In 2019 it’s hard to imagine a world that isn’t filled with images of Meghan Markle or with endless commentary on everything she does, from touching Prince Harry’s back or wearing dark nail polish. In less than two years, she made her first public appearance with her now husband, announced an engagement, got married, became a duchess, announced she was pregnant, and became one of the most photographed and influential women in fashion and beyond.
Of course, as a star of Suits and the founder of a now defunct lifestyle site (long live The Tig), Markle already had fans who followed her moves on social media and looked to her for advice on fashion, food, and travel. But the power of a burgeoning influencer is nothing compared with that of a member of the world’s most famous royal family.
There’s a name for the phenomenon that occurs when the Duchess of Sussex wears a particular designer—it’s called the “Meghan Markle Effect” or the “Markle Sparkle.” The global fashion search platform Lyst reports that, on average, whenever Markle wears something, the brand will see a 200 percent increase in search demand over the following week. The site ranks her as the third top celebrity fashion influencer of 2018, behind Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian (and ahead of Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Blake Lively).
If you’re a small fashion brand, having Markle wear your products can translate to an uptick in sales, as well as in followers and engagement on social media. Take Strathberry, a line of luxury handbags that the duchess has worn on three separate occasions, dating back to her very first official royal engagement in November 2017. Founder and co-owner Leeanne Hundleby tells Glamour they saw sales increase by more than 200 percent immediately after the first sighting.
“Visitor numbers to the website were also amazing—at one stage, they were up tenfold against our daily average,” Hundleby says. “Each time Meghan has carried one of our bags, we’ve seen a spike in sales.” Because of this demand, the Edinburgh, Scotland–based brand has been able to expand its business internationally and even open a store in London.
But the Markle Sparkle is more than just a business trend. It's something consumers feel too. “There is a distinct sense of sparkle every time I put on that [Misha Nonoo] husband shirtor the Self Portrait dress because I know she’s worn the same (or almost the same) exact thing,” says Michelle, 37, a writer and royal superfan based in New York, who purchased both items after seeing them on Markle. “It’s like the royal clothes version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon: You’re just one garment away from the duchess.”
“I'm not hugely materialistic, but it's a sentimental, special, and supremely fun purchase for me,” Michelle says. “I love totally unabashedly telling people and sharing on social media that I'm wearing the same thing as Meghan or Kate—as a crazy royal watcher, I put my money where my mouth is.”
Markle's “brand” as Meghan, Duchess of Sussex—as laid out by her official speeches, engagements, and patronages—isn't incredibly different from that of Meghan Markle, actress: She's a confident woman with a passion for female empowerment and education who is using her platform to further those causes. Dressing in a way that's inspired by her can feel like you're bringing a bit of her confidence and collection along with you.
Sarah, a 34-year-old corporate attorney in Chicago, estimates to have spent around $3,500 on Markle-inspired fashion. “Meghan wears a lot of reasonable-length dresses, blazers, etc., that actually translate quite well to being professional woman in the legal industry," she says. "She wears clothes really well in a way that elevates pieces and makes them compelling. She also seems effortless in a way that I aspire to.” One of her favorite buys is her Sentaler coat, which Markle wore to Christmas services in 2017: “When I wear it, I feel like someone who has their life together, who knows what they're doing and can handle what the day throws at them," she says. "Even just seeing it in the closet, it's a reminder of ‘Oh, wait, yes, I'm a successful professional woman.’" (She’s also bought pieces spotted on Markle’s equally fashionable sister-in-law Kate Middleton.)
One of the most reliable sources for Markle’s outfit credits is Meghan’s Mirror, which documents the duchess's fashion choices. Amanda Dishaw is the site's editorial director, and she and her team started the hashtag #MirrorMeg, which women use to show off their Markle-inspired looks and has become very popular among its audience.
“I think the reason that the #MirrorMeg is so powerful is the woman behind it,” says Dishaw. “When women are looking to the Duchess of Sussex for inspiration from a fashion perspective, they’re seeing the strong, modern, and self-confident woman that Meghan is.”
The hashtag is not just Meghan look-alikes; you see women of all different body types copying Markle’s looks or incorporating certain elements of her wardrobe—like a color the duchess will wear or rings that she’ll stack—to make an outfit their own. “Fashion is a form of self-expression, and we believe it to be a very powerful one,” Dishaw says.
One example of this: “We have a #MirrorMeg of her aquamarine ring [worn with her Stella McCartney reception dress] that used to belong to Princess Diana in our shop, and one reader told us that they purchased it and wear it when she's working on fulfilling her dream of writing a novel. As she's typing, she can look down and get a boost of confidence.”
Domi, a 38-year-old physician in Oregon, has splurged on two of the duchess’s go-to shoes: Aquazurra’s bow pumps and Manolo Blahnik’s BB heels.“Meghan Markle’s style is sleek, polished, and gorgeous,” she says. “I like how she mixes high and low fashion. The only other public figure who beautifully, effortlessly does so in recent memory is First Lady Michelle Obama. There’s a modernity to her style without being too ‘on trend,’ and it’s a great example of how glamour and strength are not mutually exclusive." Domi says that when she wears her Markle heels, she feels “confident and, from that confidence, a little more relaxed. It’s kind of fun knowing I’m sporting something the duchess owns. I’ve worn the heels to political fund-raisers and holiday parties and to work seeing patients. I’m here to get stuff done, but as a reminder, this is what a feminist can look like.”
Now that’s the real Markle Sparkle.