Fashion, In Good Company, Portfolio

New Work: Meghan Markle Suits Up

Bay St. Bull Lance Chung Meghan Markle 2From Bay St. Bull. Photography by Janick Laurent.

Meghan Markle is many things. You may know her as a beautiful paralegal on Suits, but outside of the hit TV show, she’s a curious soul that has been busy laying down the foundations of an empire based on living a meaningful, enlightened life. In an era where authenticity is constantly in question, Meghan and her lifestyle brand, The Tig, are keeping things real by focusing on what matters: great people, great experiences and great conversations. Here, the actress and self-proclaimed foodie talks about fashion, how to build a personal brand and the bond between her and her cast mates.

Bay St. Bull Lance Chung Meghan Markle 9HAVE YOU MET RACHEL ZANE?

You’ve been playing your character, Rachel Zane, on Suits for the past five seasons now. How have you evolved throughout that course of time?

As an actor, and as a person, there is a parallel there. When I auditioned for the show, I was 28 and a year later, we did the pilot. Now, I’m 34. By the time the series is over, I will have spent close to a decade playing this character. You grow up tremendously through your twenties and thirties, and beyond that, I moved to Canada. This is now part of the narrative in my life. And from an acting standpoint, I think I have just got much more comfortable in my craft because when you are practicing on a daily basis like we are, it’s like being in a master class.

What are the differences and similarities between you and your character?

Rachel is New York Upper East Side old money. For me, being a girl born and raised in LA, I was much more comfortable in jean shorts, flip-flops and this really relaxed sensibility. But, as I’ve gotten older, there has been more of an overlap. There is a commonality between Rachel and I in the sense that we are both incredibly driven. The biggest difference is that I don’t cry as much as Rachel.

Are you used to bringing out the waterworks now?

Yes, absolutely. They rely on that now! Last season one of our directors, Anton, was like, “Ok Meghan, five seconds, single tear, left eye.” And I did it, and he was like, “No way!”

It’s known that the cast mates have an incredible dynamic off camera. How important is that when it comes to being on set?

It’s everything. I think the longevity and success of the show is a testament to the fact that we can all work in tandem with each other and have such close relationships. Now, we’re more like family. We have Thanksgiving dinners together where I’ll tell Rick [Hoffman], “Hey, stop cutting my turkey like that!” But those are the things that also inform how comfortable it is to watch us on camera together. Once we do the scene one way through, we always ad lib a little bit because there is a comfort level there.

Does the comfort level ever become a hindrance?

Of course, we’re family. But at the same time, we all just closed our contracts for seven seasons. So we know we’re going to be around for a couple more years. With that being said, there is something really validating about knowing that. If anything, it strengthens it. We know what buttons to push with because we’ve all been with each other for so long now.

If the cast were a high school class, which archetype do you think each of you would be?

I would say, though people wouldn’t expect it, Gabriel [Macht] is the Class Clown. It’s probably a dead heat with Rick on that one. Sarah [Rafferty] would absolutely be Homecoming Queen, and Gina [Torres] would be Most Likely to Succeed. Patrick is such a big tech geek and loves all the gadgets, so he’s the Nerd. We had to do this round table of behind-the-scenes stuff, and when we were asked if someone was going to be president from the cast, they all unanimously said me. So I’ll take that.

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TO THE TIG AND BEYOND

Let’s talk about The Tig. Why did you decide to create this lifestyle destination? What role does it play in your life?

Once we started this show and saw how social media was playing a big part in fan engagement, we understood that the ethos was changing in terms of how people were communicating with each other. I have always been this go-to when people wanted to know which restaurant to try and where to go. My mom was a travel agent, so it’s always been a passion of mine. Food is quite near and dear to my heart, so in starting The Tig, I just wanted to create a hub to house all of those things. Of course with the fashion from Suits, and my education in it from going to New York Fashion Week for the past few years, it became a breeding ground of my loves for all of those things. And also, there’s this concept of beauty for me as well. It’s not about just the perfect blowout or makeup, but to really use that platform for self-empowerment.

It seems that The Tig boils down to living a good, well-rounded life. Describe what you are trying to share and educate with your readers?

The success of The Tig has been really staggering to me. I’m doing it organically. I don’t have someone there strategically saying that this post should have XYZ. I’m just putting up what I am really passionate about. I think that is one big part of it. What I’m really drawn to is often aspirational, inspirational and attainable. I never want to have messaging or products on there that are a small fortune. While I may have the luxury to wear Tom Ford on the show, and I might get beautiful gifts sometimes, that is not the reality for most people. And it wasn’t for me a couple years ago, either. I’m very conscious of that.

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Have there been any memorable moments from working on the site that stick out to you?

