A royal gain for U.K econ­omy

De­sign­ers, florists, more aim to cash in on big wed­ding

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD - By Dan­ica Kirka

LON­DON — Cana­dian fash­ion de­signer Bo­jana Sen­taler stared at her com­puter screen on Christ­mas Day to see if Meghan Markle had a gift for her.

She did. As Prince Harry’s fu­ture bride left a church ser­vice on the grounds of Queen El­iz­a­beth II’s pri­vate coun­try es­tate, Sen­taler spot­ted a cuff de­tail on Markle’s camel al­paca coat that sug­gested her cus­tomers would soon be flock­ing to her web­site.

“I was look­ing for the ribbed sleeves, hop­ing it was a Sen­taler coat,” said the de­signer, who met Markle when she was a mere TV star. “And as soon as I saw that, I was so happy and so ex­cited. And it was the best Christ­mas present I could ever wish for.”

The Meghan magic was al­most in­stan­ta­neous; Markle’s coat sold out, as Sen­taler ex­pected, and the pub­lic­ity fu­eled sales of other de­signs. Now part of an elite cir­cle of en­trepreneurs tapped with the monar­chy’s golden touch, the de­signer plans to ex­pand her pres­ence in Lon­don.

Markle’s mar­riage to Harry isn’t just a transAt­lantic love story link­ing the House of Wind­sor to Hol­ly­wood. The cou­ple’s May 19 wed­ding is likely to pro­vide div­i­dends for the de­sign­ers, florists, bak­ers and tiara mak­ers who are di­rectly part of it, as well as for busi­nesses much far­ther down the line of af­fec­tion.

The glam­orous bride-tobe alone is fore­cast to pump $210 mil­lion into the Bri­tish econ­omy as con­sumers try to mimic her style, ac­cord­ing to economists at Brand Fi­nance, which pro­duces an an­nual re­port on the monar­chy’s eco­nomic con­tri­bu­tions.

In all, the wed­ding is ex­pected to gen­er­ate far more in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing in tourism, par­tic­u­larly from Amer­i­cans ea­ger to be part of the oc­ca­sion.

Mar­keters see Markle as a bonus from the royal fam­ily, since her en­gage­ment to Harry fol­lowed so closely on the sen­si­ble but very stylish heel of the former Kate Mid­dle­ton, who mar­ried Prince Wil­liam seven years ago.

But Markle, whose pen­cil skirts and stiletto heels graced the hit U.S. tele­vi­sion show “Suits” for seven years, brings fresh sparkle to the pic­ture. Hav­ing her show­case a coat, hand­bag or ser­vice is like be­ing as­so­ci­ated with a fairy tale, just like when Grace Kelly mar­ried Prince Rainier III of Monaco in 1956.

Per­haps more im­por­tantly, she’s a bira­cial Amer­i­can who links the royal fam­ily to new coun­tries and new cul­tures.

“The U.S. loves a princess,” said Pauline Maclaran, co-au­thor of “Royal Fever: The Bri­tish Monarch in Con­sumer Cul­ture.”

“It’s some­thing that the U.S. does not have. It’s the rags-to-riches story. It’s the whole Cinderella story yet again.”

The back story makes Markle of huge in­ter­est not just to Amer­i­cans — who some­times seem more fas­ci­nated by the roy­als than their own sub­jects — but also other roy­alty-lov­ing coun­tries such as Japan, which marvels at the Wind­sors mov­ing into the 21st cen­tury.

“The last time there was some­thing like this was when Grace mar­ried Rainier, and he was just a petty potentate,” said David Haigh of Brand Fi­nance.

The roy­als don’t ad­ver­tise, but they do set trends and show­case what­ever they might be wear­ing, see­ing or do­ing. Whether it was Queen Vic­to­ria pop­u­lar­iz­ing trees for Vic­to­rian Christ­mases or Princess Diana and her ruf­fle col­lars, peo­ple have long tried to em­u­late their style.

But these days, the royal ef­fect is su­per­charged by so­cial me­dia. The in­ter­net of­fers a run­ning com­men­tary on ev­ery­thing the roy­als do, and their fash­ion choices are pho­tographed, scru­ti­nized and in­stantly iden­ti­fied. Web­sites such as whatkate­wore.com and its sis­ter site, what­meghan­wore.net quickly pin­point the de­signer and some­times tell a bit of a gar­ment’s story.

When Meghan wore The Dina style jeans from the Hiut Denim Com­pany, there was world­wide pub­lic­ity about a firm in Wales which started to re-em­ploy work­ers dis­placed when the lo­cal fac­tory closed. Hand­bag de­signer Char­lotte El­iz­a­beth, a small firm sup­ported by The Prince’s Trust char­ity, warns of long waits and un­prece­dented de­mand now that Markle is part of the equa­tion.

Amer­i­can Su­san Kel­ley, founder of whatkate­wore.com, said Markle has proved to be more cog­nizant of the im­pact of her choices than the Duchess of Cam­bridge. That may be be­cause as a former ac­tress, she brings to her new pub­lic role a greater sen­si­tiv­ity to the mes­sages sar­to­rial se­lec­tions con­tain.

“I think Meghan un­der­stands sar­to­rial diplo­macy and un­der­stands it to the level that she wants to ex­pose smaller ar­ti­sanal brands to the gen­eral pub­lic,” Kel­ley said. “It’s a tremen­dous eco­nomic driver, a tourism driver and a plat­form to draw at­ten­tion to the char­i­ta­ble en­deav­ors they think are im­por­tant.”

Any­one who has been sucked into this vor­tex can vouch for the im­pact of even an un­planned prod­uct sight­ing. Just ask Rae­gan Moya-Jones, co-founder of aden + anais, a baby prod­ucts com­pany based in New York.

Af­ter the world got a 45-sec­ond look at new­born Prince Ge­orge in one of the com­pany’s sig­na­ture muslin swad­dles five years ago, aden + anais’ web­site crashed within four hours. The next day, the site crashed again, Moya-Jones re­called. The com­pany had 7,000 or­ders — a 600 per­cent in­crease in sales — in nine days for the “royal swad­dle” that popped up in search en­gines.

Moya-Jones, orig­i­nally from Aus­tralia, said that while it is a won­der­ful thing “to be able to drop into con­ver­sa­tion that you dressed the royal baby,” the tsunami of at­ten­tion ended al­most as quickly as it be­gan. “The royal ef­fect doesn’t guar­an­tee you success,” she said. “But it’s a lovely notch in the belt.”

ALAS­TAIR GRANT/AP 2017

The May 19 wed­ding of Bri­tain's Prince Harry and fi­ancee Meghan Markle is seen likely to boost tourism, par­tic­u­larly from Amer­i­cans ea­ger to be part of the oc­ca­sion.

FRANK AUG­STEIN/AP

Meghan Markle alone is fore­cast to pump mil­lions into the U.K. econ­omy as Brits try to mimic her style.

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