When one thinks of the world’s great cities for fashion, a few likely suspects always seem to make the list. Milan, Paris, New York, London and, in recent years, Beijing. Toronto, Quebec and Ottawa? Not so much — while known for their exceptional manners, beautiful foliage and mastery of the art of making maple syrup.
But for high style? Generally, Canada has not emerged on the world stage as a destination.
Yet. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex haven’t officially moved there.
But when they do, experts predict the move to Canada by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle could serve as a major boost to Canada's C$30.6 billion ($23.3 billion) fashion industry, as it could shine a spotlight on local brands that often miss international exposure. The erstwhile British royal couple officially announced their split from their formal royal roles earlier this month as part of a broader attempt to establish their personal and financial independence. Markle has long struggled with a British press that has been described as both invasive and abusive in its coverage, an ongoing source of tension for the royal couple.
And now, with the couple’s planned relocation to Canadian soil, fashion world observers are commenting that it is only a matter of time before what is known as the “Meghan Effect” starts to pop up. The term refers to the sudden spike in sales brands tend to see when Markle is publicly photographed in one of their outfits or products. It is a similar phenomenon to the “Kate Effect,” wherein fashion items worn by Markle’s sister-in-law Kate Middleton inspire massive sales spikes and sellouts of certain items.
Toronto fashion columnist Jeanne Beker told Reuters the fact that Harry and Meghan have officially handed in their “Royal Highness” titles will likely do very little to dim their status as international style royalty for the millions who follow them on social media.
“People just absolutely lap up whatever (Meghan) wears. Designers from all over the globe have been clamoring to get their clothes on her body,” Beker said.
And Canadian designers have had success with the duchess before — a 2107 post-engagement wearing of a white wrap from Canadian brand Line the Label caused the item to sell out within hours of the sighting, and the surge of demand crashed the site’s website for several hours in some parts of the world. A beige alpaca coat by Toronto luxury outerwear brand Sentaler worn later in the same year also triggered an explosive effect.
Because Markle has shown a historical preference for highlighting smaller, more local brands, Canadian fashion players are very hopeful that she could be the ticket to a bigger place on the world fashion stage, said Gail McInnes, who owns a Toronto-based fashion management company.
“It’s almost like (being) an unofficial Canadian fashion spokesperson,” McInnes said. “She’s going to impact the lives of so many people by simply wearing a dress.”
And not just Meghan, though she is more directly wired into fashion influence. There are equally high hopes that Harry will offer a similar, if perhaps less pronounced boost to the menswear market.
“He’s definitely going to be an inspiration for a global style for menswear as well,” said Roger Gingerich, a fashion broker with close to 40 years of experience in Canada’s industry. “You cannot find a more perfect country than Canada where we have truly four full seasons.”
Whether Harry and Meghan will be interested in stepping into the role of fashion spokesperson for an entire nation is, of course, a very open question. Considering the royal couple is hoping to flee the spotlight, they might not be too keen on stepping into an entirely new one, no matter how elegant Meghan looks in Canadian couture, or how dashing Harry might look in Canadian winter wear against a backdrop of snow.
But whether they want it or not, McInnes said, the lesson here may be that it is happening no matter what.
“She’s the most famous woman in the world,” she said. “All eyes are on her.”