By Meredith Lepore
June 21, 2020
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Elizabeth Tuke
Nevil Dwek

Before Meghan Markle captivated the world as the Duchess of Sussex and shook up tradition in the royal family, she was an actress trying to make a name for herself in the fashion world.

After meeting then-PR manager for The Outnet, Elizabeth Tuke, in Toronto in 2013, the two reconnected shortly after in New York when the "Suits" actress found herself at the city's coveted Fashion Week not knowing who or what to wear. Thankfully, Tuke — a lifelong fashionista, though not a stylist by trade — stepped in and guided her style for a gala that night and other events during the week, even loaning her a pair of Bounkit semiprecious earrings.

Meghan Markle, in a dress picked by Elizabeth Tuke at the Novak Djokovic Foundation New York dinner at Capitale on September 10, 2013 for New York Fashion Week.
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Novak Djokovic Foundation

Documenting her first time at NYFW, in a first-person post for Glamour magazine, Markle even referred to Tuke as her "fashion guru." Clearly, a beautiful friendship (and ensemble) was born that week as Tuke left The Outnet six months later to start her own PR firm, Tuke Consulting, and Markle became one of her clients.

Though during those years Markle may not have had owned any haute couture, Tuke recognized a strong fashion sense in her — despite her relaxed and simple style. 

"There are a lot of facets of Meghan Markle; [she's] extremely driven, and she never tried to proclaim that she was fashion savvy. Born and raised in Los Angeles, [she is a] very low key dresser," Tuke told Travel + Leisure in an interview. "She trusted me, and while Meghan has a great body she always wanted to maintain what our goal was — to pull her out of her 'Suits' character. Less sexy and more fun because Meghan's personality is more fun. She's fun to hang out with!"

As for what advice she gave to Markle on dressing, Tuke said she encouraged her to experiment with colors and looks "that were more risky in terms of fashion choices, like a super wide leg pant. She was never big into accessories."

Although Tuke was no longer working with the actress by the time she became a part of the royal family, she noted that the outfit in which Markle and Prince Harry made their public debut as a couple in 2017 at the Invictus Games — the white button-down, jeans, and ballet flats — was very much, "the true Meghan."

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry
Karwai Tang/Getty Images

Tuke noted that in their time together, Markle did have a strong gut and clear vision when it came to her sartorial choices.

"She trusted me but she was also very conscious and did her research," said Tuke recalling a TODAY Show segment Markle did in 2015 that featured fashion items under $100. When one piece from a clothing label that used sweatshops was proposed, Markle wouldn't include it. 

"She got really excited when I would get excited about what to wear," Tuke added. "She didn't have an agenda but she understood what was required of her to make a statement."

Recalling when Markle was a speaker at the UN "Women’s Step It Up for Gender Equality" event in New York in 2015, she knew she didn't want to be super trendy, she wanted to be conservative.

"She was always very mindful of dressing her part and knowing her audience. I know that factors into her choices today," Tuke said. She wasn't looking to be Bjork at the Oscars. She wanted to be tasteful but also have a sense of fashion."

Markle ended up borrowing an elegant black tea-length dress by Preen that belonged to Tuke for the UN event. 

Meghan Markle and her mother Doria Ragland at the UN Women's conference in 2015.
Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

"She wasn't trying to be someone she was not but was open to suggestions," she said. "She's like the friend that lets you dress them but does have a point of view."

Tuke — whose sense of fashion has been reflected in Markle's style ever since she played her fairy godmother during that one week at NYFW — has taken her fashionable insight a step further by launching her own e-commerce marketplace, TUKE Bazaar.

The site, highly curated with her hand-picked pieces, includes items from over 35 brands including Senlis, Coco Shop West Indies, Sachin & Babi, Cara Cara, and Hunter Bell. 

She hopes the price point — mostly everything is under $1,000 — will be attractive but it will also help a wider audience outside of New York discover brands they never would have thought to have before. The target customer is a 35-year-old woman but the inventory appeals to a more mature consumer as well she told T+L. 

"A lot of things have sleeves but in a very subtle way but we want to keep the relative trends and styles," she said. 

Though it was launched a few months before the coronavirus pandemic, the platform has been a wonderful way to highlight and bring attention to lesser-known designers and brands that can't afford pricey publicists. The venture is a culmination of all of Tuke's expertise as she also offers the designers PR support and digital marketing services.

"Not every brand is in a position to be spearheading a global pandemic," she explained. "It's really about letting a wider audience discover these entry-level fashion brands. All these brands are sitting on inventory, their wholesale accounts have canceled and they aren't big enough to get on Moda Operandi or Net a Porter."

The drop-ship model is both low resource and low risk for small brands. TUKE takes a small commission of the gross sales.

"People want this cool, fun assortment and the price is right in this climate to invest in digital marketing," she added.  

Safe to say that if Tuke is going to guide her customers just as she did with Markle, they'll be in good hands.