The Diary: Princess chooses Kiwi designer

Princess Charlene wears her Johanna Johnson outfit to open a Grace Kelly exhibit at the Bendigo Art Gallery. Photo / Getty Images
Princess Charlene wears her Johanna Johnson outfit to open a Grace Kelly exhibit at the Bendigo Art Gallery. Photo / Getty Images

Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco was in Australia on Saturday opening the exhibit, Grace Kelly: Style Icon, at the Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria. All eyes were on the 34-year-old royal and what she would wear to the event that paid homage to her mother-in-law's sense of style.

The Princess requested New Zealand-born couture designer Johanna Johnson over Australian counterparts.

Wearing a custom-fitted knee-length dress in blush pink and lined with Swarovski crystals, Princess Charlene represented her husband, Prince Albert II, who was at the World Water Forum in Marseille.

Johnson, 36, told The Diary dressing her first member of royalty was a "career highlight". The request, she said, "came through a member of the Princess' staff". The European royal had seen the label's look-books and was aware of Johnson's star clientele list.

Last year, Mad Men starlet Christina Hendricks wore a custom-made beaded gown to the Emmy Awards that created so much interest in Johnson's label that her online store website collapsed after receiving more than 60,000 hits.

At this year's Academy Awards, model Marisa Miller, Bridesmaids star Maya Rudolph and Jon Hamm's girlfriend, Jennifer Westfeldt, all chose Johnson gowns.

But designing for royalty is another matter. Johnson said she had been given a "loose brief" for a dress that could see the princess go from day into evening. "I sent a sketch to her a week ago."

Blenheim-raised Johnson, who lives in Sydney, said the royal request was "very special" on a personal level too because she'd always been an admirer of Princess Grace's style.

"A picture of Princess Grace hangs on my wall."

Princess Charlene and her team have vowed to develop a relationship with Johnson. "They've asked to continue working on events together," said an elated Johnson.

It's a big accolade for the woman who went to Blenheim's Whitney Street School, Bohally Intermediate and Marlborough Girls' College, before moving to Melbourne and eventually Sydney, via a brief stint in London.

"It's really important to me that I'm seen as a New Zealander," Johnson said.

"I had my schooling and upbringing in Blenheim, and I still travel on a Kiwi passport. I'm proud of my New Zealand heritage."

RUGBY STARS SHOW SUPPORT

Piri Weepu made his thoughts plain after his Blues skipper, Keven Mealamu, was hit by a bottle of water from a disgruntled Bulls fan in Pretoria.

"To the clown that jumped the fence and threw a bottle at Kevin's head!! Your [sic] a loser!!," Weepu tweeted.

Bulls player Pierre Spies echoed the sentiment: "Just want to apologise to Kevin Mealamu & Blues team for the incident with one of our fans. Shouldn't happen mate, your [sic] a good man."

TV TALES

TV3 political and current affairs show The Nation is preparing to return to air in a couple of weeks with Rachel Smalley and Duncan Garner at the helm. The pair posed for promotional pictures on Friday.

Shane Taurima, at TVNZ's Q+A, has jumped into Guyon Espiner's swivel chair with gusto, displaying a genuine warmth, astuteness and everyman-appeal that will keep Garner on his toes.

Meanwhile, the hunt to replace Espiner as political editor continues with the public broadcaster scouting for talent inside and outside the company. Informed insiders say One News' Jessica Mutch and Heather Du Plessis-Allen have made the shortlist, along with Jodi Ihaka from Marae Investigates and Jane Patterson from Radio New Zealand.

SPRING BREAK

New Zealand is one big OE adventure, Mad Men actress Elisabeth Moss would have New York's Page Six magazine believe. "I'm staying there for five months. It's almost my equivalent of going backpacking after college, [which] I never got to do."

The 29-year-old is working around Glenorchy and Central Otago, shooting scenes for Jane Campion's television mini-series Top of the Lake, which also stars Holly Hunter, Lucy Lawless and Robyn Malcolm. Fashionable luxuries are not a requirement.

Moss, who counts Oscar de la Renta as a favourite designer, tried "not to bring eight pairs of high heels" to New Zealand. "I'm a total girly-girl," she admitted. "I have, you know, a million pairs of shoes and a million dresses."

MARATHON MAN

Guests at the special advance screening of Boy last week at a California theatre may not have been surprised by the va-va-voom presence of Rachel Hunter, or stunt woman Zoe Bell. Even John Mataira, NZ Consul-General to Los Angeles, was expected. But marathon man Rod Dixon was a pleasant surprise, joining the film's writer/director Taika Waititi and co-producer Cliff Curtis.

Dixon is director of training at Los Angeles Marathon, coaching the LA Roadrunners programme. He will take part in the city's marathon on Sunday.

The Olympian has established the Kids Marathon Foundation, a 10-week programme for 7- to 12-year-olds across America to stay fit and healthy. It has been acknowledged with a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.

"There is nothing more important than the health of young kids around the world," Dixon says. Perhaps he can help tackle the growing obesity levels with children in this country.

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

There can be few people more in need of friends these days than Auckland City Mayor Len Brown who's faced the brunt of lewd leers, a lamington lobbing and a Labour-leaning luvvie in a Sunday paper questioning his loyalty and leadership skills.

The man who once said only Jesus Christ had withstood such a high level of scrutiny and come out clean, turned to Him again on Saturday at the 20th Pasifika Festival in Western Springs.

"Let's turn the other cheek," His Worship chortled to a face-painter, who inked an image of a fluffy lamington on his cheek in reference to one that was smeared on by an angry wharfies' supporter.

Miracles are evidently also on his prayer list. Costs for provisional work on Brown's proposed $2.86 billion city rail link have reportedly blown by $8 million, which Auckland ratepayers are expected to foot.

Len needs the big guy. The one who can actually call the shots. He seemingly grasped the situation in a TV interview on Sunday: "I'm the mayor of the city. I'm not the prime minister. I don't have sovereign power."

- NZ Herald

Rachel Glucina is New Zealand’s reigning gossip queen, notorious for breaking celebrity scoops and dishing dirt on the country’s best known personalities. She’s feared. She’s loathed. She’s courted by anyone with skeletons in their closet. Rachel knows where the bodies are buried. Mick Jagger wined and dined her. Mike McRoberts devoted a chapter to her in his memoirs. And John Key has her on speed dial.

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