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How Princess Diana's Go-To Designer Recreated Her Iconic Looks for the Biopic

This Friday, Naomi Watts will hit the big screen as Diana, Princess of Wales in Oliver Hirschbiegel's biopic Diana. And in it, she wears some pretty eye-catching, and perhaps familiar, dresses.
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This Friday, Naomi Watts will hit the big screen as Diana, Princess of Wales in Oliver Hirschbiegel's biopic Diana. In it, she wears some pretty eye-catching--and perhaps familiar--dresses.

Diana follows the royal icon in the final two years of her life--a time in which she wore a lot of Jacques Azagury, a London-based designer who was commissioned to design around 10 looks for Watts to wear in the film--ranging from exact replicas to pieces loosely based on ones Diana actually wore.

"When I was first approached about [designing costumes for] the film, I was a bit apprehensive," Azagury told us during a call last week. "For me, Diana was 16 years ago." He came around when he heard Naomi Watts, whom he "loves," would be playing the title role. "In fact, it was a good way for me to look back on those moments."

In the film, you'll see two exact replicas Azagury designed, a few "inspired by" dresses she's worn, and a few pulled straight from Azagury's current collection that he "thought she would have chosen for those events [in the film]."

Azagury met Diana in 1987 in London, when he was exhibiting a fall/winter collection. They were introduced by a British Vogue editor. "She said, 'Jacques I have someone I’d like you to meet,' and I looked and Princess Diana was standing there. Of course, it was a really exciting moment for me." She had her eye on a dress and three weeks later, he got a call from the Royal Palace. "They said, 'Would you mind if Princess Diana came to see the dress again because she liked it.' And that’s how I got to design the first dress for her and the relationship carried on right up until the last dress I made for her just before she was leaving for Paris."

Though Azagury and Diana had a longstanding relationship--with Diana wearing his designs to many high-profile events--he never designed anything specifically for her, because he didn't have to. "She said, 'I’ll never ask you to design something specifically for me because I know that every time I come to see you, I’m going to get exactly what I wanted.' And that was always the case. She would always come to me for specific events, but I never actually designed anything for her as a one-off."

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Perhaps Azagury should have. When asked what sort of impact dressing Diana had on his career, he had mixed feelings. "It kind of goes both ways," he explained. "Clearly it was very good for press, but sometimes it can work against you because people won’t wear that dress. [Having Diana wear a dress] pretty much wipes off that dress from the slate. I did have some customers that would order everything that Diana ordered, but on the bigger scale it can actually work against you on a sales level, but of course it's very good on the pr level."

We couldn't help but think of Kate Middleton, who has generally inspired the opposite effect for brands--at least in terms of what gets publicized. However, Azugary points out that in instances where Middleton sells out a dress or crashes a website, she is generally wearing a more casual, accessible look. "That kind of works much more on the high street level."

Azugary's business is still chugging along. He's about to release a set of six new fragrances and we're told his "shop in Kingsbridge is bustling."

"So you know, life goes on."

View the slideshow below for more images of dresses used in the film.

Photos: Courtesy