Corbats Prepare for Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Visit

Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat hasn’t worked out his wardrobe for attending a Dec. 9 gala in New York with Prince William and Kate Middleton, the duke and duchess of Cambridge.

“I haven’t even thought about it. What am I supposed to wear?” Corbat said in a gray suit at a dinner for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater the other night.

His wife, Donna, sounded more prepared for the fundraiser at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in honor of University of St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland. She’s hired New York-based designer Dara Lamb to make her gown.

“It’s silver and gray,” Donna Corbat said, adding that she usually buys off the rack at Saks Fifth Avenue and made an exception in this case. “If we don’t welcome this young royal couple, who would we welcome? Everyone needs to come out of the woodwork.”

Tom Hanks will be there, according to Donna, who’s helping plan the affair. The university is where William and Kate met and where the Corbats’ daughter is enrolled.

The gala is part of Kate and William’s three-day visit, the British royal couple’s first trip to New York. The itinerary includes a Nets professional basketball game at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, a trip to the 9/11 Memorial and visits to two nonprofits involved with children and youth -- one of which is in Harlem, where General George Washington and his troops fought off the British in 1776.

There will also be meetings with workers in creative industries and technology. William will make a side trip to Washington, D.C., to talk about illegal ivory trade at a World Bank Group conference.

Tourism Impact

How Kate and William play in New York is not just a matter of Americans fascinated with her fashion or a societal structure their country’s founders rejected. Kate and William, by leaving a good impression, can have an impact on tourism and investment, said Miles Young, chairman and CEO of advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide.

“They represent a very strong face of brand Britain,” Young said. “They’re global superstars really, and they touch a broad range of values. It’s very different from the prince of Wales. They’re more contemporary, open and more accessible -- and they’ve got loads of charisma, which is a critical part of any personal brand.”

Young said the couple would “play well in New York,” where values of tolerance -- represented in part through William’s choice to marry a woman from a middle-class family and his decision to have a job -- are a strong part of the culture.

Big Tent

Barbaralee Diamonstein, an author and former director of culture for the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, agreed.

“New York is a big tent -- for everybody, royal, serf,” Diamonstein said Dec. 2 at a benefit for PEN American.

Joanna Coles, the British-born editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, also at the PEN American event, said Kate “will love New York. What’s not to like? Jesus, she spends most of her time in Kensington Palace.”

Henry Davison II, a managing director at Bessemer Trust, whose grandfather helped organize the “Millionaire’s Unit,” a private aviation militia that fought in World War I, said Americans can learn from the couple.

“We should pay less attention to Kate’s wardrobe and acknowledge that such a visit is no holiday,” Davison said by e-mail. “William and Kate demonstrate by example that to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Glamorous Image

New York is a mercantile city and a fashion capital. Terry Lundgren, who as Macy’s Inc. CEO oversees Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s department stores, said his teams will be watching Kate’s wardrobe and ensuring the goods are in stock. Though Kate generally wears British brands, he said, he hoped she’d wear some American ones, like Ralph Lauren.

Liz Lange, the designer who has a maternity line at Target Corp. stores, said she’s excited to see outfits worn by Kate, who is 5 months pregnant. “When I see Kate, I think of Jackie O, so glamorous. I can totally picture Kate, like Jackie, on the Upper East Side.”

As for the select few who will get to meet Kate and William in New York, Andrew Solomon, the author, is among them. Solomon, who has dual U.S.-U.K. citizenship, was, well, reserved on the matter.

“Anglophiles, like the British, think it is rather vulgar to express excitement about social events of this description,” said Solomon. With apologies for “sounding name-droppy” he noted he’s also met Princess Diana and Princess Margaret, and had to learn not to put out his hand but wait to be offered a hand to shake.

Which Royals?

And then there are those keeping looser tabs on the royal situation.

“The royals are coming? I thought you meant the Royals, the baseball team,” said Jon Hamm, the actor, at the Gotham Independent Film Awards on Dec. 1. “I hope they enjoy themselves and stay warm.”

Steve Carell, also at the awards ceremony, exhibited either British restraint or American humor when asked his thoughts on the visit.

“I don’t comment on the royals,” he said.

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