The Duchess of Sussex stepped out for her first official engagement since giving birth to baby Archie on Thursday morning as she attended the launch of her highly anticipated high street workwear collection in aid of Smart Works.
Meghan Markle, who has only made a select number of public appearances during her maternity leave, gathered a group of handpicked journalists, editors and famous faces including Jennifer Saunders and Lulu Guiness to the special launch at the John Lewis rooftop on London’s Oxford Street.
YOU‘s very own editor-in-chief Jo Elvin and deputy editor Lindsay Frankel were among the VIP audience who got to listen to the Duchess give a heartfelt unscripted speech about her work with the charity, which provides a dressing and coaching service for unemployed women with confirmed job interviews, as well as building their confidence.
Having helped over 15,000 women in the UK, Smart Works is an organisation loved by Meghan, who during her speech not only expressed the importance of their work but also her genuine care for it.
‘Since moving to the UK, it has been deeply important to me to meet with communities and organizations on the ground doing meaningful work and to try to do whatever I can to help them amplify their impact,’ the Duchess said. ‘It was just last September that we launched the ‘Together’ cookbook with the women of the Hubb Kitchen in Grenfell. Today, a year later, I am excited to celebrate the launch of another initiative of women supporting women, and communities working together for the greater good.’
The capsule collection has been designed by Meghan’s friend and designer Misha Nonoo alongside high street retailers Jigsaw, Marks & Spencer and John Lewis and Partners, where the designs will be stocked.
But as her speech suggested, Meghan herself was all hands on deck throughout the creating process. She even told a candid story about how the clothes donated to the charity are often something niche like a ‘lilac blazer’ instead of what these women actually need.
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Introducing the new Smart Works collection, #TheSmartSet Over the last year, The Duchess of Sussex and @SmartWorksCharity have come together to launch a very special initiative. Following numerous visits to the charity, The Duchess, who is patron of Smart Works, noticed an underlying issue…While the donations were plentiful, the right sizes and classic wardrobe staples were not always available. Since then – having partnered with leading British fashion designers @InsideJigsaw, @JohnLewisandPartners, @MarksandSpencer and @MishaNonoo – The Duchess has championed the launch of a new Smart Works capsule collection that will help properly equip these women for their next chapter. • “When you buy any item in the Smart Set Capsule Collection for Smart Works, the same item will be given to a Smart Works client, and with it, the confidence and support she needs to enter the workforce and take an important step in building a career.” – The Duchess of Sussex Created in September 2013 with the goal to help unemployed women regain the confidence that may have been blurred during more difficult times, Smart Works provides invaluable support in these women’s return to employment and towards transforming their lives. Not only do they supply complete outfits for job interviews, Smart Works provides access to one-to-one interview training and the opportunity to join Smart Works Network, meeting every month to further their professional and personal development. #TheSmartSet collection – that features a shirt, trousers, blazer, dress and bag – will be on sale for two weeks starting today. Please support the women of Smart Works by purchasing one of the pieces and being part of another woman’s success story. Video ©️ SussexRoyal / Photo ©️ @JennyZarins
‘I realized there was a little bit of a challenge in terms of styling for the women because we have a lot of donations but not necessarily the things that women needed to have,’ she said. ‘So okay, let’s try to work with what we have and try to make the best of it. And then the next time I went, you’ll remember this, there was a rack of about 40 or 50 lilac colored blazers. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a great blazer, and I’m sure for someone, it’s exactly what she wants to be wearing.
‘But for most women, when you’re going in there and you want to have a job interview, and you want to feel your very best, and you want to feel confident, you want to be wearing the pieces of clothing that make you feel that way and not the leftovers that didn’t sell from the end of the season. And I kept thinking about it as I went home, and it didn’t track for me, and I said, we have to do something to change this.”
Wearing pieces from the collection, the Duchess sincerely thanked the retailers involved and reinforced the core message of the project: for women to work together collectively to empower one another.
‘I think it’s really key in this day and age that we remember it’s not just about the people you know you’re supporting, it’s about the people you don’t know – that you may never know, may never meet,’ she said. ‘As women, it is 100 per cent our responsibility, I think, to support and up-lift each other.’
The entire workwear range is now available to shop at Marks & Spencer, John Lewis & Partners, Misha Nonoo and Jigsaw, though the tote bags from John Lewis have already sold out, and it won’t be long before the rest of the items follow suit. So get shopping!