Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle wears dress by Calgary’s Nonie to Mandela exhibition

Marriage of Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Begins
Marriage of Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Begins

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

The former Toronto resident was photographed Tuesday in London wearing a sleeveless trench dress by the Calgary brand Nonie.

The new royal wore the tailored garment _ in a dusty rose hue dubbed “blush” on the company’s website _ while attending the official opening of the Nelson Mandela Centenary Exhibition alongside her husband, Prince Harry.

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

Fashion designer Nina Kharey said her public relations team alerted her in the wee hours of 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.”

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 her spring/summer 2018 collection and retails for $1,085.00. It’s also available in black.

Meghan has long been a champion of Canadian fashion brands, dating back to her time living in Toronto while she filmed her seven-season run on the legal drama.

Her Canuck favourites include the luxury outerwear brand Sentaler, Aritzia, Smythe, Line the Label, 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 towards 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.

“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.

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.”

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,” Kharey said of Nonie, also a nickname from her father that is widely used by friends and family.

“I can feel that this is something that (my brother) would have said: ‘You’ve got to just do it.”’

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.

Now she has a boutique in Calgary and is in talks with bigger department stores to expand her retail reach after focusing on online sales through www.houseofnonie.com.

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 Cassandra Szklarski in Toronto