Meghan Markle has proven just how much of a fashion influencer she is during her first public appearances after her pregnancy announcement. As she and Prince Harry kicked off their royal tour of Australia, the Duchess of Sussex wore a sleeveless fitted dress by designer Karen Gee. She’s worn similar silhouettes before, but that didn’t stop people from repeatedly crashing Gee’s website with attempts to buy the piece.
“It’s an absolute honor to have Meghan wear our dress,” Gee told Bazaar.com. “The fact that she could choose anyone in the world, and she’s chosen Karen Gee on her first day is phenomenal.”
The Australian designer’s “Blessed” dress is still available on the site on a made-to-order basis. It retails for roughly $1,285 US and comes in black and navy as well as the ivory Markle chose. The fact that Markle has given Gee global recognition overnight is just one recent example of her influence as a royal.
On Tuesday, Markle stepped out in a $145 blazer from her friend Serena Williams’s clothing line. The “Boss oversized blazer,” a ’90s throwback that gives off some serious Beverly Hills, 90210 vibes — Brenda, Kelly, and Donna were all fans of the look — is already sold out. Markle paired the piece with a pair of black “Harriet” jeans from the Australian brand Outland Denim, and most colors of the pants have nearly sold out also.
What royals like the Duchess of Sussex and Kate Middleton wear might seem inconsequential to people disinterested in the British monarchy, fashion, or both. But their attire has a significant economic impact. Middleton drives an estimated $1 billion to the British apparel industry annually, and Business Insider predicted that Markle will have a $677 million impact on the sector this year. The fact that Markle has ties beyond Great Britain uniquely positions her to be a fashion influencer as well.
The Duchess of Sussex’s international ties primes her to be an influencer
Markle is particularly poised to make an international impact with her sartorial choices. An American with Canadian ties — she lived in Toronto for years while shooting the TV series Suits — the duchess has worn fashions from brands from all over the world. She’s given North American designers the spotlight, wearing Americans like Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, and Ralph Lauren, and Canadians like Erdem, Mackage, and Line. And for her wedding dress in May, she chose a gown from British designer Clare Waight Keller, artistic director of the French fashion house Givenchy.
She’s also shown an inclination for both heritage fashion brands and indie labels, like Karen Gee and Mackage, making her fashions slightly more accessible to members of the public, at least those with hundreds of dollars to spare on their wardrobes.
As is customary for royals, Markle takes a diplomatic approach to her dress during visits abroad. In Australia, she’s made a point to wear Australian brands like Karen Gee and Outland Denim. But these brands stand out for more than where they’re based: Both companies are involved in social enterprise.
According to Karen Gee and Outland, their apparel is ethically made, meaning they are transparent about the steps in their supply chains. Outland is particularly concerned about reducing the apparel industry’s impact on the environment as well. Last November, Outland’s founder and CEO James Bartle told me that his brand uses organic cotton and vegetable dyes, and the manufacturing process includes using upcycled jean pockets and recycled packing materials to reduce environmental impact.
But what likely appealed to Markle most about the brand is that it works with nongovernmental organizations to teach vulnerable girls and young women in Southeast Asia how to sew. Such a skill can reduce their chances of falling prey to human traffickers because it allows them to earn money for their families without the help of potentially unscrupulous middlemen.
Outland’s work on behalf of girls and women falls in line with Markle’s charity work related to women’s rights. Gee has a philanthropic background as well; she won a national competition for “women over 25 that [help] raise money for charities,” according to Bazaar.com.
That Markle is supporting fashion brands with a background in social enterprise indicates that she wants to be more than just a fashion influencer; she may want to influence the public to take an interest in helping others. These efforts align with a prediction celebrity stylist and bridal designer Katharine Polk made about Markle in May.
“I believe someone who uses their platform and popularity to influence their following is an influencer,” Polk told Racked. “If you can do that through fashion, you should use your power for greater good. I believe Meghan will do so while looking stunning.”
Markle’s and Middleton’s influence is felt on resale sites like eBay
As Markle’s pregnancy proceeds, her impact on maternity wear could be just as notable as it has been on general apparel. She’s expected to give fledgling designers a chance to shine during this momentous shift in her life.
“This is a great opportunity for Megan to highlight an emerging independent business featuring maternity wear by showcasing bold and stylish designs during her working day in the later months of her pregnancy,” commentator Caryn Franklin told CNN.
Markle’s late mother-in-law, Princess Diana, incorporated the influential Sloane Ranger look into her maternity style. And Kate Middleton continued to wear her favorite designers, like Alexander McQueen, Erdem, and Jenny Packham, during her three pregnancies.
According to eBay, the Duchess of Cambridge’s maternity style during her pregnancy this year led to more searches on the site than any other royal in 2018. Markle, who only joined the monarchy this spring, followed in second place. But before she wed Prince Harry on May 19, her influence was felt at top resale sites like Poshmark, where purchases of Markle favorites like Mackage and Burberry pea coats rose by 193 percent and 80 percent, respectively. Even her accessories, like Gucci mini bags and Mulberry satchels, rose by 214 percent and 95 percent, respectively, on the site.
What Prince William and Kate Middleton’s children wear have also set trends. Numerous ensembles worn by Prince George, the eldest of their three kids, have sold out. This outcome has been called the “Prince George effect.” And one doesn’t need a crystal ball to predict that if he has children, they, too, will have a similar effect on fashion.
The phenomenon of royals setting fashion trends is certainly not new. It dates back centuries. In fact, Queen Victoria influenced Western brides to replace their brightly colored wedding gowns for white ones after she wore a white wedding dress during her 1840 nuptials. At the time, white was considered too drab a color to wear during a marriage ceremony.
Consider Queen Victoria’s mark on wedding traditions the next time a royal wears a style that immediately sells out. It’s not that monarchs have an innately better fashion sense than the rest of us; it’s that dressing like a royal makes one feel a bit more like royalty.
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