Having captured the heart of Britain’s Prince Harry, one of the world’s most eligible bachelors, it was only a matter of time before “Suits” actress Meghan Markle captured the attention of the fashion industry.
Now, insiders are bracing themselves for the “Meghan Effect,” with every outfit and accessory worn by the L.A.-born 35-year-old pored over and copied by countless young women determined to emulate her style.
A similar phenomenon, dubbed the “Kate Effect” for Harry’s sister-in-law, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, first emerged in the run-up to the royal wedding six years ago and has continued ever since. In 2011, for example, after Catherine was photographed in a $340 dress from British retailer Reiss while welcoming President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama to Buckingham Palace, the frock sold out within hours. Her influence on the country’s fashion industry has been valued at more than $1 billion, and she also has been credited with stimulating tourism to Britain.
Some predict that if Markle, who plays smartly dressed paralegal Rachel Zane on USA Network’s “Suits,” does end up marrying Harry, she has the potential to surpass the duchess’ effect on retail, given Markle’s established profile as a Hollywood actress coupled with her humanitarian work (she is an ambassador for World Vision) and until recently, her lifestyle blog, TheTig.com, which was shuttered amid speculation that an engagement announcement is imminent. Add to that her trans-Atlantic appeal (although raised in Los Angeles, Markle increasingly splits her time between Toronto, where “Suits” is filmed, and London, where she stays with Harry at Kensington Palace).
Early signs suggest that Markle, who, like Catherine, enjoys mixing designer and mid-market pieces, packs similar selling power. After she was spotted toting a $1,375 Mulberry handbag in royal blue just before Christmas, it sold out online. In the same month, fans flocked to California-based jewelry designer Maya Brenner’s website after Markle stepped out in one of Brenner’s $300 necklaces decorated with the letters “H” and “M” (believed to stand for “Harry” and “Meghan”).
“When she was spotted in the letter necklace we definitely saw a spike in sales and Web traffic,” Brenner said. “We sold out within a week and did three times the sales as the previous December, including a large increase in international orders.”
An affordable collection designed by Markle herself for Canadian retailer Reitmans sold out almost immediately when it was released last fall.
Like Catherine, Markle also appears to employ what Susan Kelley, founder of royal style blog WhatKateWore.com, calls “sartorial diplomacy.” That is, the ability to communicate via her outfits. “Both women understand the power inherent in what they wear,” Kelley said.
In particular, Markle, who attended her first public event with Harry this month, has already demonstrated a knack for selecting American, British and Canadian brands appropriate to her location. For example, Markle opted for a floral maxi-dress from Canadian British designer Erdem to accompany the prince to a friend’s wedding in Jamaica; in February, she was spotted shopping near Kensington Palace in a Barbour jacket and Hunter rain boots, two historic British brands beloved by Harry’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. Markle is also known to favor U.S. labels such as Marc Jacobs, Paige and Misha Nonoo.
Markle’s unconventional background and red carpet experience mean her sartorial choices are likely to appease courtiers and fashion critics. “Meghan is a wild card. She is biracial, American, vibrant and outspoken,” said Amanda Dishaw, co-founder of Markle-themed style blog MeghansMirror.com, adding that the site has already been inundated with emails from brands hoping to be associated with the actress. “Because Meghan has a more casual style now than Kate ever did, it’s actually possible that she could have a larger impact in the future.” Which, by Hollywood standards, might be the role of a lifetime.