Could a Sustainable Line by Meghan Markle Be the Tipping Point Fashion Needs?

Could a Sustainable Line by Meghan Markle Be the Tipping Point Fashion Needs?

Markle changed into a Stella McCartney gown following her wedding to Prince Harry on May 19, 2018

Markle changed into a Stella McCartney gown following her wedding to Prince Harry on May 19, 2018

Few women can move product like Meghan Markle. Last year, it was reported by Lyst that for every item the Duchess of Sussex wears, the brand sees a 200 percent spike in search the following week. (Those numbers were even higher on her wedding day: Givenchy saw a 61 percent increase, and Stella McCartney got a 3,000 percent surge in traffic.) There are entire blogs and Instagram accountsdedicated to finding out precisely which sweater or bag the Duchess is wearing, how much it costs, and where you can buy it—if it hasn’t already sold out, that is.

What would happen if that sweater or bag was also designed by Markle herself? Soon that will be a reality: In her guest-edited issue of British Vogue, which hit newsstands in the U.K. yesterday, Markle revealed that she’s launching a “workwear collection” with Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, and Jigsaw, with the help of her friend Misha Nonoo (who made the now-famous oversized button-down Markle wore for her first public appearance with Prince Harry in 2017.) If the concept of workwear sounds uninspired, it ties in nicely with the charity Markle has also partnered with: For each garment sold, another will be donated to Smart Works, which provides training and interview clothes for women who are re-entering the workforce.

Markle’s shared Instagram account with her husband, @sussexroyal, shared a few more details about the impetus behind the collection: “Throughout [Meghan’s] visits [to Smart Works] she noticed that while the donations [of clothing] were plentiful, they were also notably a combination of mismatched items and colors which weren’t always the right stylistic choices or sizes that didn’t necessarily ‘suit’ the job at hand: to make a woman feel confident and inspired as she walked into her job interview,” the post reads.

That Markle understands the importance of how clothing makes women feel, not just how it looks, is an important part of the story. What she hasn’t touched on (at least not yet) is how these clothes will be made, who is making them, and where. That’s only significant because Markle has become such a champion of sustainable fashion and works closely with her stylist, Jessica Mulroney, to create looks with an environmentally or socially conscious message. That button-down by Nonoo (coincidentally—or maybe not!—called “The Husband Shirt”) is produced “on-demand” in a move to reduce excess stock and fabric, for instance. Markle regularly wears pieces by sustainability-minded labels like Gabriela Hearst, Maggie Marilyn, Reformation, and Everlane (which made the jumpsuit she wears in her British Vogue shoot—somehow, it’s still in stock). Even the Stella McCartney dress she wore to her wedding reception was made from an eco-friendly blend of viscose and silk, and the Duchess has been spotted in McCartney’s vegan leather Stan Smiths, too.

Markle in the Smart Works office in London

Markle in the Smart Works office in London

It’s hard to imagine Markle didn’t have those designers in mind when she created her own collection. Which begs the question: Will it follow their same principles? Is she using organic silk and wool, like Hearst, or experimenting with botanical silks like Marilyn? Will she take a tip from McCartney and be fur- and leather-free? Perhaps some of the materials will be deadstock or recycled, like Reformation’s, or the supply chain will be fully transparent, like Everlane’s. Markle has given all of those brands a boost just by wearing them, and surely some of her fans have become interested in sustainability as a result. We already know they’re buying the clothes. But if Markle was promoting those messages with her own collection, one that comes with “Meghan Markle” on the tags—that would be something else entirely. Something way bigger.

Markle is quite possibly the only person on the planet with the power to inspire millions of people to “wake up” to climate change and our role in it as consumers. (On that Lyst report, she’s ranked as the third most influential celebrity in the world, surpassed only by Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner.) Markle wouldn’t even have to get on a soapbox and preach about the dangers of micro-plastics or the problem with $5 T-shirts; that she’s involved at all would be enough to elevate the movement. A single Instagram post on @sussexroyal could reach tens of millions of people, both on the app and on news websites that pick up the story. The same women who rush to order the jeans or stilettos they saw Markle wearing would start aligning themselves with the issues she cares about, too.

The Sussexes have yet to confirm when the line will be unveiled, so it could be a few months before we know if these suspicions are correct. And considering the scale of the project (Marks & Spencer is one of London’s biggest department stores, and Jigsaw has dozens of locations all over the world), it will likely be a challenge to tick all of the boxes—great design, premium textiles, eco-friendly dyes, minimum waste, fair trade, social impact, et al—while also maintaining an accessible price point. But if anyone can make it work, it’s Markle—and given the line’s almost guaranteed success, we’re hoping those retailers have invested in her ideas and committed to practices that will hold up for decades to come.

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