Meghan helps unemployed women dress for success
The Duchess of Sussex has launched a new clothing range aimed at helping unemployed women find a job.
Meghan has teamed up with charity Smart Works, which provides interview clothes and training to women who are out of work.
For every item bought in several high street stores or online, another will be donated to the charity. Meghan became its royal patron in January.
The collection’s unveiling was the duchess’ first official engagement since the birth of son Archie in May. She wore the blouse from the collection and trousers by Jigsaw to the event, as well as a pair of butterfly earrings which had belonged to Diana, Princess of Wales.
As she left the event she said: “I’ve got to get back to the baby – it’s feeding time.”
Items donated to Smart Works will help give women the “confidence and support (they need) to enter the workforce and take an important step in building a career”, she said.
The duchess also thanked the four brands involved for “placing purpose over profit and community over competition” while taking part in “this special project”.
Speaking at the launch in John Lewis, Oxford Street, Meghan said: “As women, it is 100% our responsibility, I think, to support and up-lift each other.
“To champion each other so we aim to succeed, to not set each other up for failure, but instead to really be there rallying round each other and say ‘I want to help you’.
“And you may not ever meet that person, but you know when you put on that blazer or that shirt, or you carry that tote or put on those trousers and that dress, that some other woman on the other side of this country is wearing that piece because you made that purchase.”
Called The Smart Set, the “capsule collection” of seven items comprises “workwear essentials”, with sizes ranging from 6-24.
There is a “perfect white shirt, an elegant blazer, well cut trousers, a dress that flatters everyone and the perfect tote”.
Two crepe shift dresses come in “vibrant blue and classic black” and retail for £19.50.
Slim-fit, black tapered trousers are £120, the shirt is £125 and the fully lined blazer, which fastens with a single button, is £199.
A pair of bags in tan and black are both £109.
Meghan was told the tote bag had already sold out, and told people at the launch “that’s great”.
The range has been developed by Jigsaw, John Lewis and Partners, Marks and Spencer and Meghan’s friend and designer Misha Nonoo, who is credited with introducing her to Prince Harry.
M&S is selling the dresses, while Jigsaw has the blazer and trousers.
The shirt is available from Misha Nonoo and the bags are at John Lewis.
The collection will be available for at least the next two weeks.
Smart Works client Kate said wearing the collection “made me feel like a boss – powerful and strong”.
When Meghan announced the project earlier in the year, she said she was drawn to Smart Works because it “re-frames the idea of charity as community, which, for me, is incredibly important: it’s a network of women supporting and empowering other women in their professional pursuits”.
Smart Works has helped more than 11,000 women and aims to dress 3,500 this year across its two London offices and additional spaces in Edinburgh, Manchester, Reading, Birmingham and Newcastle.
Meghan is also looking forward to future projects with Harry as part of their new foundation, saying: “This is the kind of work I’ve been doing for a really long time and to be able to do it here in my new home of the UK means quite a bit to me.
“It’s also the same vein of work my husband and I will continue doing – really strong community-based projects, and this is something we will be excited to share more about next year when we launch our foundation Sussex Royal in 2020.”
Ms Nonoo said: “For me, this was important that I get involved with, no matter what, because of what we’re doing to support the clients. And when you hear the clients speak about how much this benefits their lives and how it gives them confidence – what else are we doing this for?”
Comedienne Jennifer Saunders, a patron of Smart Works, also praised the line and said: “Give people what they need to get back into the workplace. Give them the confidence and the clothes and the coaching.
“There should be Smart Works centres everywhere otherwise people fall back into the benefits system or back into prison or whatever.
“But it helps not just the women, but it helps their families, it helps society.”
Amelia Mendoza, a Smart Works trustee who also volunteers for the charity, said the duchess had been very hands-on during her private visits, adding “some of the women didn’t know who she was”.