Meghan Markle’s New Lifestyle Brand Is Already Struggling– Leaning Into Her Diverse Heritage Could Help

Get 20 people in a room, and each of those 20 people will have many opinions on Meghan Markle and her husband Prince Harry. But especially about Meghan– let’s be real. The reasons behind that fact are layered and complex and likely say more about that person’s general worldview than about anything than anything Markle has actually said or done. 

Markle’s transition from Hollywood actress to Duchess of Sussex has been a captivating narrative, partially punctuated by her well-documented commitment to social causes and her clear desire to be part of a global conversation about equality and empowerment for women and girls. 

Yet, her identity as a biracial woman allows her to infuse her story with genuine depth and resonance, shaping her life experience and influencing her trajectory. Her biracial background is something that is somehow both front and center and in the shadows at the same time, especially from the point of view of Black women, who reacted strongly to her statements about her treatment by the royal family and the UK press. 

Now, with the launch of her lifestyle brand American Riviera Orchard, Markle embarks on a new chapter that gives her the chance to help redefine the landscape of the lifestyle market, which has seen precious few women of color listed among its ranks. However, there are reports that the launch of American Riviera Orchard has already been a bit unsteady and that the fledgling brand is struggling to find a CEO. Leadership issues aside, leaning into her diverse heritage could be exactly what Markle needs to light a fire under her new enterprise. 

But before delving into American Riviera Orchard, it’s essential to revisit how Markle developed and honed her point of view in the lifestyle space. Before marrying into the royal family, Markle ran a popular blog named The Tig. Named after her favorite wine, Tignanello, The Tig was Markle’s digital mood board. It was a place where culture, style, and empowerment intersected. 

Through her blog, Markle shared her passion for travel, food, fashion, and beyond, capturing audiences with her specific brand of aspirational Millennial chic. It was with The Tig that Markle began to cultivate her unique voice and hone her knack for storytelling– a skill that would later prove useful in her entrepreneurial journey. 

While she had to close down her blog when she became engaged to Prince Harry, Markle’s influence on women around the world only intensified. Women everywhere sought out and bought the clothes she wore– from red carpet looks to California casual chic pieces, if Markle wore it, it would be sure to sell out. The ‘Meghan Markle Effect’ is real. In the lead-up to her wedding to Prince Harry, it was forecasted that she alone would inject £150M into the UK economy as women attempted to copy her style, from head to toe. 

According to the fashion search platform Lyst’s Year in Fashion 2019, Markle was the country’s most powerful dresser, with her outfits sparking a 216 percent increase in searches for similar pieces. During the royal tour of South Africa she took with her husband in 2019, a Club Monaco shirtdress she wore sold out in less than 24 hours, after a 570 percent spike in searches. A J Crew skirt she wore during the trip resulted in a 102 percent increase in searches for the brand. 

Having already proven to be an influencer at the highest level, it was widely assumed that Markle would land on a way to carve out her own lane in the lifestyle space when she and Prince Harry left royal life behind and decamped to sunny Montecito for a fresh start with their family. With American Riviera Orchard, Markle has an opportunity to weave her multicultural background into the fabric of her new brand, creating products and experiences that resonate with a diverse audience, and using her voice to raise awareness about the importance of representation. 

When the Netflix series, Harry & Meghan debuted, many Black women were understandably taken aback by Markle’s surprise at being treated as a Black woman in the UK, seemingly for the first time in her life, despite having grown up in America and despite having been raised by a Black mother. Wrapping her arms around that experience, and bringing other people of color into the fold of her new brand would be a smart way to set American Riviera Orchard apart from other brands in the space. The messaging of many upmarket lifestyle brands rarely includes people of color, as minority consumers are likely not the target market. 

For her first product offering of her new brand, Markle sent 50 jars of jams to famous friends and influencers as part of the official launch. While we all love a good jam, strawberry preserves are not exactly setting the world on fire. Plenty of other brands offer similar products in a deeply oversaturated market of artisanal foods. Take a quick cruise through the aisles of discount retailers such as Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, or HomeGoods and you’ll see shelf after shelf full of off-season cast-offs from lifestyle brands that failed to sell at full price. 

There hasn’t been any preview of what is planned for future product launches for the brand, but most watchers get the sense that the brand is positioned as an upmarket label, aiming to compete with the likes of GOOP, Martha Stewart, Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia, and more. Nothing wrong with that, but if Markle’s team is not thinking about how to center her identity as a biracial woman, and bring more women of color, especially Black women into the fold, there would be an opportunity lost and potentially lots of revenue left on the table. 

By embracing her multicultural roots, American Riviera Orchard can tap into a part of the market hungry for authenticity and representation, setting her new brand apart in a deep sea of sameness. 

But it isn’t just about the products; it’s about the messaging behind the brand. Markle has always been a champion of inclusivity and social change, using her platform to advocate for causes close to her heart. With American Riviera Orchard, Markle can build on this effort by initiating meaningful conversations about identity, race, and representation. 

The world doesn’t need another jar of strawberry preserves on the shelves– through thought-provoking content, events, and strategic partnerships, Markle can help spark dialogue that challenges stereotypes and promotes empathy. This is a mission that has proven to resonate deeply with today’s socially conscious consumers, especially Gen Z consumers, who are wielding a significant amount of buying power. 

The lifestyle market is dominated by long-established players, such as the brands mentioned above. Markle’s diverse background could be her secret weapon, offering a fresh perspective, and positioning American Riviera Orchard as an of-the-moment brand with its finger on how to capture the loyalty of modern consumers. 

By leaning into her identity as a biracial woman, Markle can not only carve out a space for herself in the market but pave the way for greater diversity and representation in the industry. In doing so, she’s not just building a brand; she could craft a legacy– one that breaks through the sameness, celebrates the power of diversity, and inspires others to embrace their own unique heritage. 

With American Riviera Orchard, Meghan Markle can leave an indelible mark on the lifestyle market– one that transcends what other brands in the space have done and builds bridges to other cultures and backgrounds. While the brand might be off to a less-than-perfect start, there is still time to create something truly new in an industry that seems to be speaking to the same audience, selling them the same products, again and again.