UK Smart Works Helps Women Re-enter Workforce With 'Pay It Forward' Writes Meghan Markle

The Duchess of Sussex helps Patsy Wardally at Smart Works on January 10, 2019.

The Duchess of Sussex helps Patsy Wardally at Smart Works on January 10, 2019.

In 2019 Meghan Markle visited one of her patronages Smart Works, the London-based organization devoted to helping long-term unemployed and vulnerable women re-enter the workforce. The project includes help for the women in dressing for their best job interviews.

Smart Works is back in the news, short-listed for the “Charity Of The Year” honor by the U.K.’s Third Sector Awards. Kate Stephens, the CEO of Smart Works, made the announcement as the Meghan-edited, September 2019 issue of British Vogue hit the streets of London on Friday.

The Duchess of Sussex added to the Smart Works spotlight with British Vogue news that Markle will be collaborating on a capsule clothing collection that will benefit Smart Works.

Combining her passion for fashion and philanthropy, Meghan Markle has created a capsule workwear collection in aid of charity Smart Works.

Combining her passion for fashion and philanthropy, Meghan Markle has created a capsule workwear collection in aid of charity Smart Works.

Baby Archie’s mom detailed that the project will be launched with Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, Jigsaw and her good friend Misha Nonoo as a 'one-for-one' system: “For each item purchased by a customer, one is donated to charity,” the 37 year-old wrote in the magazine. Nonoo is a close friend of the Duchess of Sussex and currently has a popup-shop open in London.

In her British Vogue article, Meghan explains that Smart Works is about far more than a woman going through her closet and donating unneeded clothes. “It’s about looking at that special item you’re holding on to – the memory of that suit or dress that helped you achieve your dream job – and wanting to pay it forward. Not a hand-me-down, but rather a hand being held.”

Those donated clothes make it to a Smart Works centre, where clients receive an interview outfit as a result of a session with a stylist. Next, volunteer coaches ready women for their upcoming interview. Once they score their dream job, they come back for a second outfit, to see them through until their first pay cheque. It’s the enthusiasm of the volunteers, the earnestness of the staff and, most of all, the blushing, bashful and beautiful smile that crosses a client’s face when she sees herself in the mirror, that I have found so profoundly compelling. Because in that moment, she feels special and emboldened.

Markle acknowledges that it can be difficult for the client women to sort through all the Smart Works clothes and pull together their best looks, even though every woman has an assist from the Smart Works representative. The Duchess’ vision of a Smart Works capsule collection of more classic options for a workwear wardrobe germinated from this challenge.

"Searching for a great purse for a client": The Duchess of Sussex on a private visit to Smart Works. Credit: @SUSSEXROYAL

"Searching for a great purse for a client": The Duchess of Sussex on a private visit to Smart Works. Credit: @SUSSEXROYAL