The royal edit: what we can expect from Meghan Markle's September issue of Vogue
Britain's Duchess of Sussex is the latest royal to be linked to a Vogue feature. Meadhbh McGrath explores the signature Meghan traits we can expect from her September issue
Meghan Markle is officially on maternity leave until at least autumn, but the new mother has lined up a side gig for the summer months: guest editing British Vogue.
According to reports, Meghan will star in a photo shoot and write a personal essay for the September issue, the most important edition of the year for the fashion bible.
Meghan isn’t the first royal to take on a guest editor role — Prince Charles edited two issues of Country Life magazine in 2018 and 2013, and in 2016, Kate Middleton took over Huffington Post UK for a day from a makeshift newsroom in Kensington Palace, even writing her own blog post about the importance of children’s mental health.
In 2017, Meghan’s husband Prince Harry joined the team at BBC Radio 4’s Today programme for a special Christmas edition. The three-hour show focused on topics its guest presenter was most passionate about, including mental health, the armed forces and youth crime. He landed the first interview with former US President Barack Obama since he left the White House, and talked climate change with his father Prince Charles, although he was criticised for his soft questions.
With Meghan in the hot seat, what can we expect from her issue of British Vogue?
The royal family don’t do politics — palace protocol dictates that they can’t vote and must remain neutral with respect to political matters. But before she joined the family, Meghan was outspoken in her views. She is also a keen writer: for three years, she shared her thoughts on everything from spaghetti to sustainability on her now-defunct lifestyle blog, The Tig.
A source at Vogue told The Sun: “Meghan is going to write a piece on causes such as female empowerment and women’s education… This is nothing to do with Archie, or family, or home life. It’s purely on women’s empowerment.”
Meghan has spoken out on these issues before, most recently in a panel discussion on International Women’s Day, and was appointed patron to the charity Smart Works, which helps vulnerable women in their search for employment by providing work clothes and interview training.
In 2015, Meghan wrote an essay for US Elle, in which she reflected frankly and thoughtfully on finding her voice as a mixed race woman. Will she be able to speak as openly in British Vogue?
The royals will be hoping she plays it safe, but Vogue editor, Edward Enninful, has foreground diversity in the magazine, and he will undoubtedly encourage her to tackle these issues head-on. Could Meghan seize the opportunity to write about the racist and misogynist attacks she has been subjected to since becoming the Duchess of Sussex?
It may be her chance to finally respond and stick up for herself — however obliquely — while speaking more broadly on tolerance and inclusivity.
A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
The issue will also reportedly feature essays by “a selection of female change-makers”, a source told Us Weekly. Some of Meghan’s close friends fall into that category: will we see the likes of Serena Williams, Victoria Beckham or Amal Clooney on the pages?
Perhaps Serena will write about the challenges she has faced as a black woman in sport, while Victoria Beckham has been vocal about how she wants to use fashion to empower women — a topic that would certainly fit the bill for Vogue’s September issue.
Amal, meanwhile, partnered with Prince Charles back in March to create the ‘Amal Clooney Award’ to celebrate young women effecting change in their communities. Amal will hand out the prize next year, but she could turn to Vogue to spotlight some of the inspirational women, or talk about her own human rights work, such as the ongoing case of Isis rape survivor Nadia Murad, which Amal wrote about for the Huffington Post in 2017.
Meghan is sure to use her platform to amplify under-the-radar organisations and community leaders, so we’ll likely see a group photo shoot, as Vogue often does for its “Vogue 25” spread. This year’s line-up of names to know featured Meghan alongside lesser-known figures, including a climate change campaigner, a theatre director and a scientist, among others.
Meghan will be eager to give exposure to some of the patronages and charities she’s been associated with — maybe Kate Stephens, the CEO of Smart Works, or Suhani Jalota, the 24-year-old founder of the Myna Mahila Foundation, which fights to stop the stigma around periods, something Meghan wrote about for Time magazine after visiting the charity in Mumbai in 2017. Jalota attended the royal wedding last year, so Meghan clearly thinks highly of and gets on well with her.
According to The Sun, Meghan does not want to appear on the cover of the magazine, but will appear in a shoot inside. Given her face is guaranteed to sell the issue, it’s difficult to imagine Vogue and Conde Nast agreeing to go with a different cover star, especially after her sister-in-law Kate starred on the magazine’s centenary issue in June 2016.
Kate’s cover was all glossy rural romance, and was jointly commissioned by Vogue and the National Portrait Gallery, of which Kate is a patron. Princess Diana, too, was a British Vogue cover girl four times over, including a commemorative issue in 1997 to mark her death, and the queen’s daughter Princess Anne featured three times in the Seventies.
The photos were set to be taken this week in and around Frogmore Cottage, Windsor, where Meghan, Harry and Archie live, although The Sun reports that Meghan’s husband and baby will not be making an appearance. The cottage is located on the grounds of Frogmore House, the site of Meghan and Harry’s wedding reception and their sexy engagement portraits.
Will Meghan go for full Hollywood glam again? Could she be persuaded to showcase the best looks for autumn-winter, from voluminous ruffles to shoulder pads and leather trousers? Or will she prefer a more casual, at-home affair, all the better for showing off the new renovations?
DRESSED TO THRILL
The September issue is a crucial one for Vogue. As chronicled in the 2009 documentary of the same name, that particular edition sets the agenda for the autumn-winter season — the most important in the fashion calendar — in what often stretches to a telephone book-sized tome. To cede creative control of the biggest issue of the year to a celebrity is a pretty bold move.
US Vogue did it last year with Beyonce, who graced the cover in clothes selected by her own stylists.
But Meghan’s wardrobe comes under a lot more scrutiny than Beyonce’s, with critics picking apart the costs, labels and nationalities of the designers she wears. Like Diana, Meghan seems to have a genuine love of fashion, and even attended the Fashion Awards to present a gong to her wedding dress designer, Clare Waight Keller, the British creative director of Givenchy.
Taking into account her reported female focus for the issue, we can expect Waight Keller’s work to have a strong presence, perhaps in a custom look for Meghan’s shoot. Meghan is also a fan of her friend Victoria Beckham’s designs, and she ticks the box for British too, while Stella McCartney, who was behind Meghan’s wedding reception gown, brings an added element of sustainability. Meghan has shown a passion for ethical brands, from cult favourite Veja trainers to Gabriela Hearst’s evening wear to jeans by Outland and Hiut Denim, so maybe Vogue will go eco-fashion forward.
Next to all the Gucci and Dior, look out for some smaller labels, of which Meghan is a frequent champion (see the Strathberry tote bag she carried in Dublin last year, or the blazer dress she wore to introduce Archie to the world, by the young, biracial, British designer Grace Wales Bonner). In any case, this is one issue guaranteed to fly off the shelves — whether it comes with Meghan’s face on the cover or not.