Meghan Markle’s American Riviera Orchard has lots of flash and fanfare — but, so far, not much else

Meghan Markle’s new lifestyle brand, American Riviera Orchard, has lots of flash and fanfare — but, so far, not much else.

The Duchess of Sussex’s latest project was announced online earlier this month with a video featuring the mom-of-two in a kitchen straight out of a Nancy Meyers movie.

In moments that are peak Markle, the 42-year-old was also seen picking flowers and posing in a black ball gown.

But there still remain vital questions surrounding the brand: Just who is investing in it, who is working on it — and who is manufacturing the goods, which will range from jams and jellies to candles, skincare and pet food?

Meghan Markle holds flowers while she shops.

Markle has been spotted at the farmers market in Montecito, California. Regional purveyors say if she’s going to use the area’s nickname, American Riviera, she should source local products. JISHPhoto

Meghan Markle at a farmers market boot

If Markle wants to sell anything at her local farmers market, she’ll need to get her hands dirty. “California is strict about us putting on our sign that we grow what we sell,” said Maureen Claffey, who co-owns Red Hen Cannery in Carpinteria, California. JISHPhoto

Well-placed sources at other lifestyle brands told Page Six that American Riviera Orchard is all the gossip on industry What’sApp groups around Los Angeles.

Tellingly, however, they have not yet heard anything about Markle hiring buyers or a sourcing team.

One insider who knows the Sussexes told Page Six that it’s looking like a typical Markle project: plenty of glamour, little substance. “They [Harry and Meghan] consistently make announcements and roll things out really early … to what point?” the insider said.

Sources close to Markle point out that no timeframe for an actual product launch has been given yet.

Meghan Markle wears a black ballgown.

Markle debuted her brand in a voluminous black ballgown. Instagram/@americanrivieraorchard

Meghan Markle cooks in a kitchen.

Markle announced the launch of her American Riviera Orchard brand via a gauzy video. Instagram/@americanrivieraorchard

However, Page Six can confirm that the finance types Markle and Prince Harry have been seen networking with — including Wall Street billionaire Ken Griffin and cosmetics mogul Victoria Jackson and her husband, marketing multi-millionaire guru Bill Guthy, both close pals of the Sussexes —are not investing.

Neither is Ari Emanuel, head of WME, the talent mega agency which signed up Markle nearly a year ago.

Markle is believed to have worked on the project with Hollywood money man Adam Lilling. 

Meghan Markle wears gloves while cooking.

Markle is said to be a keen cook and showed off her skills at a community kitchen in the UK after launching a cookbook to raise funds for victims of the tragic Grenfell fire in London, in 2018. Shutterstock

As Page Six previously revealed, the Sussexes are thought to have been introduced to Lilling, who heads up the private equity fund Plus Capital, by their close friend and Montecito, California, neighbor Ellen DeGeneres, who has worked with him for years.

The trio were seen mingling at DeGeneres’ surprise vow renewal to wife Portia de Rossi last year. Lilling was unavailable for comment.

The project will tie in with Markle’s new Netflix show, which she is said to be filming now, in a bid to follow in the footsteps of Martha Stewart and Joanna Gaines.

American Riviera Orchard logo

American Riviera Orchard is named after the swanky slice of California where Markle and Prince Harry live. American Riviera Orchard

When she was interviewed for The Cut in 2022, Markle gifted the writer a basket of homegrown fruits and vegetables, as well as a jar of jam with a customized label from Etsy.

It read Lili Bunny Garden + Larder, after her daughter Princess Lilibet — could that be a clue about her pantry products?

Whatever the case, she’s already raising her neighbors’ hackles.

Gwyneth Paltrow holds her book, 'Notes From My Kitchen Table' .

Markle wants to follow in Gwyneth Paltrow’s footsteps — but sources point out that Goop was launched organically 16 years ago. Jonathan Hordle/Shutterstock

Kerry Clasby, an organic farmer who runs the Malibu Fig Ranch and supplies to top chiefs including Tom Collichio and Jean George Vongirechten, said that Markle also needs to be diligent about using the name America Riviera — a nickname for the posh Santa Barbara region, which includes Montecito.

“If you’re calling it American Riviera, you really ought to be [sourcing ingredients] grown in Santa Barbara,” Clasby told Page Six. “Otherwise, you’re going into the wholesale dump in downtown LA, where all the produce comes up from Mexico or Chile. 

“The kitchen should be there also [in the Santa Barbara area], unless they are just putting their name on it and getting it made wherever, or getting it pre-made. And then it’s hype.”

Martha Stewart cooks in a kitchen.

Markle is said to want to emulate Martha Stewart on her new Netflix show. Getty Images

Joanna Gaines in the kitchen with baked goods.

Another inspiration for Markle: Home and garden guru Joanna Gaines. Jessica Attie

Although Markle has been spotted at the Montecito farmers market, Sam Edelman, general manager at The Santa Barbara Certified Farmers Market Association, told us that, to his knowledge, the duchess is not working with any of the farmers in the group.

