Meghan to launch clothing range to aid charity helping women to find employment

The Duchess of Sussex has announced she is to launch a clothing range aimed at supporting a charity empowering women to find employment.

Meghan has teamed up with leading high street retailers and designer Misha Nonoo, asking them to create a timeless series of outfits – known as a capsule collection – that can be worn in the workplace.

The project in aid of Smart Works, which provides training and interview clothes to unemployed women in need, will see an item donated to the charity – which Meghan supports as royal patron – for each one bought.

The Duchess of Sussex during a visit to Smart Works in London
The Duchess of Sussex during a visit to Smart Works in London (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

Writing in the September issue of British Vogue, which she has guest edited, Meghan said: “When you walk into a Smart Works space you’re met with racks of clothing and an array of bags and shoes. Sometimes, however, it can be a potpourri of mismatched sizes and colours, not always the right stylistic choices or range of sizes.

“To help with this, I asked Marks & Spencer, John Lewis & Partners, Jigsaw and my friend, the designer Misha Nonoo, if they were willing to design a capsule collection of more classic options for a workwear wardrobe.

“Taking the idea further, many of the brands agreed to use the one-for-one model: for each item purchased by a customer, one is donated to the charity. Not only does this allow us to be part of each other’s story, it reminds us we are in it together.”

The duchess privately visited Smart Works several times before being named as its royal patron in January and has worked with some of the women who have benefited from the charity’s support.

The Duchess of Sussex picks out clothes with Patsy Wardally during a visit to Smart Works in London
Meghan picks out clothes with Patsy Wardally during a visit to Smart Works (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

Meghan has had a long-standing commitment to supporting women’s empowerment, previously travelling to India and Rwanda to work on projects helping those in challenging situations to develop their full potential.

While at university, she was involved with a project to provide prom dresses to young women in underprivileged areas.

In the article titled The Smart Set, the duchess writes: “The reason I was drawn to Smart Works is that it reframes 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.”

She goes on to say the charity is often wrongly seen as a “makeover” organisation where a woman is transformed into something better through the donated clothes.

The duchess said: “This is not a fairytale. If it’s a cultural reference you’re after, forget Cinderella – this is a story of Wonder Woman, ready to take on the world in her metaphorical and literal cape.”

Meghan has turned to her friend Nonoo, who is credited with introducing the Duke of Sussex to his future wife via a blind date.

She had a VIP seat at the royal wedding and used to be married to Harry’s friend Alexander Gilkes.

Smart Works has helped more than 11,000 women and aims to dress 3,500 this year across their two London offices, and additional bases in Edinburgh, Manchester, Reading, Birmingham and Newcastle.

Women are referred to Smart Works from organisations such as job centres, work programmes, prisons, care homes, homeless shelters and mental health charities.

It has a team of 300 trained volunteers and helps long-term unemployed and vulnerable women regain the skills, confidence and tools to succeed at job interviews, return to employment and transform their lives.

It was named as the Social Action Charity of the Year 2017 at the National Charity Awards.

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