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Meghan Markle

Undressing Meghan Markle: What One Year's Worth of Outfits Reveals About the Duchess of Sussex

In May of 2018, a Univision Digital started a research to understand the true dimension of the well-known “Meghan Effect” on fashion. That project evolved into a database titled Style as Meghan, published on 2019, where the team of journalists behind it collected every article of clothing used in public by the Duchess of Sussex during a whole year: from her wedding day to the birth of her first son.

We know what she wore, how many times she wore it, the brand and the message hidden behind her clothes.

Read this story in Spanish.
16 Jul 2019 – 3:09 PM EDT

One year after she joined the British royal family, Meghan Markle continues to carry the flag of U.S. clothing brands, with 29.7 percent of her wardrobe during public appearances between May of 2018 and May of 2019 made by U.S. companies – more than British labels.

And while she has worked hard to become an icon for sustainable clothing – 66.2 percent of the items she wore during the period – she was less exacting when it came to shoes. She likes high heels and pointed toes (72 percent of the total) by famous designers, just like Sarah Jessica Parker in “‘Sex and the City.”

Those are some of the conclusions of Style As Meghan (SaM), a project developed by Univision Digital (and featured in the Miami Fashion Week 2019) to better understand the phenomenon known as the Meghan Effect: The Duchess of Sussex wears it, and the item becomes a hit. After studying a year's worth of clothing worn by the former Hollywood actress, that turns out to be true, but with many shadings.

SaM is a database created by a team of journalists at Univision who logged every item that Meghan Markle wore in public from her wedding on May 8 2018 to the public presentation of her first baby. The team tried to verify the origin of each product and some of its characteristics (including brand, price* and how many times she wore it) and added context about the type of event involved. The use of filters allowed for advanced searches that helped to generate this report.

Thanks to this analysis we found that she wore her favorite rings, the Catbird, on 48 public outings. And she wore her favorite shoes, the Aquazzura Deneuve 105, eight times. Seven out of every 10 other pairs of shoes were worn only once.

We also learned that Meghan alternates invaluable items, such as some of the royal jewels, with $20 t-shirts and that after joining the monarchy she has worn more skirts than pants, required by protocol.

One of Meghan's most common practices during the year was to wear clothes from companies based in the countries she was visiting, especially if the country was a member of the British Commonwealth. In fact, 37.4 percent of the brands she wore during the month studied were based in the Commonwealth.

But while her closet holds plenty of Commonwealth brands, when it comes to wearing clothes a second time Meghan prefers made in the USA.

One year after her wedding, it's not been possible to confirm the prediction by experts at Brand Finance that people who want to dress like her would inject $190 million into the British economy.

But there's no doubt that Meghan Markle was the most Googled personality in 2018 as well as one of the most influential in the world, according to Time magazine.

Unlike Kate Middleton, what the duchess wears reflects a new definition of royalty: more modern, contemporary and hipster.



THE MEGHAN EFFECT

The green effect

The one takeaway from all the items worn by Meghan during the period logged – a total of 437 – is her constant preference for sustainable fashion.

In the world of images, Meghan is already viewed as a flag-carrier for that trend. And while the database confirms her love for those items, she's no radical or evangelizer like Gwyneth Paltrow, founder of Goop, or Emma Watson, who represents sustainable initiatives like GoodOnYou.

But she is an influencer when it comes time to addressing the subject in a broader conceptual way to bring in the principles of sustainability, ecology, ethics, the empowerment of women and local production compared to large chains. Yet those principles can clash even within one of her outfits: can you truly champion local/small scale production and at the same time wear H&M, both a mass production brand and maker of environmentally sustainable clothing.

Everything depends on where the limits for those concepts are set.

With Meghan, one would have to speak less about sustainability than about “ethical consciousness,” a term that covers all the brands that have well-defined social responsibility policies, even if they have not been officially certified as such.

The SaM database (featured in the Miami Fashion Week Summit) showed that Meghan wore 227 items produced by that type of company, meaning that 66.2 percent of the brands worn by the duchess are considered “Ethically Conscious,” compared to 38.8 percent that are not.



That would include her second wedding dress, designed by Stella McCartney, the most famous designer of sustainable couture, as well as less important choices such as the delicate Bar bracelet, hand made with recycled silver, which she wore to her baby shower in New York and a visit to Merseyside in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps her biggest impact came from the French VEJA sneakers she wore aboard the royal yacht at the end of the Invictus Games in Sidney. The brand is certified as fair trade because it uses Amazon rubber and organic cotton.

“When Meghan used the V-10, our Instagram crashed. We had thousands of likesand comments. A lot of people were looking for the model she wore, and discovered our project thanks to her,” company co-founder Sébastien Kopp declared in a statement.

And although we cannot guarantee that Meghan is a key factor in the public's interest in sustainable products, she was clearly one of the principal followers of the trend in 2018 and 2019.

Within that string of sustainable choices made by Meghan Markle were the vintage jeans she wore on three public outings – in effect reusing an existing product instead of debuting a new product, which always leaves a carbon imprint because of the production process.

The hipster effect

Many of the Google searches for Meghan Markle have focused on her clothing, which benefits the brands although not all to the same degree. That's most evident with the smaller companies, similar to what happened when Lady Diana chose the designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel, little known at the time, for her wedding dress.

Even without social networks designed specifically to reflect her style, the duchess has perfected her ability to shine the spotlight on brands outside the mainstream – the right attitude for a hipster. And, unlike other global influencers like the Kardashians, she does not receive any economic benefits, at least not directly.