At the end of the day, what’s really got the most pickup, and seems to resonate the most, are the think pieces that I write. I wrote a piece for Elle UK that I repurposed for The Tig, as well as a story last year called “Birthday Suit”, also about self-empowerment. I am just humbled by how many e-mails that come in from men and women about self-identification. That, for me, is very validating because they are my words. I write everything on that website, so if people don’t like it, it’s personal. It’s very different from Suits, where if they don’t like my character, I have no control over that. I just bring someone else’s words to life. But on The Tig, I’m bringing my own words to life.

You liken a Tig moment to an “a ha” moment. Would you consider this as one of those instances?

Absolutely. Fans are completely engaging and excited. But when it started to happen where people would go, “Oh my god, Meghan I love The Tig so much!”, I was floored. That’s what people are leading with, and Suits is secondary to what they are drawn to? It’s another level of gratitude. It’s very special.

It seems like we are in the age of the personal brand. As an actor and someone that is constantly in the spotlight, is it important for you to create something that is separate from work?

I think The Tig is a strong example of how I relate to that because I could’ve done MeghanMarkle.com, but that didn’t interest me. From a business standpoint, I wanted to make something that was larger than me. Obviously with the success of Suits, my profile would help feed The Tig, but it is its own identity. We try to be as authentic as possible. I was offered a really sizeable amount of money to promote a brand with one Instagram post, but I pass on so many of those offers because people trust me to tell them the truth. Even though that would be a great chunk of change, I’m not going to vouch for a product that I know is bad and mislead people. What’s important to me is making people feel comfortable for who they are, as they are. At the end of the day, my brand is just me.

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Do you think there is a proper way to go about building a personal brand?

I think you have to be very clear about what your end goal is. And that is going to be different for everybody. For me, authenticity is such a huge part of it. What I am clear on is that once young women start to look at me as a role model, I am very aware of the choices that I make based on that. That is part of what guides me in my thinking in terms of brand building. But also, I’m 34 and it’s something that comes with age and when you’re comfortable with yourself. It’s much easier to say no to things.

Do you consider The Tig a business? How do you see it evolving down the road?

There is a vision, and it’s a big one. I see it evolving into an international brand with many different iterations. It’s a timely question because those are conversations that are happening right now. But I just want to grow the team and certainly see it become even more impactful. Who knows, I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw a Tig cookbook or travel collaboration down the road. The opportunities are endless.

As someone who is always under the scrutiny of the public eye, do you ever find it difficult to communicate authenticity? How do you decide how much of your life to share?

I’m really clear on the distinction between my personal life and my private life. I had this conversation with Gabriel on set the other day. We were talking about social media and what we put out there about our lives. Gabriel said, “Well yeah, but you have The Tig, and that’s so private.” And I told him no, that’s personal. It’s not private. You have to dig pretty deep to find anything about my private life. The things that I share are intimate, vulnerable and from the heart. But at the same time, I think the moment that you give people even an inkling of something that is most precious to you, they feel like they have the right to dissect it. I like to keep it separate and have something for myself. My family, my dearest friends, my partner — you have to keep something for yourself.

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FINDING FASHION

Let’s talk about fashion, because it’s something that you’re clearly very interested in. Has it always been something that you’ve been passionate about?

I grew up wearing a school uniform, so it wasn’t really on my radar. Traveling really influenced my love of a more global and eclectic way of piecing a wardrobe together, though. It wasn’t until Suits that I got this insane education on the value of really gorgeous clothes. The tailoring and craftsmanship were so beautifully done; it was something that I had never had access to before. Suits has also helped me understand the value of tailoring things. I don’t care what you buy, you should tailor it, even if it’s only a quarter of an inch. Make it work for your body.

To me, it’s really how you wear it. People have an assumption that I wear all these fancy pants things, but the flats I’m wearing now are from a Banana Republic sale that was online. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have gorgeous Sergio Rossi shoes at home, but I think mixing high and low is the name of the game. There’s a way for different price points to co-exist because that’s how people dress in real life.

You’ve met some great leaders in the fashion industry. Do you have any particularly cool experiences?

I think the coolest thing is the constant reminder that we are all just people. I remember being so nervous to meet Rachel Zoe backstage at her show. I don’t know why, she was the loveliest woman and very real. So that has been really cool. The one person that has really changed the way of thinking for me in fashion and opened a lot of doors was Joe Zee, who is actually from Toronto. I met him at a dinner for Kerry Washington, and he introduced himself as a big fan and we just became friends. He has been an endless support. Even Roland Mouret, I love his clothes, but I had no idea what he looked like up until a couple months ago. I was in an elevator in Istanbul, and there was this dashing man in a bathrobe. And he said, “I’m so sorry I’m in a bathrobe, I just came from the spa. But I love you and I dress you sometimes.” And I told him, “Oh hi, nice to meet you.” And he said, “Hi, I’m Roland Mouret.” I almost died. It was a big Tig moment. They’re just real people.

