As we’ve all learned from Shark Tank, a huge publicity opportunity can be a great boon for company. However if you don’t have your shit together, it can go the way of the now-defunct label Issa, the fashion house behind Kate Middleton’s famous blue engagement dress.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Issa designer Daniella Helayel recalls the “Kate effect” and how it effectively put her company out of business. The story is largely what you imagine: The surge in popularity following Middleton’s appearances causes sales to skyrocket, but Helayel was unable to meet the increased demands.
She also explains that the company was already in a precarious position when Kate wore the dress.
‘Only the previous year the label was on the verge of financial crisis; it wasn’t all rose-tinted glasses,’ says Daniella. ‘Issa was a niche brand, we had a loyal following but in 2008 and 2009 we were in serious financial trouble,’ she concedes. ‘When Kate wore that dress everything changed.’
What followed, then, is unsurprising. Still, one detail that elicits a side-eye is Helayel’s choice of investor to try to save the brand.
Back in 2011, Daniella sold 51 per cent of her company to her close friend Camilla Al-Fayed, daughter of Egyptian business magnate Mohamed Al-Fayed. There were high hopes for the affiliation, but the partnership ended in disaster with a friendship lost and a business left in tatters. It is only now, three years on, that Daniella can openly talk about what went wrong at Issa and her pain at watching the business she had spent a decade building disintegrate.
The business relationship and the friendship soured quickly. And while Helayel doesn’t say it specifically, some suggest her decision to partner with Al-Fayed, brother of Princess Diana’s boyfriend Dodi Fayed, turned Middleton away from the brand.
In May 2013, Helayel was replaced by another designer. Luckily, things eventually turned out just fine for Helayel who has started a new line, Dhela.