina for allowing me to interview you for my website.

*Interview is Copyright of Princess Diana Remembered.com and is not to be used on any other websites*



October 2009
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