Last night saw The Fashion Awards 2018 take place at The Royal Albert Hall in London. As with every year, it was a glittering evening full of the fashion industry’s most fabulous stars and celebrities. However, there was one attendee – a surprise attendee, no less – who outshone everyone else. That person was Meghan Markle.
Dressed in a black, one-shouldered Givenchy dress, the duchess’s unexpected appearance was in honour of Givenchy artistic director Clare Waight Keller, who received the British Designer of the Year Womenswear award. Waight Keller was, of course, the woman behind Markle’s wedding dress when she married Prince Harry in May this year, hence why Markle presenting the award was so apt.
Naturally, social media was abuzz with the news of the royal appearance, with countless snaps of Markle being shared over Instagram and Twitter. This morning, the story has hit mainstream media as once again the nation catches Meghan fever. And a quick scan of the headlines will tell you what everyone is talking about – her nail polish. Last night, Markle wore a deep red nail polish to set off her black gown and gold bracelets, apparently breaking the royal protocol of only wearing “natural” colours on nails. According to reports, the Queen considers coloured nail polish “vulgar”, famously only wearing the sheer-pink Essie nail polish in Ballet Slippers. Quelle horreur indeed.
Not just controversial nail polish, though; there was another Markle talking point of the evening – and that was, of course, her bump. “Meghan Markle cradles her baby bump during surprise appearance”, “Meghan Markle shows off baby bump in gorgeous gown”, “Pregnant Meghan Markle flaunts her growing baby bump in a black dress”, read the headlines, as once again the world proves that “Pregnant Woman In Dress” is a major event. Only last fortnight, Paddy Power had to suspend betting on the royal couple having twins, as rumours reached fever pitch and an “abnormal” amount of bets were being placed.
Ever since she first stepped on to the global stage, Markle has used her fashion choices cleverly, advocating brands that support ethical practices and champion women
But what seems to have been missed in the excited furore is that Markle’s appearance at last night’s awards was about much more than the above two factors. It was about fashion and how that, as a powerful tool, can be used in a positive way.
“The culture of fashion has shifted from one where it was cool to be cruel, to now, where it is cool to be kind,” said Markle in her speech last night. Ever since she first stepped on to the global stage, Markle has used her fashion choices cleverly, advocating brands that support ethical practices and champion women. In October this year, she wore a pair of black skinny jeans from Outland Denim – a Australian brand that provides safe employment for women who are at risk of trafficking. The jeans then sold by the shed load and catapulted the relatively unknown brand into mass-consideration, with a 3,000% increase in global traffic on the brand’s website. In the past year, she has also worn sustainable fashion brands Veja, Reformation, Hiut Denim and Stella McCartney – the latter to the evening reception of her wedding.
In an industry dominated by men, Markle also regularly wears women-run brands such as Gabriela Hearst, Serena Williams, Emilia Wickstead, Roksanda and, of course, Clare Waight Keller, who is not only the current female lead at Givenchy, but also the first woman to helm the French fashion house in its 66-year history.
“We have a deep connection to what we wear – sometimes it’s very personal and sometimes it’s emotional. But for me this connection is rooted in really being able to understand that it’s about supporting and empowering each other, especially as women,” Markle also said last night.
Markle is by no means the first royal to engage with fashion: Princess Diana attended the first British Fashion Council awards – then the British Fashion Awards – in 1989, and let us not forget The Queen’s front row appearance at Richard Quinn’s London Fashion Week show last year. However, with the fashion industry currently under intense scrutiny over its environmental impact and human cost, especially in regard to exploitation of women, it is Markle’s meaningful engagement and widespread influence (she has been named Lyst’s third most influential celebrity in fashion for 2018) that really resonates. And it is this, rather than a nail colour or whether or not she is having twins, that we should be talking about.