Less than two months before their wedding, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle surprised royal fans in Belfast with a special visit, and one of the first things royal watchers noticed was the striking chestnut brown handbag carried by the soon-to-be duchess.
Rather than carrying something from a pricey designer like Givenchy, Meghan arrived clutching a £260 bag from a little-known British brand called Charlotte Elizabeth. A year later, the impact of this one royal appearance has completely changed their business.
“Within minutes of the Duchess wearing our signature Bloomsbury style last year, our site was flooded with orders worldwide with our total sales up 45,000% in 24 hours,” Amy Jones, the company’s COO, told Royal Central.
Founded by Amy’s sister, Charlotte Jones, the company was born when Charlotte had to leave school due to poor health and became housebound. She decided to launch her own business after getting a vision for bags that were “very clean cut, minimal and inspired by classic 50s handbags.” In 2014, Charlotte set out to take part in Prince Charles’s The Prince’s Trust programme, which provides support for young entrepreneurs.
Charlotte completed a four-day course from The Prince’s Trust and launched her first bag, The Bloomsbury, in 2016. Supported by bloggers and fellow illness sufferers on Instagram, Charlotte Elizabeth grew an organic following on social media, but no one expected how the bags would soon take off.
“The business, and Charlotte, have since grown from strength-to-strength, and almost one year on from the anniversary of Meghan wearing the Bloomsbury, we are now a sister-trio, as well as hiring people who themselves have struggled to find work due to invisible illnesses,” said Jones, who quit her job as digital director for a London PR agency last August, whilst their other sister Emma left her job as Managing Editor of ELLE and Cosmo UK in January 2019.
When asked if Charlotte Elizabeth struggled to keep pace after Meghan catapulted the brand into the media, Jones said it took some time for them to adjust after the massive influx of orders.
“With such a huge increase in sales, we did end up selling out of all styles and being on pre-order for six months,” she said. “We upscaled manufacturing and distribution, and six months later, were able to catch up on sales and release new colours, too.”
Charlotte Elizabeth has exploded worldwide, and the majority of orders have been coming in from outside Britain after the duchess carried their bag. “We’ve seen incredible growth overseas, with 69% of our sales to the international market,” Jones said.
The brand is just one of the many who have been impacted by “The Meghan Effect,” and also one of the scores of businesses that got its start with The Prince’s Trust.
“Working with The Prince’s Trust was so valuable for starting up Charlotte Elizabeth, due to the wonderful mentoring opportunities provided,” Jones said, whose sister Charlotte was the winner of the London Enterprise Award at The Prince’s Trust Awards in 2017.