Is The Meghan Markle Effect Real? 11 Times The Royals Made Fashion Brands Serious Money
In the '80s, the world experienced the Diana effect.
But it took several decades for a new royal to take the place of the People's Princess — and then along came two. Much like Diana, Kate and Meghan's sartorial choices are the subject of intense interest, which is buoyed by the lack of alternative information the public has to feed on. The royals' outfits drive conversations, clicks, and column inches, but what is the cold, hard, numerical footprint? Are the royals really as influential as their Vogue covers would have us think? The answer is yes and, sometimes, no.
A third of the U.S. population believe the UK to be a "world leader in fashion" thanks to the Duchesses' efforts, consultancy firm Brand Finance reports. Before Meghan became an official member of the royal family, she was expected to drive £150 million into the British fashion economy. Why? Simply because people couldn't get enough of copying her look.
"A majority of her outfits immediately trigger staggering spikes in online demand," notes Morgane LeCaer, fashion insights reporter at global fashion search platform Lyst. "It is, of course, reminiscent of the effect that some of Kate Middleton’s outfits have, and, while the two Duchesses have a different sort of impact on online shopping behaviours, they both offer powerful brand moments to the labels that they choose to wear." Lyst reports an endorsement from Meghan can lead to a 216% bump in search traffic, while her sister-in-law is responsible for a 119% lift.
"The Duchess [of Cambridge] still shops the high street and continues to move merchandise off the shelves."
When Meghan wore Canadian brand Mackage for a Northern Ireland trip, Business of Fashion reports that it resulted in media impressions worth $20 million. "We've never seen an impact like this," co-founder Elisa Dahan told the site. Royal support can also help save brands that are struggling, with one Australian brand, Oroton, thought to have escaped bankruptcy after a surprise endorsement from Meghan. Jewellery designer Pippa Small, an ethical brand also loved by the Duchess, says Meghan "has brought the conversation and awareness about the role of sustainability to a much wider audience, which is invaluable to the cause and been wonderful for us in all ways.”
The impact for affordable items is even more pronounced. When Kate was pictured on a July 2019 visit to Wimbledon holding Clarins' Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector, Amazon sales of the lip balm promptly increased by over 500%. "Kate's influence is primarily beneficial to UK luxury brands like Alexander McQueen and Jenny Packham, as they constitute the majority of her wardrobe," notes the founder of What Kate Wore, Susan E. Kelley. "But the Duchess still shops the high street and continues to move merchandise off the shelves, as seen with the sellout of items like her £8 Accessorize earrings and £50 Superga trainers."
Keep reading to find out some of the most startling sartorial stats out there, including the influencers who out gun them and the rising power of the next generation.
To announce her engagement to Prince William in 2010, Kate donned a silk blue wrap dress by London-based brand Issa. Well, former brand, because it no longer exists. The dress sold out and the customer base grew exponentially, but founder of the brand, Daniella Helayel, struggled to keep up. "From the day of the royal engagement, our sales doubled," she told the Daily Mail. "I didn’t have the money to finance production on that scale. The bank refused to give me credit and the factory was screaming for me to pay its bills. I needed an investor."
She eventually found one, but, after a couple of years, Helayel left the brand. Two years later, as Vanity Fair reports, Issa disappeared from the industry. It's not doom and gloom for every brand though. Beulah London — a brand Kate has worn on numerous occasions — said the Duchess "has a fantastic impact and creates great awareness of the brand on a global scale."
"The royal effect doesn't guarantee you success. But it's a lovely notch in the belt."
When Prince George was born, a 45-second glimpse of his muslin blanket was all it took for eager fans to descend on aden + anais' website, states The Hollywood Reporter. The site crashed twice and 7,000 orders were made in just nine days. Co-founder Raegan Moya-Jones did, however, tell the magazine that "the royal effect doesn't guarantee you success. But it's a lovely notch in the belt."
A fitted camel Reiss dress that the Duchess of Cambridge wore to meet the Obamas in 2011 caused such a furore that the £175 design sold on eBay for prices nearing $1,000 (over £800), reports the Telegraph. The newspaper also reports that Reiss was selling the dress at a rate of one a minute.
The Duchess also chose the brand for her official engagement portraits alongside Prince William, resulting in the brand having to re-release the ruffled white dress due to constant customer enquiries, reports Vogue.
When Meghan stepped out on her first public outing with Prince Harry at the Invictus Games, her look sold out straight away, heralding things to come. At one point, the brand behind them, Mother, had 400 people waiting to buy a pair.