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One of our mandates is to support our own homegrown talents in Canada. Do you have any favourite Canadian designers?

I’ve only been to one show during fashion week here, which was Mackage. Of course, with my relationships now, I’m trying to have more of an understanding of Canadian brands. Truth be told, we don’t wear them a lot on Suits because it is a New York-based show. For me, when I moved up here, all I knew was lululemon. But there’s certainly more happening here than that. Greta Constantine, for example, makes really strong dresses. Fashion-wise, it’s a constant education for me.

For our female readers, what advice can you offer when it comes to dressing for the office?

I think it’s the same rules that your mom taught you. If you’re going to have some cleavage, than make sure your hemline comes past your knees. If you’re going to show your legs, make sure you pair it with something like a turtleneck. You have to choose one.

I also think there is this really nice thing about Rachel’s wardrobe, specifically, where she wears so many separates, which is a reflection of my personal styling. It’s something the costume designer and I conceived in a way to make it more reflective of a real woman’s wardrobe. I’ve been wearing the same skirt I wore in the pilot episode, and because you can pair it with a great top or cashmere sweater, the entire aesthetic can change. I think the value of investing in strong pieces and mixing and matching will make your wardrobe exponentially bigger. Also, invest in one really fantastic pair of heels. I say that because one, you’ll wear them all the time. And two, if you’re going to be wearing them all the time, it’s worth investing in good quality ones because you don’t want to ruin your feet.

WHO’S HUNGRY?

You’re quite the foodie, which is something that has also been integrated into your character on the show. What do you think it is about food that brings people together?

I think the story behind it. Everyone has a story of a soup they have when they’re sick that makes them feel nurtured, or a cake that makes them feel like celebrating. Whatever it is, we all have these really strong emotional associations with food. I also think that, for me at least, from a cultural standpoint, food can be such a passport to a different place when you don’t have the luxury or the means to actually go there. It can open doors and trigger your interest in things. I love Vietnamese food, so years later I went to Vietnam to see where these incredible flavours came from. I think that it can be a beautiful connective moment for people, on top of the fact that it can just be so freaking good. You really can’t go wrong with having a good meal with good company.

Do you prefer to cook at home or eat out?

I love to cook, and I also really love to grill. I have a Big Green Egg, which was my big foodie splurge. But at the same time, I like to have my finger on the pulse and know what restaurants people are buzzing about. You won’t see me at a club, but you’ll see me having a nice dinner, and probably a really long one. I was recently in New York and had dinner with two of my friends, both of whom have Michelin stars, which was one of those surreal moments. I’m sitting there with Daniel Humm, who has Eleven Madison Park, and Thomas Sellers, who has Story in London. It was the three of us having dinner and by the time we looked up, we realized that we had been sitting there for six hours. It’s a great way to spend the day, especially with company who appreciates food and where it’s coming from, the story behind it.

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What is your fondest memory of food?

My mom would always cook. I would sit in the kitchen and watch her and learn how to make a really amazing gumbo. But my food memories with her were really travel-oriented. We used to go to Mexico, Hawaii and all sorts of places. I remember going to the Day of the Dead festival in Oaxaca and having the perfect mole before it was cool, before Oaxaca was known as a food destination. I was really able to authentically experience the culture, and my little taste buds would go dancing with excitement because it wasn’t normal food that you would always get.

You’ve been filming in Toronto for five seasons now. What are some of your favourite places to eat in the city?

I love Bestellen for côte de boeuf and Bar Isabel — all the usual suspects. Terroni you’ll often find me at. I’m friends with the owners, and we just love to sit with each other on the rooftop, drink rosé and eat. I love Flock, which just opened. And thank god it did. It reminds me a lot of LA, with this gorgeous rotisserie chicken and healthy salads. Outside of Fresh, you couldn’t really get the food that I liked. And at Fresh, you can’t really get protein, besides vegan protein. It’s a really good place to get organic chicken and salad that’s chef-inspired, which has changed the game for me.

Describe the perfect meal.

It changes. I’ve thought about this quite a bit. If you asked my best friend, she would say all I want to sit around is bucatini with arrabbiata sauce. Whatever it is, let’s be really clear, it would be a carbohydrate. Whatever iteration it would be of that on a day, whether it’s a burger or a pasta, my last best meal is not going to be me sitting there eating kale and a piece of fish, as lovely as that may be. I love my carbs.

 

Creative Direction and Interview: Lance Chung

Photographer: Janick Laurent

Stylist: Talia Brown

Hair: Natalie Ventola for P1M

Make-up: Demi Valentine

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