After a 16-day tour of Australia and New Zealand, Meghan Markle, along with husband Harry, is heading back to London today. As well as visiting the sights (Sydney Opera House, Fiji War Memorial) and delivering one hell of a speech to honour the 125th anniversary of female suffrage in New Zealand, Markle has spent the two-and-a-bit weeks changing outfits. A lot. If reports are to be believed, over 40 times. I can only imagine that she must be knackered.
Naturally, the world’s media has paid as much attention – if not more – to what Markle is wearing (and her teensy baby bump) as to what has come out of her mouth. Several news outlets have provided a blow-by-blow account of Markle’s wardrobe activities (one even dedicated time and effort to totting up how much the duchess is estimated to have spent on clothes for the trip). But where column inches might be focused more on her shift dresses than her stance on world matters, Markle is using those shift dresses – or, rather, skinny jeans – to speak volumes.
Yesterday, a denim brand posted an image to its Instagram page of Markle wearing a pair of its skinny jeans. Paired with a puffer jacket and slip-on flats, the black jeans have inspired a 3,000% increase of global traffic to the brand’s site. Nothing unusual there – we all know that Meghan Markle can sell clothes. However, the brand in question is Outland Denim – a company that offers training programmes to vulnerable and high-risk women, and employs them as seamstresses, paying them a fair wage. Thanks to Markle wearing Outland’s “Harriet” jeans, the brand has reported that between 15-30 jobs have been created within the company to meet demand. That’s 15-30 jobs for women who are at risk of falling into poverty or trafficking. Several times before, we have heard the money that Markle’s sellout clothes and accessories generate for brands, but this is the first time we’ve heard about the positive impact of what she wears has on the people – the women – involved.
“Wearing the right brand can have such positive power. Calling on all influencers to this about what they wear and mirror the Markle Effect”, wrote Fashion Revolution on its Instagram page. Undoubtedly one of the world’s biggest influencers, this wasn’t the first time Markle has used her clothes to push a feminist agenda during her trip. On Sunday evening, while speaking at the 125th anniversary of female suffrage in New Zealand, Markle wore a navy dress by Uruguayan-born designer Gabriela Hearst. An outspoken political activist for women’s rights, Hearst is known for the feminist undertones of her designs, with her collections inspired by trailblazing women, such as activist Angela Davis and American senator Tammy Duckworth. Speaking about human rights, feminism and fairness, and with the world’s gaze upon her, Markle’s choice of designer felt both deliberate and fitting.
Days earlier, Markle wore a grey, checked blazer from Serena Williams’ eponymous fashion line. Aptly called “Boss”, the product description on the website reads: “Sometimes you just gotta show ’em who’s boss.” Quite. Elsewhere on the trip, Markle has championed several female-led brands, including Roksanda, Emilia Wickstead, Stella McCartney and Winser London.
Like the Queen and her brooches, Markle is using her royal wardrobe to send a message. While her role as a member of the royal family may require subtlety, her clothes are speaking volumes. And it’s what we want to hear.