Meghan Markle's impact on small British fashion labels a year on from royal wedding

Danielle Stacey
Royal Correspondent
The Duchess of Sussex has raised the profile for many smaller British fashion labels [Photos: Getty/PA]

On May 19, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex celebrate their first wedding anniversary, which also marks Meghan Markle’s first year as a member of the Royal Family.

From the moment the pair announced their engagement in November 2017, the ‘Meghan effect’ struck the fashion industry, just as we’ve seen with her sister-in-law Kate Middleton.

The former actress wore a white coat by Line The Label for the photocall, which caused the Canadian brand’s website to crash. And following her wedding day, searches for ‘halter neck dresses’ were up 40 per cent, according to global fashion search platform Lyst, after Meghan wore a gown by Stella McCartney for the evening reception.

Since then we’ve seen the duchess wear an array of designer garments for her engagements, on tour, and during her pregnancy, from fashion favourites Givenchy, Dior, and Oscar de la Renta.

As well as high end fashion, Meghan has also had a big impact on smaller labels, which for some has resulted in global recognition.

Meghan wore Strathberry's tri-colour tote bag in Nottingham in December 2018 [Photo: PA]

For her visit to Nottingham in December 2017, she carried Edinburgh-based label Strathberry’s tri-colour tote bag and thanks to the ‘Meghan effect,’ the first standalone store was opened in London’s Burlington Arcade last year.

Strathberry is the brandchild of Guy and Leeanne Hundleby, who launched the brand in 2013.

Leeanne Hundleby spoke to Yahoo UK about the day Meghan first wore one of their bags.

“I was in a meeting in the office when I received a message from one of my colleagues.

“We were just delighted to see Meghan Markle carrying our Midi Tote- and soon afterwards the phones started ringing constantly and didn't stop for days.”

READ MORE: Royal Wedding highlights: Best moments from Meghan and Harry's big day, revisited

Since then, the duchess has worn two more designs from their collection.

Leeanne adds: “The response has been phenomenal. We were already beginning to take the brand international, and had noticed an increased demand and awareness for the brand across the globe.”

In March 2018, Meghan and Harry made a surprise trip to Northern Ireland. She wore a beige Mackage coat with a cream Victoria Beckham sweater and a dark green Greta Constantine skirt, but it was her Charlotte Elizabeth ‘Bloomsbury’ bag that got everyone talking.

Meghan carries the Charlotte Elizabeth 'Bloomsbury' bag in Northern Ireland in March 2018 [Photo: PA]

Founded by Charlotte Elizabeth Jones in 2016, then aged 21, the handbag business was created whilst she was suffering from illnesses, which restricted her to being bedbound.

Prior to that, she had attended a course with The Prince's Trust to learn about setting up a business and that support helped her to make her dream come true.

Her sister Amy Jones, who quit her job as a Digital Director for a London PR agency last August to concentrate on the brand tells Yahoo UK: “Within minutes of Meghan stepping out with the bag, our site was flooded with orders worldwide, with our total sales up over 45,000% in 24 hours.”

“With such a huge increase in sales, we did end up selling out of all styles and being on pre-order for six months.

“We upscaled manufacturing and distribution, and six months later, we were able to catch up on sales and release new colours, too.”

Amy explains that most of their orders were UK based before Meghan toted the bag.

She adds: “We’ve seen incredible growth overseas, with 69% of our sales to the International market, and our number one market being the US, which we believe we never would have reached so quickly if it wasn’t for the Duchess of Sussex wearing The Bloomsbury.”

“Cracking the US market is a hard gig, Meghan gave us a green light and it’s something that brands probably build up in three to five years.”

Amy also says they’re looking forward to continuing expansion this year and new styles are being added to their collection.

READ MORE: Meghan Markle's maternity style file

Meghan is also responsible for bringing a number of sustainable and ethical brands to the forefront, including Bar Jewellery.

She wore their Wide Ripple Bracelet, made from in gold plated recycled silver, during a visit to Birkenhead in January 2019.

The Duchess of Sussex wearing Bar Jewellery's 'Wide Ripple Bracelet' in Birkenhead in January 2019 [Photo: PA]

Set up in 2016 by former ready-to-wear designer Sophie McKay (who has worked for Tom Ford and Burberry) Bar Jewellery is made using recycled 925 sterling silver and is sourced primarily from excess metal from local jewellers, broken and unwanted pieces and coins and artefacts which are melted down and refined in Birmingham.

Sophie says: “We don’t want to produce products that harm the environment or the people in our supply charm and every decision we make is informed by these principles.”

The day Meghan stepped out wearing the bracelet came as a complete surprise to her and she tells Yahoo UK that things went “completely crazy” on the day.

READ MORE: Meghan Markle praised for 'body-positive message' in bump-hugging dress for first post-birth appearance

She says: “It’s nice that Meghan is supporting sustainable brands and brands who are trying to do good things.

“We saw something like a 500 per cent increase in website traffic and definitely a significant increase in sales, which has continued.

“We make to order and instantly I saw the effect it had and it means I can give business to local trade immediately.”

The duchess has just become a mother to Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor. While she’s likely to be on maternity leave for the next few months, it’ll be interesting to see what fashion choices she makes for her son and whether that will also have a positive impact on the industry.