It began with the news that Crown Princess Elisabeth is to continue her education at the Royal Military Academy in Brussels starting in the next academic year.
The princess, eldest child of King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, has completed her education at the prestigious United World College in Wales, where she graduated with an International Baccalaureate.
Now, as royal tradition demands, she will pass on to the military academy.
The news stressed that despite being the first female heir to the throne in history, Elisabeth will not be spared the usual rigours of military cadets. And to illustrate the point, the royal palace distributed a photograph showing the princess indulging in some strenuous jogging, dressed in polo shirt and leggings.
And it was that photo that triggered an avalanche of orders coming in to the textile company Liebaert in Deinze in East Flanders. Their clothing subsidiary RectoVerso manufacture the leggings modelled by the princess.
“I woke up at 7 am on Wednesday morning and immediately had a few messages from people who had forwarded the front page of a number of newspapers,” said Camille Liebaert, the designer of the clothing line. “Everyone was very enthusiastic. I didn’t really realise the impact at the time, but at the end of the day I couldn’t get over it. It was all very overwhelming.”
Since then the company’s online orders have doubled, and the staff are under pressure to meet demand. One problem: the leggings worn by Elisabeth are from last year’s collection, and are no longer being produced.
“We gave the leggings last year for the princess’s 18th birthday,” said Liebaert. “We thought it would be nice to give the Belgian princess a 100% Belgian pair of leggings. We received a thank-you card for that, but we didn’t expect that she would suddenly be wearing them in a photo. It was a real surprise.”
The princess’s next birthday is in October, when she turns 19. VRT Radio asked whether Liebaert is contemplating sending another gift.
“Maybe,” she replied. “We could complete the set, because the leggings go together with a sports bra and a t-shirt.”