On September 7, New York Fashion Week will be in full swing. But while that is taking place in the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s adopted homeland, Meghan will be putting on her own competing fashion show of sorts across the Atlantic in Dusseldorf, Germany, while accompanying her husband at the Invictus Games from September 9.
As well as being an important reminder of Prince Harry’s continued commitment to one of the causes that has been closest to his heart since before he met his wife, it will also provide the ideal platform for what has been billed as Meghan’s fashion relaunch.
A week of public appearances will see her wearing multiple outfits (possibly even several a day) – a flagship moment to reassert her status as a style influencer at a time when she is thought to be on the brink of returning to Instagram and bringing back some version of her lifestyle blog The Tig, which she was forced to shutter when she became engaged to Harry.
“I’m getting back … on Instagram,” Meghan told magazine The Cut in September 2022. A page simply called @meghan has been quietly gathering followers for months (it’s currently at over 125k) and is thought to belong to the Duchess, though so far there have been no posts and the profile picture is just a close-up of a pink dahlia. Meanwhile, sources have told The Telegraph that preparations for a new iteration along the lines of The Tig have been underway for several months.
Meghan’s style choices at the Invictus Games have a track record for making a serious impact. At the 2022 event in the Netherlands, the Duchess wore a pendant by British jeweller Sophie Lis to a friends and family reception. “It was a real ‘pinch me’ moment for the brand,” says Lis. “I knew she owned a collection of pieces from the brand, but nothing quite prepares you for the Meghan effect. I am a huge fan of Meghan’s style, so it was a real honour she chose to wear my designs, and the attention we received was like nothing I had ever experienced before – and we’ve been worn by lots of high-profile celebrities in the past.’’
Lis adds that she “had press in every publication around the world, it became front page news, and we saw a huge spike in sales, particularly in the American market, which remains the case today. There can be no arguing that Meghan remains a global, leading style influencer.”
Equally, when Meghan wore Mother Denim’s ‘Looker’ jeans for her first ever public appearance with Harry at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, the impact for the brand was remarkable and long-lasting. On the day of the couple’s wedding, nine months after Meghan wore the jeans, the label saw a 4,000-strong waiting list form for the style, leading them to re-stock it three times that season to keep up with demand. That day, she also wore a Husband shirt by her friend Misha Nonoo and carried US label Everlane’s £123 tote bag – both labels have seen a lift due to the “Meghan effect” ever since.
Other brands will be hoping for a similar boost in the next few days. And when it comes, it will give further fuel to Meghan’s team at LA talent agency WME, who will be working to secure brand tie-ups for this new Gwyneth-does-Goop phase of her career.
“The power of celebrity is still as strong as ever and the lines have blurred between a content creator and a celebrity – both have the power to influence in equal measure,” notes Lauren Stevenson, the founder of communications agency Aisle 8 of the kind of position that Meghan and her team will be vying for. “Brands which select the right personality, understanding their social content, currency and audience, as well as negotiating longer-term partnerships, which are part of the celebrity’s everyday life, feel more authentic than one post, product-led, ad-tagged hit. You’re aiming to create collaborations and content that looks as organic as possible.”
If Dusseldorf is to be the hard launch setting for Fashion Meghan, then the past few months have been a soft launch phase. The Duke and Duchess haven’t made an official public appearance since May, but several sightings of the former actress have offered clues about her future direction now that their deal with Spotify has ended, along with all the “tell-all” projects reflecting on their departure from the Royal family, including last December’s Netflix documentary and the release of Harry’s autobiography, Spare, in January.
In the first week of September, Meghan was spotted dancing at two of Beyoncé’s Renaissance world tour concerts in LA, both times adhering to the silver dress code the singer asked attendees to adopt in celebration of her birthday. The Duchess looked slinky and toned, one night wearing a white tank top and sequined silver skirt and the next, when she was pictured posing alongside actress Kerry Washington and singer Kelly Rowland, wearing a halterneck top by LA-based Anine Bing and a more subtle sparkling skirt by another California brand, Heidi Merrick.
Then there was the striped dress by cool Australian brand Posse that Meghan wore to celebrate her birthday in August. The style was later worn by actress Katie Holmes, exactly the kind of comparison the Duchess might want to be fostering – a version of the dress will soon be available to buy in the UK for £218. In a video released at the beginning of August, she wore an outfit by eco US brand Bleusalt.
It’s a smart move for the Duchess to be affiliating herself with up-and-coming, insider American labels.“Meghan is viewed much more favourably in the US, and we are used to celebrities sharing brand deals and endorsements here, and it’s not really seen as a bad thing,” says one LA-based fashion publicist. “I would expect to see her going down the Gwyneth Goop or Oprah route, where she shares brands that she loves so that you can buy into her lifestyle, versus endorsing random products. US brands will want to work with her, but it will be interesting to see who has the budget and the brand alignment.”
The publicist is keenly aware of Meghan’s divisive reputation, however: “I would imagine luxury fashion brands may not do direct social deals with her as they won’t want to be seen to endorse her one way or the other in the complicated PR battle with the British Royal family. Why risk it?” Indeed, French fashion house Dior was forced to deny rumours that a sponsorship deal was imminent earlier this year.
Although there has been no official announcement of Meghan’s new direction, we have perhaps already seen it in action. In August, the Duchess was photographed raising her wrist to show off an “anti-stress patch” by American company NuCalm. The pictures were quickly posted on the brand’s Instagram page and garnered worldwide attention. It’s the kind of coverage most businesses could only dream of.
“Brands are increasingly relying on the power of the right content creator to bring their message to life and to give it an authentic voice,” confirms Lucy Owen, the founder of talent partnerships business LOT. “Consumers are savvier than ever, so brand partnerships have to feel meaningful and considered. Relatability is everything and, ultimately, brand partnerships need to create customer acquisition, loyalty and conversion.”
By aligning herself with health- and eco-focused brands or under-the-radar fashion labels that chime with her sympathetic American fans, Meghan’s endorsement of a product will be a seductive reason to buy.
With pictures of her in a carousel of outfits set to be dominating newspaper front pages and social media platforms, Brand Meghan is well and truly back.