Entertainment

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, wears Canadian designer to London event

A fondness for Canadian fashion apparently hasn't waned for Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. The former Toronto resident was photographed Tuesday wearing a sleeveless trench dress by the Calgary brand Nonie.

Meghan and Prince Harry were attending an exhibition honouring Nelson Mandela

Britain's Prince Harry, right, and wife Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, wave at onlookers as they arrive for their visit to the launch of the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition in London Tuesday. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

A fondness for Canadian fashion apparently hasn't waned for Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex.

The former Toronto resident was photographed this morning wearing a sleeveless trench dress by the Calgary brand Nonie.

The new royal wore the tailored garment while attending the official opening of the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition in London alongside her husband, Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry.

Nonie is believed to be the first Canadian based ready-to-wear designer the duchess has showcased at a public event since her wedding in May.

Meghan wore a sleeveless beige dress inspired by a trench coat. It was created by Calgary-based brand Nonie for the occasion. (Arthur Edwards/Associated Press)

Fashion designer Nina Kharey said her public relations team alerted her at 4:30 in the morning by text, and then she saw the photos online.

"It's just surreal. I still can't believe it's actually happened," Kharey said when reached by phone a few hours later in Calgary.

"She looks stunning, stunning. I actually can't get over how good she looks in it. I've been trying to imagine what she would look like in it."

Kharey has never met Meghan but said the former Suits star requested the dress last November, before she was engaged.

The tailored dress is part of Kharey's spring/summer 2018 collection and retails for $1,085.00. It's also available in black.

Designer already feeling 'Meghan effect'

The royal has long been a champion of Canadian fashion brands, dating back to her time living in Toronto to shoot Suits.

Her Canuck favourites include the luxury outerwear brand Sentaler, Aritzia, Mackage, Birks and Reitmans.

Immediately after Meghan was photographed in Nonie, Kharey said she began sensing the impact of the famous "Meghan effect" — the boost in publicity and product requests that typically come after the popular royal appears in public wearing a particular brand.

"My website has thousands of hits at the moment, which is a massive spike in our online presence. My Instagram is just exploding, I can't keep up."

All the attention comes just as Kharey turns her efforts toward breaking into the New York market and beyond.

"This is definitely a good step in the right direction; it's definitely going to get me the international eyes that I need at the moment," she said.

When the most famous woman in the world is wearing one of your dresses and looking amazing in it — it does wonders for a brand like mine.- Fashion designer Nina  Kharey

"Getting that royal stamp of approval is just huge.… It is tough doing this from Calgary, but things like this — when the most famous woman in the world is wearing one of your dresses and looking amazing in it — it does wonders for a brand like mine."

The 35-year-old already has an impressive client list, including homegrown tastemakers Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, Jessica Mulroney and Chantal Kreviazuk.

But she wasn't always certain fashion was the right career path, even though she always loved clothes and notes the fashion business is in her blood.

Calgary-based fashion designer Nina Kharey, above, says it was 'just surreal' to find out that a dress from her Nonie line was worn at a London event by Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. (Ellis Choe/CBC)

Kharey's parents immigrated from Punjab, India, in the 1970s, and her mother found work as seamstress for a menswear line while her father managed a knits factory.

"They took me to work almost always and I just grew up with it. I learned how to sew from them; I saw the process in the factory and I just fell in love with the idea of something going from paper to something that you can wear."

From computer engineering to fashion

Still, her parents dissuaded her from following in their footsteps, instead encouraging her to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. Kharey ended up working as a computer engineer for several years while designing only as a hobby.

When her older brother was killed suddenly, she said the tragedy helped her refocus on her true passions: "That's what made me do this."

This has brought me peace and it's made me feel complete.- Nina  Kharey  says of her design company

"This has brought me peace and it's made me feel complete," Kharey said in an interview with The Homestretch Tuesday.

"I can feel that this is something that [my brother] would have said, 'You've got to just do it.'

"This has been something I've always had in my life — my passion, my dream — and it's been quiet, something I've been doing on the side, and losing my brother to violence here in the city was something that taught me I just need to do what brings me peace and happiness, and then I've put everything I have into this."

She started the company in 2012 while still working as a computer engineer, only quitting her day job in 2015 to focus on fashion full time after connecting with Holt Renfrew fashion director Barbara Atkin.

"She saw my first collection in 2015, and I asked her point blank, I said, 'do you see something here? Am I crazy? Should I pursue? Or not?'" she said.

"And she definitely said, 'it's going to be a long road. Get ready. But I think you have something here.'"

Now she has a boutique in Calgary and is in talks with bigger department stores to expand her retail reach.

"My inbox is full of orders, and questions — and I'm very afraid of opening my inbox," she said.

"It changes a lot of things. I have been waiting for this kind of exposure internationally, and now I can ride that, and just go for it and see where this takes me."

Kharey said she's ready for whatever comes next.

"I just feel ready to step out into New York and into the international world," said Kharey.


With files from The Homestretch