It’s a tale of two cities: San Francisco and Sydney.
The first is the location of Rothy’s, the sustainable shoe brand known for its selection of comfortable and colorful eco-conscious flats. The second is the Australian city where Meghan Markle famously changed from heels to a pair of Rothy’s signature flats—the Black Solid Point, to be exact—while on a 16-day royal tour last fall.
The aftermath? Let’s just call it the Markle Effect. (In other words, sales surged.)
We caught up with Elie Donahue, vice president of marketing for Rothy’s, to get the scoop on the royal ricochet and what a beloved duchess’s singular fashion choice can do for a brand.
On how Meghan Markle first caught wind of Rothy’s. “What we’ve heard is that several staff members on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s team have (and love) Rothy’s and that Meghan noticed them wearing the shoe. Her team—which includes publicists, media coordinators and all that—sent us a request with a note along the lines of: ‘Hey, I’m on the media team for Meghan and Harry and she loved this shoe. Can you send her a couple of pairs in an 8.5?’ or whatever size she is.”
And what happened next. “It was actually a pretty junior person who replied to the email and shipped the shoes out. We don’t yet ship to the UK, so we made an exception to send to her overseas. This junior person barely told anybody about the request and months went by. Then, when we saw Meghan wearing them in Australia, it was like: ‘Oh, my God!’”
On how they reacted to the shoe sighting. “Half of our team was in China when the news broke, so they saw it first and sent it here. The energy in our office was pretty insane. We have a little Rothy’s showroom down in Beverly Hills and, to give you a sense of perspective, that morning, we got word that Leonardo DiCaprio happened to walk up and try on a pair of our sneakers. In the wake of Meghan Markle, that was such secondary news. We were all, ‘Oh, whatever, just Leonardo DiCaprio.’ What a day.”
On how Rothy’s capitalized. “We tried to create one email and a couple of social media posts about how floored we were, but from there we just talked up the shoe. The Black Point is actually our number one seller, so we wanted to give ourselves a bit of credit. Also, you can’t use images without permission (the shot we posted from Getty we bought for a one-time use) and not every customer is going to love Meghan Markle. Our goal was to promote, but tread carefully and thoughtfully.”
Calculating the royal impact on sales. “It was already our number one shoe, thank God, so we had a shipment coming in by boat the next day—unrelated to Meghan. We never ran out of stock, which was awesome. The day Meghan wore the Black Point, sales of the style rose four times. We also saw sales of other classic colors—marigold, persimmon and more—double. Same with our site traffic. We grew our Instagram following, our email list and we may have sold out of the Black Point in our San Francisco store location for a minute. It was October when she wore them and we saw—and continue to see—a lift that carried well past that day.”
Dissecting the overall impact of the Markle Effect. “I wouldn’t say that Meghan Markle donning the Black Point put us on the map. We’d been around for two years and we were trending to have 1,000 percent growth year over year when she wore our shoe. In fact, we were well on our way to $140 million in revenue for 2018. But it helped and it was a pretty big milestone for us. Still, the growth and flywheel of people wearing and recommending the shoe was already in gear.”
Now, about that international shipping. “We’re definitely going to start testing it this year and the UK is on the road map. We had several articles publish over there about the shoe and it was fun to see how excited people over there are. But we want to do it right and make sure we iron out all the kinks. It’s a fun prospect to think about how much room we have to grow.”