What is American Riviera Orchard, Meghan's mysterious lifestyle brand?

  • Written by Max Matza and Aoife Walsh
  • BBC News

Image source, American Riviera Orchard/Instagram

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A short, retro video shared on the brand's Instagram account shows Meghan stirring a pot in what appears to be her kitchen

To the tune of Nancy Wilson's jazzy song “I Wish You Love,” the Duchess of Sussex emerges from the kitchen of her California mansion in a teaser unveiling her new lifestyle brand.

Although not much was revealed in the 16-second video, Meghan's brand new Instagram account has already amassed hundreds of thousands of followers online.

American Riviera Orchard's branding features a gold-colored logo with the word “Montecito” – the name of the upscale town where Meghan, Prince Harry and their children live near Santa Barbara, which is referred to as the “American Riviera.”

One post on the American Riviera Orchard Instagram account includes a short, grainy, vintage-style video showing hands arranging flowers, Meghan stirring a pot in the kitchen, and a woman in a ball gown standing at the end of a long hallway.

It's still unclear exactly what it's selling — but Internet sleuths searching through pending US trademark applications have found that American Riviera Orchards plans to sell cookbooks and household goods such as utensils and kitchen linens, as well as foods including marmalades and jelly.

Some have been speculating about whether the placement of certain items in the teaser video will also form part of her new line in the coming months. In the kitchen behind Megan we can see elegant bowls and a glass decanter.

The sense of ambiguity in the video is very intentional, says Lindsay Imler, a digital marketing specialist at Intero Digital, based in Columbia, Missouri.

She says she's “very secretive,” and “very seductive” — and plays into Americans' fantasy perceptions of nosy foreign royals. This has led to a flood of Google searches by people wondering what you are doing now.

Professor Pauline Maclaran, professor of marketing and consumer research at Royal Holloway, University of London, says the Duchess appears to be capitalizing once again on her former brand The Tig, which she closed after her engagement to Prince Harry.

When it ended, Meghan – who is better known as a former Hollywood actress than a lifestyle influencer – had more than 3 million followers on Instagram.

“I see this as a much more local market, with these new royal connections now and, you know, enhanced elegance,” Professor Maclaran tells BBC News.

She added that the video “evokes heritage” and is “linked to the royal side.”

The “domestic kitchen goddess” image, similar to those of Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson, appears to be aimed squarely at American buyers, she says.

Kerry Kelly, who has worked as an interior designer in California for 30 years, agrees that the trailer feels “rooted in history, or more European in aesthetic,” but still has a healthy dose of California’s “easy breeze.” Elegance has been added to the mix.

Meghan appears to be marketing a “feeling of domestic bliss,” leaning into her role as wife and mother. Ms. Kelly says she wouldn't be surprised to see that Meghan's company includes, for example, a children's clothing line or a nursery collection. Her husband may also appear later in marketing materials, something consumers might expect from a lifestyle brand.

The brevity of the launch video didn't stop critics from mocking the brand. Some joked that the 10-syllable “American Riviera Orchard” sounded like the names of children born to Hollywood celebrities.

Commentators have already begun making comparisons to Gwyneth Paltrow's company Goop, and products sold by celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or Reese Witherspoon.

American journalist Elizabeth Holmes, who wrote Best selling books On royal fashion in 2020, royal watchers say they assume Meghan's “next chapter” will likely involve bringing back Tig's website “in some form.”

Since returning to the States, “Meghan has this sort of California laid-back, sophisticated calm about her,” says Ms. Holmes.

The launch came just days after her sister-in-law Catherine, Princess of Wales, had to address an unfortunate filming incident in the UK – sparking public curiosity about the royal family's private lives.

Lindsay Imler, a digital marketing specialist, finds the “juxtaposition” in media attention between the two royal women interesting. Both have been cautious lately about sharing information from their daily lives.

“For a long time, Meghan was, you know, negative, and Kate was positive, and now there seems to be a noticeable shift” in the last few days, she says.

The launch sparked some public speculation that the lifestyle brand may be violating an agreement with the royal family not to use its royal titles, His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness, to make a profit.

So far, the company has not used titles. When they left their role as royals, they were instructed to uphold the values ​​of the royal family, and the limited information available about the new brand appears to follow that directive so far.

In theory, Buckingham Palace could complain if Meghan's products compete with those they sell through their Royal Collection website, but it is too early to say whether any conflict might occur.

With additional reporting from Daniela Relph

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