Before Meghan Markle, Mulberry was not on my radar, the Gucci Dionysus mini was intolerably small, striped dresses were so ‘2008 drab’, heels and ripped jeans were judge-worthy and dainty mismatched jewelry was a tad too edgy for me. Post Meghan Markle, Mulberry is the go-to designer, the Dionysus is still small, but not impossible, striped dresses dominate retailers shelves and suede stilettos and jeans is the international ‘cool girl’ uniform.
Never did I consider the Young Royals a powerhouse of the fashion empire until the day I found myself in Mulberry desperately imploring the sales assistant to search for an oxblood Bayswater for me. The sales assistant’s kind eyes smiled with a look of understanding – “Meghan Markle’s bag? unfortunately we sold out.”. I left Mulberry with an equally as regal oxblood Mulberry bag. Not Meghan Markle’s bag, but close enough that at a great distance a person with poor eyesight could mistake me for Meghan Markle’s less rich and glamorous cousin (not really). I felt a sense of accomplishment, as if Meghan and I shared the same sense of style and waltzed into Mulberry together, coffee in hand and purchased similar bags because, well, we’re friends, right?
She’s relatable, sophisticated, stylish and pushes the boundaries of the what is considered appropriate for women of one of the oldest royal monarchies. The Duchess of Sussex, more commonly known as Meghan Markle, is often branded the fresh-face of a stale traditional institution that is the British Royal Family. She is marketed as a wholesome friend – someone who is warm, dependable and would never attend your family event empty-handed. Alongside The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who is marketed as the slightly more regal and traditional Duchess, the duo are a powerhouse of the fashion world who have the ability to sell out outfits and place designers on an incomparable trajectory. Both Meghan and Kate’s stylists carefully choose designers, garments and accessories that speak to everyday women, such as you and I, who will willfully walk into Mulberry willing to purchase a piece that Duchesses of sleek, elegant and demure fashion have too worn.
Royal Women making their mark on the fashion industry is no new feat, with Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco heralded as a timeless muse, inspiring the likes of Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior and Princess Diana, branded the People’s Princess who did not fear a leg split, a feminine silhouette or bold colours. Royal women throughout history have walked amongst the fashion elite and continue to dictate what styles and designers are desirable.
Much alike the ‘Kate Effect’ of Kate Middleton, the ‘Meghan Effect’ is real and material with fashion houses and up and coming brands recording unprecedented traffic, purchasing behaviour and searches due to the influence of Meghan Markle.
Since the arrival of Meghan Markle to the royal family, fashion brands are experiencing a similarly influential pull, last seen on Kate Middleton but now overtaken by Markle. Voted the more relatable and likeable of the two, Markle has proven there’s merit to be given in the role of celebrity dressing—and its impact on our own wardrobes.
Brand Finance estimates that Markle’s fashion influence could add $677 million in 2019, a figure that far surpasses the fashion influence of sister-in-law, Kate Middleton. According to Forbes, if the Kate Effect is anything to base the influence of the Duchess of Sussex, public sentiment and interest in the style and fashion choices of Markle will only continue to deepen over time, especially once she becomes a mother. Markle seems to be following in the footsteps of Kate Middleton, whose fashion-icon status is worth about $1 billion annually to the British fashion industry.
The real influence of Meghan Markle can be understood when acknowledging the pre-Markle Effect market of a brand, and the post Markle Effect. Markle’s primary wedding dress designer, Creative Director of Givenchy, Claire Waight Keller, saw her search popularity increased by 61 per cent the following week after the royal wedding , whereas Stella McCartney who designed Markle’s second bridal look for the reception at Frogmore House was searched 3,000 per cent more than usual the day after.
According to economists at Brand Finance, the mom-to-be [Meghan Markle] was expected to bring pump 150 million pounds ($210 million) into the British economy from her fans attempting to copy her style.
“Her style is effortless and accessible,” Christine OBrien-Ross, who runs Megan’s Mirror, a site dedicated to chronicling the Duchess’ looks, told Glamour. “I don’t have a chance to wear Jenny Packham gowns [a favorite of Kate Middleton] and satin shoes, but I can wear Hunter boots from Nordstrom and ripped jeans.”
Basically, if Meghan wears it- it sells.
“On average, if Meghan wears a designer, that brand will see a 200 percent increase in search demand over the following week,” Yasmine Bachir, Lyst’s (a global fashion search engine) senior communications executive, told Elle UK.
The Duchess of Sussex evidently has a keen interest in sustainable fashion and elevating lesser known brands who source sustainably, engage in ethical labour practice and distribution and invest back into local communities. During Markle’s seventy-six engagements within sixteen days, Meghan Markle had ample opportunity to showcase acclaimed and lesser known local brands, well knowing that her influence as a young royal has the means of immortalizing the popularity of a brand. During Markle’s tour of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Tongo, the Duchess made a point of wearing labels that were local to said region, ethically sourced and made or lesser known brands. In Australia, the Duchess commissioned the works of Dion Lee, Martin Grant, Camilla and Marc, Oroton, Karen Gee and Outlander Denim. The influence of Meghan Effect is so powerful that it is widely acknowledged that the spike in sales after Meghan sported an Oroton striped cross-body bag saved the distinctly Australian Brand from the verge of bankruptcy.
