In light of news that Prince Harry of Wales is engaged to American actress Meghan Markle, and slated to wed in 2018, a discussion of the impact of a royal wedding – and not merely on the bride and groom, but those within its periphery, as well – is warranted. Six years after the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middelton, speculation as to Markle’s dress designer of choice will certainly fuel months of rumor-mongering and anticipation.
Middleton, who wed in a custom Alexander McQueen gown by Sarah Burton, kept her sartorial details a closely-held secret until she stepped out of the Goring Hotel to travel to Westminster Abbey on the day of her wedding. Vogue’s Sarah Mower – writing of the making of “incredibly moving moment when the new Duchess of Cambridge stepped out of her car in an Alexander McQueen dress was the fantasy everyone in fashion has been dreaming would come true” – called it “the best-guarded secret in fashion history.” Similar fuss will likely follow Markle; as on Monday morning, Google News yielded over 138,000 articles dedicated to whom Markle would choose to designer her wedding-day dress.
But the revelation of Middelton’s dress of choice – a truly “historic moment,” per Mower – was merely the beginning of the impact that such a highly-anticipated event in the world media would have on those involved, from London-based Alexander McQueen and its top creative Sarah Burton to the city’s ranking as a fashion capital.
Yes, on the heels of the April 2011 royal wedding, Burton was treated to a royal recognition of her own, albeit of a slightly different nature. The creative director, who served as the late Alexander McQueen’s right hand and then succeeded him when he just a year prior was named as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential People for 2012.
As Sarah Jessica Parker, a close friend of the late McQueen, wrote of Burton for the Time profile: “She did the undoable. A royal wedding dress that could never live up to the impossible dream. But it did. The whole world gasped in astonishment and sighed in reverie as she made one young woman's fantasy a reality for everyone.”
Similar fan-fare and sentiments were made of the designer behind the dress that Pippa Middleton selected for her own wedding, which took place this past May. That affair, which saw the younger Middleton wed hedge fund manager James Matthews, made a household name of designer Giles Deacon, prompting the New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman to speculate that the dress “may change a fashion career.”
This is because the business of outfitting a royal wedding is far from a one-off event. As Friedman noted earlier this year, “Just as the wedding dress that Sarah Burton created for the Duchess of Cambridge cast Ms. Burton’s work at Alexander McQueen in a more accessible, romantic light — and set off a partnership that has continued, with Catherine choosing a blush-colored McQueen dress for her sister’s wedding — the dress Mr. Deacon made for Pippa Middleton may vault him out of the ranks of insider fashion names and into the ranks of runway-designers-with-thriving-wedding-businesses (Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Alberta Ferretti), as well as into the popular conversation. At least for a certain consumer set.”
Such an endorsement is nothing if not utterly incredible for business, after all.
But back to the royal wedding: The influence of Kate Middleton’s McQueen dress – and the bridesmaid dress that Burton made for Middleton’s sister Pippa – extended beyond praises on the pages of Time, and revealed itself by way of the countless copies that flooded the market shortly after the royals’ big day.
As noted by ABC in 2011, “Minutes after the world got its first glimpse of Kate's gown, designers were making detailed sketches. Michelle and Henry Roth are designers who sell exclusively for Kleinfeld Bridal Salon, the largest wedding boutique in the country, located in New York City … Now, Kleinfeld and the Roths are working on what will surely be one of their hottest gowns ever: an inspired replica of the amazing Kate Middletown wore as she walked down the aisle.”
“For designers like the Roths,” writes ABC, “Kate's dress is a serious game-changer, and the Roths are determined to have the perfect couture gown, inspired by Middleton's, available immediately.”
And still yet, London, the home of bi-annual men’s and women’s fashion weeks, was bestowed an honor in connection with the royal affair. That summer, London beat out Paris, Milan and New York in the Global Language Monitor’s ranking of the “Top Global Fashion Capital,” thanks, in large part, to the “presence of media favorites, Princess Kate and Alexander McQueen.”
According to the Global Language Monitor’s report, prior to 2011, “New York had been the top fashion capital for five years running,” but “we are seeing what the impact of two genuine media stars, Princess Kate and Alexander McQueen can have upon a global ranking. Our numbers show that it was their presence that tipped the victory to London over New York.” The U.S.-based media analytics company gauged its results based on key words found on “the Internet, blogosphere, the 75,000 print and electronic media, as well as social media sources (such as Twitter).”
New York reclaimed its title as the Top Global Fashion Capital for 2017, but chances are, London will make a strong play for 2018. And if the Canadian design brand, Line the Label, whose coat Markle wore for a shot call with Harry on Monday morning (their first official appearance as an engaged couple), is any indication, Markle will be just as influential as Kate Middleton. Per Reuters, the surge in interest in the coat caused the style to quickly sell out and crashed the Toronto-based knitwear label’s website in some parts of the world, including in London.