It was the same story with that Marks & Spencer jumper. Meghan donned the simple black knit for a Brixton trip in January 2018, prompting the style to sell out twice, reports the BBC.
The magic number for an item to sell out, according to Christine Ross, editor of Meghan's Mirror, is $300 (almost £250). "Anything that Meghan wears that costs less than $300 is sure to sell out, whether it is running shoes, a cocktail dress, or a pair of sunglasses," she says.
And generally, Ross says "there is no slowing down in terms of sales or interest" in Meghan's style. Shoppers still pick up pieces that the Duchess wore a year or two ago and even go as far as "purchasing her go-to lip gloss to add that 'Markle Sparkle' to their everyday life."
"You cannot put a price on the brand recognition nor the credibility that the Duchess [of Sussex] is able to bestow on a small, socially oriented enterprise such as ours."
When the Duchess of Sussex stepped out in a pair of Outland Denim's black jeans during her tour of Australia and New Zealand, sales increased by 640 percent in the following week, the brand tells Bustle, and Meghan's chosen style sold out within 24 hours. As well as gaining a sizeable waiting list and thousands of new Instagram followers, Outland Denim was also able to "employ a further 46 seamstresses in [its] Cambodian production house."
"You cannot put a price on the brand recognition nor the credibility that the Duchess is able to bestow on a small, socially oriented enterprise such as ours," the Outland Denim spokesperson added. "When you think about the fact that what we try to do with Outland is imbue our staff members in Cambodia with a sense of dignity in their work and their value as human beings, a quiet, dignified royal endorsement such as this — while unofficial in the sense that we don't have a Kensington Palace seal — is incredibly helpful."
If you thought royal adults were the only influencers around, think again. William and Kate's brood have spawned their own power nickname: the Cambridge effect. Brand Finance estimates that Prince George and Charlotte would inject £2.4 billion and £3.2 billion into the UK economy over their lifetimes, and a heavy chunk of this is down to the clothes they wear.
George, now age 6, caused the sellout of that adorable dressing gown worn to meet Barack Obama as well as the stripy T-shirt worn to celebrate his third birthday. Sunuva, the brand behind the tee, enjoyed additional exposure when George wore its swimming shorts for his most recent birthday photos. "The Duchess is such an important and influential style icon that, by dressing her son in Sunuva, it creates a huge wave of excitement and demand for our brand," Sunuva told Bustle. "The impact on both sales and interest is enormous."
Four-year-old Princess Charlotte produces a similar effect. Her second birthday outfit, comprising a yellow John Lewis cardigan, quickly sold out. As did the floral dress worn to meet her baby brother at the hospital. Even Prince Louis, currently only a year old, is causing a sartorial stir. His super cute blue-and-white set (worn for his grandfather's 70 birthday portraits) too sold out. It won't be long before Archie Mountbatten-Windsor's ensembles do the same.
Princess Charlotte was but a newborn when she became a style influencer. After making an appearance on the steps of the famous Lindo Wing, her £68 shawl resulted in masses of interest for Nottingham brand G.H. Hurt & Sons. Director Gillian Taylor told the Telegraph they noticed extra online sales within a few minutes. Pretty soon, 100,000 people from over 183 countries had taken to the site.
Prince Louis also created a "hectic" week for the family company after wearing a similar G.H. Hurt & Sons shawl. According to the Nottingham Post, directors worked 12- to 14-hour days to fulfill orders.
Photos of a royal and a Hollywood heartthrob are destined to make a memorable cultural moment. And Princess Diana's dance with Danny Zuko — I mean John Travolta — at the White House in 1985 definitely ticked that box.
The deep blue dress she wore on the night also went down in history after it was auctioned off for a whopping £240,000 in 2013. The best part? A man bought it "as a surprise to cheer up his wife," the auction house told CNN.
Just one photo of an influential figure wearing a design is enough to save fashion houses millions in advertising costs. When Meghan wed Prince Harry, her Givenchy gown gave the Parisian brand the equivalent of £2.1 million in advertising, per Harper's Bazaar, from over 12 million Instagram likes and more than 3,000 mentions.
But Meghan isn't the queen in this sphere. In September 2018, mega influencer Chiara Ferragni married in a custom Dior dress. As the Evening Standard reports, her social media stats generated Dior £3.95 million in media value — almost double the Duchesses.
Even Her Majesty is not immune to the influencer ways. The Queen has been loyal to handbag brand Launer London since the 1950s, states Lyst, resulting in searches for the bags occurring once every six minutes. According to the Telegraph, the monarch owns more than 200 Launer bags and particularly likes ones with longer handles to aid all that handshaking.