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

American Riviera Orchard has already amassed hundreds of thousands of online followers.
What is American Riviera Orchard, Meghan's mysterious lifestyle brand?
Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in a kitchen surrounded by mixing bowls and other equipmentAmerican Riviera Orchard/Instagram

To the jazzy sounds of Nancy Wilson’s 1960s tune I Wish You Love, the Duchess of Sussex emerges from the kitchen of her Californian mansion in a teaser unveiling her new lifestyle brand.

Although little was revealed in the 16-second long video, an Instagram account for Meghan’s new brand has already amassed hundreds of thousands of online followers.

The branding for American Riviera Orchard features a gold-coloured crest, 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”.

A post on the American Riviera Orchard Instagram account features a brief, retro-style grainy video showing hands arranging flowers, Meghan stirring a pot in a kitchen, and a woman in a ballgown standing at the end of a long colonnade.

It remains unclear what exactly she is selling – but internet sleuths scouring pending US trademark applications have found that American Riviera Orchards plans to sell cookbooks and home goods such as decanters and kitchen linens, as well as foods including marmalade and jellies.

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

The sense of mystery in the video is very deliberate, says Lindsey Imler, a digital marketing specialist for Intero Digital, based in Columbia, Missouri.

It is “very discreet”, she says, and “very alluring” – playing into Americans’ fairy tale perceptions of the curious foreign royals. It has led to a flood of Google searches from people wondering what she’s up to now.

Prof Pauline Maclaran, a marketing and consumer research professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, says the duchess appears to be tapping back into her former brand The Tig, which she shuttered following her engagement to Prince Harry.

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

“I would see this as a much more domestic goddess kind of market,” Prof Maclaran tells BBC News, “with these new regal connections now, and, you know, promoting elegance.”

The video is “evoking heritage” which “is linking to the royal aspect”, she adds.

She says that the “domestic goddess in the kitchen” image, similar to that of Martha Stewart and Nigella Lawson, appears to be directly pitching to US buyers.

Kerrie Kelly, who has worked as an interior designer in California for 30 years, agrees that the promo appears to be “rooted in history, or more European as far as the aesthetic”, but still has a healthy dose of “easy breezy” California chic added to the mix.

An up close shot showing branding for American Riviera Orchard

Instagram

Meghan appears to be marketing a “feeling of domestic bliss”, leaning into her role as a wife and mother. Mrs Kelly says she wouldn’t be surprised to see Meghan’s company include, for instance, a children’s clothing line or a nursery collection. Her husband might also later appear in marketing materials, something consumers would probably expect of a lifestyle brand.

The shortness of the launch video has not stopped critics from ridiculing the brand. Some have joked that the 10-syllable American Riviera Orchard sounds like the names of children born to Hollywood celebrities.

Commentators have also already begun to draw comparisons to Gwyneth Paltrow’s company Goop, and the products sold by celebrities like Kim Kardashian or Reese Witherspoon.

American journalist Elizabeth Holmes, who wrote a best-selling book about royal fashion in 2020, says royal watchers have been assuming that Meghan’s “next chapter” would likely include bringing back the Tig website “in some form”.

Since returning to the US, Meghan “has had this sort of like laid back, California, sophisticated ease about her”, Mrs Holmes says.

The launch came just a few days after her sister-in-law Catherine, the Princess of Wales, had to address a photoshopping mishap in the UK – which stoked the public’s curiosity about the private lives of the royals.

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

“For so long Meghan was, you know, the negative, and Kate was the positive and now it feels like there’s been a noticeable shift” in the last few days, she says.

The launch has prompted some public speculation that the lifestyle brand could be in breach of an agreement with the Royal Family to not use their royal titles, His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness, for profit.

So far, the business has not used the titles. When they left their role as working royals, they were instructed to uphold the values of the Royal Family, and the limited information available about the new brand seems so far to follow that guidance.

Buckingham Palace could theoretically complain if Meghan’s products are seen to be in competition with those they sell through their own Royal Collection website, but it is far too early to say whether any clash may occur.

With additional reporting by Daniela Relph

Source: bbc.co.uk

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