A fashion favourite of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, Canadian luxury outerwear brand Mackage is now moving in on the UK market.
The magic fashion touch of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex (aka Meghan Markle) is a powerful force. For some brands, it has transformed their fortunes overnight, but for Canadian outerwear specialist Mackage, the so-called Meghan effect has simply added further fuel to an already roaring business.
When the duchess – a long-time fan and customer of the brand – wore a longline navy “Elodie” coat for a public appearance with Prince Harry in March, it led to 5.6 billion impressions for the brand online.
Founded by Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan, the luxury outerwear business has come a long way since it was born into the chill winters of Montreal, Canada, in 1999.
Today, Mackage is stocked in 27 markets. It has six own-brand stores in the US and Canada, 943 stockists globally, and 51 UK stockists including Harrods and Flannels. In September, it will launch its first dedicated UK ecommerce site.
Initially producing only contemporary leather outerwear, Mackage soon expanded its offer to wool outerwear and down, as well as accessories and ready-to-wear, and is now known for its slim-fitting coats and down jackets.
Eran Elfassy and Elisa Dahan
“At the beginning, our main focus was the jackets,” explains Elfassy. “It was really well received in Canada, but eventually we also wanted to move on a bit. Doing just leather, we were restricted to one thing.”
As new fabrications and shapes were introduced, Elfassy and Dahan focused more on creating feminine outlines for all weathers.
“We have a specific kind of silhouette, which is a very feminine, sexy and sophisticated look,” says Elfassy.
“We took the same idea when we wanted to move into down. We still wanted to keep our same DNA so we made sure to make a slim-fitting down jacket – something that you could wear in the city to stay comfortable and warm.”
Dahan elaborates: “Our goal is really to develop outerwear that doesn’t compromise your style, and protects you from any weather and the elements. It’s not something just to protect you – it makes your outfit.
“It’s the last layer, it has to be perfect: it’s like the bow on a present. We want to make sure that no matter what you need, we have you covered. When the customer wants to feel sexy and powerful, she comes to us.”
Buyers are convinced.
“We first saw the product in early 2016, and bought Mackage for autumn 16,” says Dale Allman, finance director of Liverpool independent Union 22. “The complete look of the product fits in well with our store: it is clean cut, has minimal branding and looks luxurious without even touching or feeling it.
“The Mackage customer can vary but in general we feel they are someone who knows fashion and quality brands, and wants luxurious garments but doesn’t want the fashion labels printed all over the garment.”
The brand is focused on quality and retail prices nudge towards luxury level, ranging from £350 for ready-to-wear to £2,250 for a long coat. Mackage tests each item for weather durability in its own laboratory in Canada, but the items are mainly manufactured in eastern Europe and China. A small amount is made in Canada – although Elfassy laments that this proportion is slowly decreasing, as skilled workers retire. Dahan calls Canadian manufacturing a “dying art”.
It’s really important to us who we’re stocked with and who our brand agencies are
Elisa Dahan, Mackage
Dahan highlights the “Mackage collar”, a heart-shaped neckline pea coat ($1,050/£790), as a bestseller for the brand, as well as a cream double-faced wool coat with a waterfall neckline ($950/£690). Both styles have been worn at public outings by the Duchess of Sussex, but Dahan notes that they were successful even before they were touched by the magical “Markle sparkle”.
It is in part thanks to the duchess that Mackage is placing a greater focus on the UK for seasons to come. The UK is the fastest-growing market for the brand, accounting for 10 times more online traffic than any other country in Europe.
As the new website is prepared for launch in September, the duo remain upbeat but cautious about the future.
“We want to increase our presence strategically with the right partners,” explains Dahan. “It’s really important to us who we’re stocked with and who our brand agencies are. It’s important to really define our brand through that, since that’s how it’s being sold.”
The brand is currently represented by the Red Alert agency in the UK, and Dahan hints that Mackage could ultimately look to launch a London store. “For us, retail is super-important,” she says. “We’d like to open a store in the UK eventually. Stores are the way to really share the vision and story of the brand.”
With its classic designs and outerwear focus, Mackage faces tough competition in the UK retail scene from the likes of Canada Goose and Moncler. But thanks to its focus on quality and femininity across all styles, as well as the profile boost from its royal patronage, the brand could be set for big things in the outerwear market in seasons to come.