The Duchess of Cambridge loves this Norfolk brand's clothing
- Credit: Nicole Hains nicolehains.com
When followers of royal fashion report on what the Duchess of Cambridge is wearing, a fabulous Norfolk-based brand keeps cropping up.
Combining their love of country life and contemporary design, Rosie van Cutsem, of Hilborough near Swaffham, and Lucia Ruck Keene created Troy London having seen a gap in the market for women just like them.
Fed-up with either staying warm and dry but compromising on style, or looking fabulous but feeling cold or uncomfortable, they designed a collection that both looked good and worked well – stylish wind and waterproof jackets, pretty but hard-wearing shirts and dresses, cosy jumpers, practical and flattering trousers and dungarees.
“It’s functional and luxurious,” said Rosie, “And the reaction was immediately really, really good.”
Neither Rosie nor Lucia had a fashion or textiles background – but they knew exactly the kind of clothes they, and their friends, needed. They named their brand for the house where they grew up and the city where they were living.
Then when Rosie married Norfolk man William, and moved to Norfolk, Troy London came too.
Rosie requisitioned a brick and flint farm office and combines running the business (with Lucia who still has a separate full-time job in London) and being mum to her three sons, aged four, three and a baby.
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The duo's city-to-country waxed jackets, jumpers, shirts and accessories soon had some very famous fans.
Rosie’s husband has been friends with the Duke of Cambridge since childhood and is godfather to Prince George - and it wasn't long before the fledgling brand caught the duchess's eye.
Catherine has been pictured in Troy London jackets and jumpers, and giving coats a glamorous make-over with Troy London fur collar and cuffs.
“It’s always a happy surprise to see her wearing something of ours,” said Rosie.
But you don’t have to be a duchess or live on a country estate to wear Troy.
Rosie is delighted to see people wearing her clothing when she is out in Norfolk, from riding on the beach at Holkham to dropping her eldest son at school.
“That’s such a thrill, when you see someone and you have no idea who they are, how they discovered Troy, and there they are, striding along the street, looking great in one of our designs. That joy never goes away."
She is proud that everything is made in Britain, in top quality traditional fabrics by skilled staff. They employ expert suede and leather workers in London, and use carefully-sourced textile factories in the Midlands, a Scottish woollen mill and specialist tweed from Ireland.
“Our manufacturers pay properly and treat people properly,” said Rosie. “Our pieces are made in factories where people are looked after.”
Despite still being called Troy London, it is very much a Norfolk brand, from design to dispatch. Photo shoots are often done in the county, with the grounds of Hilborough House itself a favourite location.
The clothes go much further afield, dispatched from Hilborough by Rosie and her small team to customers around the world. They are particularly popular in the United States, Canada and Australia.
Rosie said Troy designs are the antithesis of fast fashion. They are made carefully, made locally and made to last, with the collection renewed rather than replaced twice a year.
"We only make things that we would wear ourselves,” she said. "People will invest in something that will last. We work really hard in our pricing to make sure that things don’t get too expensive.”
A fair isle sweater the Duchess of Cambridge wore on a royal tour in December 2020 and to a farm visit in April 2021, costs £220. Wax parkas are £350 and faux fur cuffs just £35 - also as worn by the duchess on official tours and visits.
She wore a Troy London khaki wax parka on a tour of Canada, and a Gloucestershire farm visit, and a navy parka on beach photo-opportunity on the Welsh island of Anglesey.
“The wax parkas are a best-seller and for a good reason,” said Rosie. “They are such a flattering shape, with a nipped in waist and a flowing shape that skims the bottom, and they are 100 per cent waterproof.”
Rosie worked as a head-hunter before launching Troy. She manages the business day-to-day while Lucia is creative director, but also has a full-time job in London. Both are involved in the entire process, from first drawings to selling the finished products – and have surprised even themselves with their success.
“Our clothes are for people who want something effective, but they also feel luxurious, they make you feel a bit special. They are for people who have got busy lives, who are cracking on. We sell to people in their 20s and people in their 70s, people who know what they like," said Rosie.
She sees a rainy day as simply a chance to test out new clothes. “If there is a terrible day, it’s pouring with rain, that’s the best time to go out and make sure a new design works, is comfortable and waterproof,” she said.
The dogs (a mother-and-daughter Labrador and a rescue Staffie-cross still need walking) so she will test the latest jacket, which might eventually be seen on a royal, or a super-model, or in the pages of Vogue or Country Life, Tatler or the Times.
Well-known clients include models Jacquetta Wheeler, Poppy Delevingne and Jodie Kidd, horse-racing television presenter Francesca Cumani, high profile florist and author Willow Crossley, style blogger and socialite Alice Naylor-Leyland and high-society names who move in similar country-estate circles as Rosie and Lucia.
The sisters talk most days. “We are great friends as well as sisters,” said Rosie. Their other sister, Kate, also lives in Norfolk, at Stody Lodge, near Holt, where spectacular gardens brim with rhododendrons and camellias in late spring.
Right now they are working on their women’s and men’s collection for spring and summer 2023. There will be new colours and fabrics and designs, but favourite pieces will stay. This is not fast fashion, but British-made country clothing made to look good in all weathers and last for years.
They recently launched the menswear range and one day might add children’s clothes too. “Something that can be bought for the oldest child and passed down to the youngest,” said Rosie.
As well as selling online, and at Harrod’s, Scottish golf resort Gleneagles, and a Swiss ski resort, clients can book a personal appointment at Hilborough to find their perfect Troy piece over a cup of coffee.
Rosie and Lucia call the people who wear their clothes their “Troy tribe” and are thrilled by the success of their combination of modern and traditional, functional and fabulous, local and luxury.