If Markle wants to sell anything at her local farmers market, though, she’ll need to get her hands dirty.

“California is strict about us putting on our sign that we grow what we sell,” said Maureen Claffey, who owns Red Hen Cannery in Carpinteria, California, with her husband. “In order to sell strawberry jam at the farmer’s market, you have to have grown the strawberries.”

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry raise their hands to clap.

Markle and Harry have been paving their way in the US since leaving the royal family in March 2020. Christopher Neundorf/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Claffrey is a fan of Markle’s after meeting her: “My daughter had set up a little cotton-candy stand and [Markle and Prince Harry] bought cotton candy from her. Having met them and seen how they reacted to my daughter and how positive they were on a windy day, that speaks volumes. How people treat children with no one around says a lot.”

One source who knows Markle well told Page Six that it had long been the former actress’ dream to follow up on The Tig, the lifestyle site she ran while starring in the TV drama “Suits.” It included travel tips, recipes and fashion insight.

Markle shut it down in 2017 after meeting Harry and before marrying into the royal family.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry pose with Allison

The Sussexes ate at Texas BBQ restaurant la Barbecue earlier this month and posed with owner Allison “Ali” Clem. Courtesy of la Barbecue/Mega

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry at a high counter

The couple were in Texas after Markle participated on an International Women’s Day panel at the SXSW Conference. Courtesy of la Barbecue/Mega

“She’s always been a big fan of Goop, and wanted to create an extension of The Tig,” the source said of Markle and American Riviera Orchard.

A senior figure in the lifestyle industry pointed out that Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow organically grew her business — now valued at around a billion dollars — from her kitchen table 16 years ago.

Patlrow has talked about how she used to go to appointments with suppliers herself.

“Everyone is speculating about American Riviera Orchard,” said the lifestyle figure. “But someone like Gwyneth started out by sending out a newsletter once a week and it was very personal, kind of like Substack now. But it was a very novel idea at the time, but she didn’t monetize the business for about seven years. The goal was creating a community and something of value, rather than it being a business. 

Meghan Markle carrying her children Lilibet and Arhie across a lawn

When she was interviewed for The Cut in 2022, Markle gifted the writer a jar of jam with a customized label reading Lili Bunny Garden + Larder — named after her daughter Princess Lilibet (left, with Markle and brother Archie). Netflix

“She didn’t take any outside funding until 2015.”

It was only then that Paltrow turned her passion for things like clean cosmetics into a brand, and worked on creating her own beauty products with specialists.

Goop has now worked with leaders in the beauty and fashion industries, including former staffers from LVMH and investors from top firms such as NEA.

“With Goop, everything that happened all came from a very gradual, authentic place … Gwyneth did not set out to create what it is today,” said the lifestyle figure.

Meghan Markle walking and waving

Markle has long wanted to launch a follow-up to her old lifestyle blog, The Tig. Getty Images

It was Mandana Dayani — president of the Sussexes’ company Archewell from May 2021 to December 2022 — who first came to Markle with a list of business proposals, we’re told.

Another source who knows the Sussexes said: “Mandana was supposed to figure out a business that makes money, but she left … but I know she pitched Meghan on a bunch of ideas.”

Dayani declined to comment.

Markle has also discussed ideas with Sarah Harden, CEO of Reese Witherspoon’s production company Hello Sunshine, sources said.

Adam Lilling poses for the camera.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been working with Hollywood moneyman Adam Lilling. ALilling/Twitter

As Puck reported, Markle took inspiration for her new brand from Flamingo Estate, a celebrity favorite that sells candles, skincare and pantry goods — including $250 honey hawked by stars including Julianne Moore (with proceeds going to charity).

The Duchess of Sussex was, at one point, in talks with founder Flamingo Estate Richard Christiansen to join forces.

“I know that Meghan had a lot of meetings with Richard, and it didn’t work out,” said the lifestyle figure.

Christiansen was unavailable for comment.

But another insider who knows Markle isn’t so sure the Flamingo Estate crowd is interested.

Meghan Markle arranges flowers.

Markle’s hands are seen arranging flowers in the launch video for American Riviera Orchard. Instagram/@americanrivieraorchard

“She thinks her audience is high-end wealthy and wear Cartier and Tiffany — because she does,” the insider said. “But I think they are J Crew. She is really in the mid-tier market.”

A trademark application for American Riviera Orchard was filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on February 2, by the company Mama Knows Best, LLC. Two further applications have since been filed, registering the name for flatware, cookbooks, household linens, pantry items including jams and spreads, gift wrap stationery, candles, yoga mats and pet food.

Markle could, of course, use her AmericanRiviera.com site to sell her favorite products from other brands, as well as her own merchandise.

But whatever she’s doing, experts said, she better hurry if she wants to cash in this year.

“Surely Meghan would have products ready to go soon, or they would not have announced it,” one merchandising source told us. “She will want a holiday range and she’s almost getting too late for that.”

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