There is no denying that Meghan Markle sparkle, but the unprecedented attention that accompanies the newly minted Duchess of Sussex wearing clothing or accessories from a brand can have its downsides, too. Birks, the 139-year-old Canadian jewelry that the former Suits star has worn on countless occasions (royal and otherwise), has watched pieces sell out and seen traffic to its website increase dramatically since Meghan first wore a pair of $995 earrings by the brand to the Invictus Games in September 2017. And while it sees a similar spike each time the newlywed has been spotted in one of its pieces, Eva Hartling, Birks’ chief marketing ofﬁcer and vice president, is now saying that the instant global notoriety has been both “positive” and “slightly negative.”
“Obviously we’re not complaining,” Hartling told Maclean’s in an interview. “But all messaging pertaining to Birks right now has to do with the Duchess wearing our pieces. We’re launching new collections in the fall, but nobody cares unless the Duchess decides to buy a piece and wear it.”
While it should be noted that both Markle’s mom, Doria Ragland, and BFF/stylist, Jessica Mulroney, wore diamond earrings and necklaces from the Birks forthcoming fall collection to the royal wedding on Saturday, May 19, and the pieces will no doubt be highly coveted by shoppers as a result, the jeweler isn’t the first brand to admit the pitfalls of royal attention.
Issa, the line behind the cobalt blue wrap dress Markle’s sister-in-law Kate Middleton wore to announce her engagement to Price William on November 16, 2010, actually shuttered in May 2013 after the pressure became too great. The super flattering design was one of the first items to ever benefit from the so-called “Kate Effect,” but that proved to be a blessing and curse for the small fashion house.
Issa designer Daniella Helayel said in interviews that it ultimately led to the demise of the already-teetering business that struggled with financial troubles and was unable to meet the ever-growing demand. The line subsequently relaunched in 2015 in partnership with House of Fraser in the U.K. offering lower priced workwear staples.
In the case of Birks, Maclean’s reports that the brand’s stock prices have been volatile over the course of the last year. Sales figures, meanwhile, do not yet include the time period since Meghan started wearing the pieces while linked to Prince Harry. In February, for instance, she stacked the $4,995 Diamond Snowflake Ring and $1,495 Yellow Gold and Diamond Splash Ring for a trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. She also rocked the $1,595 Plaisirs de Birks Diamond Swirl Earrings at a reception for the Women’s Empowerment at the Royal Aeronautical Society in April, and she’s been seen in gold rings and other pieces (including the opal earrings she wore for her engagement announcement photocall) on countless occasions.
So while the free publicity is certainly not all bad news for the brand, there is one more thing Hartling would love to secure: a royal warrant. Birks held one in the 1930s for supplying silverware to the royal family, and the she hopes the time has come for a repeat. “Maybe we’ll get another one,” she told Maclean’s.
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