According to Oroton, Markle chose the handbag “independently” and wasn’t sent to her by the company. “Meghan is a modern style icon and this is a huge endorsement of our new creative direction,” the brand’s CEO, Ross Lane said. And it’s this kind of attention Markle picks up by brands all over the world—the kind that get CEOs making statements and publicists on call, thanks to the wearing of a single, modestly-sized crossbody bag.
Every item of clothing Markle supported throughout her tour derived from a brand with a social mission and that is engaged in corporate social responsibility. Notably, the Duchess sported the “Harriet” jeans from Outlander Denim, an up and coming brand that creates jobs for Cambodian trafficking survivors. The “Markle Effect” led to an international sell out of the denim jeans and an online traffic increase of 984 per cent. Markle’s effect had made a real and substantial change to the lives of trafficked women in Cambodia, with Outlander Denim announcing their intention to hire between fifteen and thirty more women due to the increased demand in popularity of the brand. Given the limitations placed upon the young royals and the expression of their political and ideological views, Markle is consciously supporting and advocating for ethical and sustainably sourced clothing to ensure causes close to her heart are advocated for within the realms of her position. To put it bluntly, it seems that everything that Meghan Markle touches sells out, and she is taking a liking to local, ethical and sustainable clothing brands.
Much alike the Meghan Markle Effect, the Kate Effect continues to act as a truly powerful force of the international fashion industry.
Proving that “the Kate effect” is still very much alive, Kate, 36, has been deemed the royal most likely to convince U.S. shoppers to buy U.K. brands—which will be welcome news for the likes of Alexander McQueen and Jenny Packham, some of the U.K.’s leading couturiers and go-to designers for the Duchess or Cambridge.
The poll also suggests that when Kate wears an item of clothing or an accessory it increases the desirability among 38 percent of U.S. shoppers. “Kate is a global fashion phenomenon, cleverly juggling designer outfits we can all lust over with clothes we can pick up on the High Street,” said Claudia Joseph, author of How to Dress Like a Princess. “The Meghan effect,” however, is plenty impressive. Many of the more affordable outfits the duchess has worn on the couple’s Commonwealth tour such as the & Other Stories polka-dotted dress she wore on Fraser Island have sold out.
Whilst Kate’s favourite designers consist of Alexander McQueen, Jenny Packham, Catherine Walker and Mulberry, the Duchess’ style is of a more conservative and demure nature. Whilst evidently Kate Middleton’s style generally consists of less affordable pieces that Meghan Markle’s, the Duchess of Cambridge’s wardrobe does include some pieces from Zara, Reiss, Gap, ASOS and TopShop. These pieces are acknowledged by all five brands as items that sold out instantaneously. Largely due to the Duchess of Cambridge’s acquired taste in expensive designers, pieces that are accessible to everyday women can afford (and feel) regal clothing on a budget. The most notable example of Kate’s wardrobe choices causing hysteria upon the high street, is the blue and white pinstripe Zara summer dress that Kate wore at the Maserati Royal Charity Polo Trophy, selling for a menial $70.
The Kate Effect evidently has a significant impact on high street and designer brands alike, by providing a platform that exponentially boosts noteriaty of brands and designers upon the international stage.
Maternity company Seraphine quadrupled profits from $440,000 to $1.97 million and increased turnover by 60 per cent after Kate was pictured in an official portrait wearing one of their designs, the Telegraph reports.
The $80 dress sold out within two hours and led to a four-week waiting list, while creative director Chelsey Oliver said the specialist maternity retailer gained a boost from the “overall message” it portrayed.
High-street store Reiss is another well-known beneficiary of the Kate effect, ‘inundated’ with inquiries after she wore a dress for an official portrait.
It wasn’t available for sale at the time so the company decided to re-release their ‘Nanette’ dress and stock it in the US. Another of their designs she wore to meet the Obama’s caused the website to crash for two and a half hours, according to Vogue.
British brand LK Bennett has also leveraged off the profile given by the Duchess to launch their US stores.
President Tony DiMasso told the Guardian the fact the American public are “infatuated” with Kate has definitely helped them crack the American market.
English designer Jenny Packham has also seen her website crash under the weight of interest after Kate introduced Prince George to the world in one of her designs.
Whilst monarchies historically have been inextricably linked to setting fashion trends and being deemed as stylistic icons, proliferation of images of royal women upon social media and platforms dedicated to analysing the choices and designers of the royal family has forever changed the influence of the young royals upon fashion industries.
Given the charm, wit and intrigue with the royal family, it is no surprise that the young royals have insurmountable influence and selling power in fashion. Interestingly, two women born on different continents, to different families, with different dreams and aspirations have entered the royal family as Duchesses. Whilst both Duchesses have varying aesthetics, style, respective favourite designers and wardrobes, both women have become powerhouse influences for everyday women.
The influence bestowed within these two women in particular is not without careful thought and deliberation, given the efforts of publicists, Royal staff and the Royal Family itself to brand both the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, as elegant, stylish and iconic women. The portrayal of Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle as modern monarchs who still adhere to traditional dress codes, yet continue to drive everyday women to purchase clothes and designers is invaluable to the economy and ensuring positive public sentiment towards the young royals.