Dani Matte, publicist for the Australian brand Outland Denim, told Univision that Meghan Markle's decision to wear its jeans six times during her visit to Australia October 17-29 drove up sales and led the company to hire 46 new seamstresses for its factory in Cambodia, many of them victims of sex trafficking and forced labor.


Something similar happened with Hiut Denim Co, a small Wales brand that had to cut 400 employees but turned into a success after Meghan wore its jeans. The company today reports a six to eight week waiting period for its clothes.

It's common for these emerging brands to sell out just hours after Meghan wears one of its products, although usually the lack of stock has more to do with the very limited number of items produced than any massive demand – like the release of a new iPhone.

“We are not a big company, and by the end of the season we don't have much in stock. They are hand-made,” John Muscat, founder of the Canada-based brand Line The Label, told WWD about its famous coat worn by the duchess the day her engagement was announced.

Another economic beneficiary of the duchess' wardrobe choices has been VEJA. The brand, which claims its sneakers are the most sustainable in the world, has become an icon of street wear. The 2018 report by Lyst showed that searches for the brand rose by 113 percent during the year and was first in the list of most-searched-for brands on Instagram. The ranking was created by monitoring searches and mentions of the brand on Instagram during the year.

What's more, although it is p
ractically impossible to attribute the brand's popularity exclusively to Meghan, the effect continues. The demand for the V10 sneakers grew by 22 percent in 2019, keeping them among the 10 hottest products on Lyst.

These are the most memorable wedding dresses from royal weddings

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The soda pop effect

According to the Lyst report, “if Meghan uses a designer, that brand will see an increase in its searches of +200% on average over the following week.”

But that doesn't mean the Meghan Effect is long-lasting. Most of the time, the initial big hit drops off after just a few weeks, with the exception of the emerging brands already mentioned.

The New Zealand brand Norrøna, designer of sustainable outdoor clothing, told Univision that the images of Meghan wearing its clothes while holding Prince Harry's hand during a visit to Rotorua in New Zealan had no significant impact.

“We noticed an increase in Web traffic at the moment she used a Norrøna jacket, and even some additional sales of that specific item. Nevertheless, we don't believe that had a major impact on our company or our sales. It was more of a 'curious fact' for us,” said a spokesperson for the company's marketing department.

The communications team for luxury designer Joseph Altuzarra also told Univision that it does not believe Meghan “is a factor” that influenced his business, even though she wore his products on four public outings during the year studied – a handbag, pants and two jackets.

That's also what happened with Karen Walker, designer of four items worn by Meghan to seven events. Marketing director Jiali Yang said that had “no significant impact,” although he acknowledged that the label's small-batch products sold out because of the interest sparked by the duchess.

During the one-year period studied, Meghan Markle redefined her style based on straight skirts, coats that make a statement, clothes in the colors of precious stones and pumps – all trends that we might see in coming runways or Fashion Week.

It will be very difficult to establish a direct link between her closet and the designs that will be produced for the coming seasons. But the brands touched by the Meghan Effect know it's true.

Some labels have added her name to their SEO description on Google, so that its products appear on any searches for what she wears, or included images of the duchess wearing their designs on their Web pages and social networks. The most immediate and lasting impact of the Meghan Effect is in marketing.

In the case of Winser London, manufacturer of the wool coat worn by Meghan to the inauguration of the Invictus Games in Australia, a spokesperson told Univision that it had to start a waiting list for the coat and adjust its marketing strategy.

“The second capsule collection by designer Gillian Anderson for Winser London will launch in September and includes this style,” spokesperson Charlotte Thomas wrote to Univision.


Meghan Markle's wedding dress – not to overlook the one worn by Italian influencer Chiara Ferragni – was one of the most requested over the year, with an increase in sales of 47 percent and a spike in searches of 146 percent, according to eBay. It also triggered an expansion of the offer of similar models at moderate prices, and continues to be one of the most-searched models for the coming wedding season

Reports indicate that wedding dress designers are continuing to consider that trend for classic minimalist elegance for the spring of 2020.

“I believe her classic items and elegant selections have led many women to reconsider their closets and return to dressing up and timeless fashions,” designer and trend forecaster Kelly Harrington told the magazine Elle.

Many fashion forecasters are also predicting that Meghan Markle's choice of clothes for her baby, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, born May 6, will affect other children's fashions. That trend already has been confirmed by other children in the royal family.

The Centre for Retail Research has predicted that the furor over the royal baby could generate a $1.48 billion increase in spending on baby clothes and products over the next two years.

And although Archie's first appearance in public saw him wrapped in a traditional white blanket – hand-woven from cashmere by four workers over three days in Nottingham for G.H. Hurt & Son, the same brand used for royal babies since the birth of Prince Charles in 1948 – her choices about his clothes are expected to be as eclectic as her own: a combination of major brands and small independent labels.

It would not be surprising to see him in the first children's collection by designer Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy, launched just two months before Archie's birth. The French company is Meghan's favorite brand, and she wore 27 of its items in 38 outings over the year studied, as shown by Style as Meghan

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*The statistics drawn from SaM are focused on elements that could be verified. Ten percent of the items were not identified. The database registers the public price of the items at the time the duchess wore them. If they were not available, they were marked as TBD (to be confirmed). It's impossible to estimate an overall cost of clothing for a year because it's not clear whether she owned some of the items before her wedding, if she paid for them, the real value of made-to-measure clothes or the value of the jewels inherited from the royal family.

Text translated by Juan Tamayo.

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