Meghan Markle is a designer’s dream — and brands are cashing in like never before
When Prince Harry and Meghan stepped off a jet in Sydney to start their Royal tour down under, no-one was cheering more loudly than the fashion houses responsible for the clothes, bags, shoes and jewellery the Duchess of Sussex brought with her.
Rothy’s, the maker of the flat shoes which the duchess wore for a beach walk, quickly posted a link on Facebook from an article in Harper’s Bazaar magazine, with a headline reading, “Meghan Markle Sneakily Changed From Heels To Flats Between Events.”
The story read: “Even Royals need a break from heels sometimes. Meghan opted for black pointed-toe flats by Rothy’s.”
In its Facebook post, the shoemaker added, “Which pair will you choose?”
Don’t let the fun, relaxed vibe fool you — Meghan Markle is big business, whether she knows it or not. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
Over on Instagram, another shoemaker, Tamara Mellon, posted a photo of the duchess in “our Rebel 105 pump in nude on the first day of her Australian Royal tour”. A subsequent post featured a close up of the shoe, and the caption, “An instant classic.”
In the comments, a poster suggested that the shoe now should be called “The Meghan”.
Brands post Meghan shots on Instagram almost immediately
The tour is only in its first week, but the reaction is echoing a pattern that Royal watchers have spotted even before Ms Markle married Prince Harry in May.
“There are two reasons, the primary one being social media.”
Although Twitter and Instagram were around in 2011 when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were first married, they were not used as heavily for marketing back then.
“We are seeing brands post on Instagram almost immediately once Meghan is seen wearing their merchandise,” Ms Kelley says.
Some of the labels have even thanked Ms Markle’s close friend and unofficial stylist, Jessica Mulroney, for making the commercial connection with the duchess.
This is a huge break with the way the Royal family handled its past associations with commercial enterprises.
Royal warrants used to govern merchandising
For centuries, Royal approval of everything from book sellers to soap, tea to whiskey and even undergarments was handled through the system of Royal warrants. It is a strictly governed method, overseen by the Royal Warrant Holders Association.
As the group explains on its website, “A Royal Warrant of Appointment is the document that appoints a company or individual in a trading capacity to the Royal Household and which entitles the holder of the Royal Warrant to use the Royal (Coat of) Arms in connection with their business.”
Australian designer Karen Gee’s website crashed after Ms Markle wore her cream sheath dress for one of her first appearances in country on Tuesday. (Supplied)
The warrant, as the group says, is granted by “the Monarch” meaning Queen Elizabeth II, and can be awarded by her, Prince Philip or Prince Charles. Initially, a royal warrant is granted for five years, and the company receiving it must have done business with the Royal Household.”
Historically, “most British brands are very discrete and wouldn’t think of using a member of the royal family for marketing purposes”, Ms Kelley says. “That isn’t the case with many of the US and Canadian brands we see Meghan wearing.”
And little wonder, when the results are so immediate.
Australian designer Karen Gee’s website crashed after the Duchess of Sussex wore her cream sheath dress for one of her first appearances in country on Tuesday.
The dress, named “Blessed” was an apt name for how Ms Gee said she felt when she spotted the duchess in her design. And it’s now featured on the front page of Ms Gee’s website, in both cream and black, although Meghan is not mentioned.
However, Maison Birks, the Canadian jeweller whose designs have been worn a number of time by the Duchess, has repeatedly capitalised on its association with the duchess. It was among the brands sending congratulations to the Royal couple when word was released that they were expecting their first child.
On September 25, the Birks Instagram account featured a photo of the Duchess of Sussex wearing the Birks “Snowflake Snowstorm Diamond Earrings”. It helpfully noted that the earrings were available in two sizes and price points.
“The Duchess is gorgeous, inside and out! We’re honoured that she continuously chooses to wear Birks jewellery,” the company said.
Kate’s frocks used to elicit simple ‘thanks’
When Kate Middleton was first in the Royal spotlight, Ms Kelley recalls, brands might post a humble “thank you” to the duchess for choosing their items, but some houses wouldn’t confirm she was wearing their goods.
Often, the identification was made by commentators on Ms Kelley’s sites; those that remained a mystery were dubbed UFOs, for “unidentified fashion objects”.
But, along with her new items, the Duchess of Cambridge frequently re-wears earlier outfits, which stymies the rush to purchase them.
Meghan, however, has not yet been on the scene long enough for her recycled outfits to appear, so everything she wears sparks fresh exploration.
You would think a word from the Palace might temper the frenzy. Wrong. In fact, some royals are playing right along.
Last weekend, Prince Andrew’s Twitter feed gave a shout out to designer Zac Posen, who created the dress worn by Princess Eugenie to an evening party after her wedding.
Meanwhile, his former wife, Sarah Ferguson, thanked Emanuel Ungaro in a series of tweets for ensembles worn during the wedding weekend.
Duchess of Sussex’s position as perhaps the world’s most visible fashion influencer adds a lucrative element to the tour, beyond just cooing at babies and hugging schoolboys. Australians might be happy at the sight of the Duchess, but the fashion world is ecstatic.
Micheline Maynard is an author and journalist.