In the vast library of style inspiration images of the late Princess of Wales, photos which are plastered on vision boards, influence fashion editorials, and proliferate on Instagram and TikTok, some resonate more than others. There’s the Revenge Dress, and her particular styling of bike shorts, and ruffle collar blouses galore. But Princess Diana also carved out a casual signature for herself with the statement sweater.
When you say the words “Princess Diana statement sweater,” two immediately come to mind. You likely can envision them already, but if a refresher is needed, the two sweaters in question are as follow: a cherry red jumper with white sheep—and a tiny black sheep on the front— designed by Joanna Osborne and Sally Muir of Warm & Wonderful, and a soft peachy pink knit with the bold text “I’m a Luxury” printed on the front, and “Few Can Afford” printed on the back. The latter was created by former Member of Parliament, writer, and broadcaster Gyles Brandreth and George Hostler, who founded Gyles & Brandreth.
Both pieces eventually stopped being produced, and were not widely available (except as knockoffs or on eBay) until the fall of 2020, when the popular preppy-with-an-irreverant-twist brand Rowing Blazers partnered with the labels for their very first womenswear collection, and they oh-so-presciently resurrected the sweaters for production.
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Auspiciously timed to coincide with season four of The Crown, in which Emma Corwin, who played a young Diana Spencer, appeared in the Warm & Wonderful Black Sheep sweater, the Rowing Blazers revival was a runaway hit. The blockbuster sales weren’t fully anticipated by Rowing Blazers founder Jack Carlson, who maintains that the collection’s debut in tandem with Diana’s arrival on the popular Netflix drama was merely a coincidence. “This was our first foray into womenswear and I approached the collection with Princess Diana as my muse, and it lead me to think that about the images of her that really resonate with me,” says Carlson. “There are a lot of very famous red carpet images of the Princess, but the ones that appeal to me were casual and colorful—and that was relevant to the world of Rowing Blazers too.”
Carlson was clear in wanting to collaborate with the original creators of the styles, both Gyles Brandreth of Gyles & George and Joanna Osborne & Sally Muir of Warm & Wonderful, to do authentic recreations—not just copies, and from there, the collaboration took on a life of its own. Upon launch, the pieces instantly sold out. “Before we came out with the sweaters,” Carlson explains, “I was worried about having too much inventory. But they sold out in a few minutes of launch, and we quickly pivoted to taking pre-orders to accommodate the overwhelming demand.” And so evolved not just a limited capsule for Rowing Blazers, but an ongoing partnership for the brand with both Warm & Wonderful and Gyles & George.
For Brandreth, the “I’m a Luxury” sweater’s continued popularity is about more than the late Princess of Wales’s placement in the immortal pantheon of mega-watt celebrities gone-too-soon. Lured by a cheeky cockatoo sweater in the window of the Gyles & George store, which was conveniently located near Kensington Palace, Diana originally bought a number of pieces, says Brandreth, but she was only ever photographed wearing the pink and blue graphic jumper. “She had a great sense of humor, and I think she liked that they were witty sweaters,” he explains. Joy was a crucial component in her aesthetic choice. “Through her downfall and tragedy, there’s this wonderful picture of her with her two boys, who she adored. And she’s there sending herself up saying ‘I’m a luxury— few can afford.’ That’s sassy and people liked that about her.”
Brandreth speculates that by wearing the sweaters, people feel close to late icon. “These sweaters turn out to be the things that make people feel they too can be like her—they can wear what she wore, and they can have a bit of Diana for themselves,” he explains.
For the Warm & Wonderful founders, the experience of shoppers feeling a kinship with the Princess of Wales rings true. They also credit interest in their sweater to its unique design. “It’s just so graphic,” says Osborne, “it stands out.” Plus, Muir adds, emotion plays a role. “Everybody likes thinking that they’re different, and they’re not part of the herd, ever so slightly individual. There’s a bit of that too, isn’t there?”
And of course, as Brandreth, Osborne, and Muir all mentioned the lighthearted nature of these knits. “The relaunch came at a moment of COVID when everybody needed a little humor. People needed a smile,” says Osborne.
These designs represent a continual thread between the past and present. The sweaters aren’t dated; the humor and the style both feel modern. They are just as easily a popular piece for royally minded copycats in the time she wore them as they are now. And for Muir, there’s accessibility. “It’s approachable. You can get a new version of a piece she wore at a somewhat affordable price point, unlike a lot of what Princess Diana was photographed wearing. “
For Carlson, authentically partnering with the original makers of the Princess Diana sweaters was paramount. “Both the ‘I’m a Luxury’ sweater and the Black Sheep sweater have been copied by many brands, almost directly, and I was not content to do that,” he says. In other words, the connection to two quirky brands, each with their own rich history has made all the difference. “People love that the sweaters are actually designed by the same people who designed the ones Princess Diana actually wore.”
So just how connected to these sweaters are people really? Rowing Blazers declined to spill specifics, but shared the following figures: Warm & Wonderful and Gyles & George have done over $8 million sales with over 25,000 customers through their partnership with Rowing Blazers.
Notwithstanding the exact mathematical breakdown, that’s a lot of sweaters. One such sweater owner, Tariro Mzezewa, a freelance reporter living in Atlanta, tells T&C what influenced her purchase of the “I’m a Luxury,” sweater. “The sweater is pink—my favorite color!—and it has a fun message that makes me feel uplifted,” she says, adding ” I love the words on it, but more than that, I love that Princess Diana wore it so long ago. Every time I see someone who has the same sweater on, or when someone else spots me in it and comments, there’s a connection and a shared bond over loving the same cultural icon.”
These days, fans of Princess Diana can take her personal style in new directions. In their continued partnership with Rowing Blazers, Warm & Wonderful and Gyles & George have expanded their lines based off of the original designs, with their iconic prints now appearing on everything from belts, alternate colorways, beanies, and t-shirts—even soap. And with these new iterations, all sorts of new possibilities for connecting to Princess Diana through one’s own personal taste. All you have to do is pick the design that speaks to you most.
Roxanne Adamiyatt is the senior editor at Town & Country, where she writes about lifestyle, fashion, travel, and beauty.