The Duchess of Sussex at the South by Southwest Conference this month. Celebs are "trying to diversify their portfolio," one expert said Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images

Is there a market for Meghan Markle’s new lifestyle brand? 

Janet Nguyen Mar 21, 2024
The Duchess of Sussex at the South by Southwest Conference this month. Celebs are "trying to diversify their portfolio," one expert said Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images

The Duchess of Sussex is getting into the home and lifestyle business through a new brand called American Riviera Orchard. 

People magazine reported that a trademark application shows the company “plans to sell tableware, drinkware including decanters, kitchen linens and edible treats such as jellies, jams, marmalade and spreads,” along with cookbooks. The company launched an Instagram page and a website with a waitlist where you can sign up to receive updates. 

The venture is familiar territory for Markle. A former actress, she previously had a lifestyle blog called The Tig in which she would post recipes and travel guides, along with questionnaires put to other entertainment figures. Markle shuttered the blog the year she and Britain’s Prince Harry announced their engagement, although a source told People the shutdown was unrelated to the royal relationship. 

It was a smart decision for American Riviera Orchard to first create a sign-up list instead of opening right away, said Christine Kowalczyk, an associate professor of marketing and supply chain management at the East Carolina University College of Business. People want to know more about the brand, and Markle can now tease products to prospective customers, generating buzz, Kowalczyk explained. 

The experts we spoke to all think there is indeed a market for Markle’s products. 

Mary Caravella, an associate professor in residence at the University of Connecticut School of Business, said Markle is selling in a broad category whose consumers have “widely different tastes.” 

That category can be hard to define, given the assortment of products Markle is selling, but Caravella said she would place them in homeware and gourmet food. Put another way: “If you think about going to a tourist location, inevitably there’s a store that has a curated collection just like this,” Caravella said. 

Kowalczyk said more people have been spending time in their homes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has helped lifestyle brands flourish and may boost the appeal of Markle’s products.  

A 2023 survey found that almost two-thirds of Americans had a “greater desire” to stay at home compared to pre-pandemic times, with more homeowners remodeling their kitchens and investing in outdoor living spaces. 

While plenty of cookbooks and homeware items are already on the market, what differentiates Markle’s wares is her name. 

“She’s selling her brand and her personal style, her personal relationships with the consumer,” said Jenna Drenten, an associate professor of marketing at Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business. “The market that exists for it is a market for Meghan Markle. It’s not necessarily a market for lifestyle/home goods products.” 

Feeling like you can emulate a celebrity is key to the appeal of these brands. 

“People aspire to the lifestyle that’s curated by the celebrity. And people feel an affinity to that celebrity and want to be like them,” Caravella said. 

But while Caravella thinks consumers will be intrigued by Markle’s products and services because they’re hers, the products will need to be good to succeed.

“If she doesn’t have good products or services, then her name is not gonna be enough to carry it,” Caravella said. 

Though this might sound like a cliche, Caravella said, she will also need to come off as “authentic.” To signal that authenticity, Markle’s products would need to seem like items she has used, Caravella explained. Consumers should believe the duchess has actually consumed the dishes in a future cookbook. 

Martha Stewart’s empire, which includes cookware and home decor lines, has been highly successful and made her briefly a billionaire. Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand, Goop, has also thrived, despite the mockery it’s attracted for its high prices and unorthodox products.

“What I would say ties them together is that they were consistent with their own taste. They were expressing their own taste to others,” Caravella said. 

Kowalczyk thinks Markle “is a good fit for promoting a lifestyle that people would want to aspire to.” 

“She’s an American who became a princess,” Kowalczyk said. She’s just surprised Markle didn’t launch a lifestyle brand sooner.  

Some celebrity brands haven’t had luck, such as Blake Lively’s Preserve, a now-defunct company that sold artisanal products and garnered criticism for romanticizing the antebellum South. Natalie Portman had a vegan shoe line that shuttered. But despite the risks, celebrities, whose career fortunes are unpredictable, often want the chance to earn extra income. 

Drenton has observed a “massive influx of celebrity brands” recently, which she said was fueled by the lack of acting opportunities or concerts during the height of the pandemic.

“I think we saw even more celebrities shift into trying to diversify their portfolio and creating beauty brands, lifestyle brands, skin care brands,” Drenton said. 

Celebrities who have released product lines in recent years include Blake Lively (who’s now selling alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Alicia Keys, Scarlett Johansson and Harry Styles

“I think this is sort of the way of the future of celebrities,” Drenton said. “They’re recognizing the precarity of the business and therefore having to create other income and revenue streams for themselves.”

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