Matt Frei 10am - 1pm
Duchess of Sussex launches new charity clothing collection 'Smart Set'
12 September 2019, 22:44
The Duchess of Sussex urged women to "champion each other so we aim to succeed" after launching a new charity clothing range at John Lewis.
Meghan's 'Smart Set' collection will raise money for Smart Works, a charity that trains and dresses unemployed women for interviews.
The royal launched the range at John Lewis' flagship Oxford Street store, with the duchess laughing when she found out a leather tote bag had sold out before she had even arrived.
Today's event was Meghan's first official engagement since the birth of her and Prince Harry's son Archie in May and when it concluded she said: "I've got to get back to the baby - it's feeding time.".
For every item of the range that is bought, one item will be donated to Smart Works.
The ethos behind the initiative is to encourage women to "support and uplift each other."
The duchess said: "As women, it is 100% our responsibility 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."
Shoppers will be able to choose from workwear essentials including an elegant blazer and well-cut trousers by Jigsaw, to a tote bag which has already proven to be popular.
Also in the collection is a classic Marks & Spencer dress that is said to be flattering to all sizes and a crisp white shirt from Misha Nonoo, a womenswear designer who is friends with the duchess.
Smart Works clients were chosen to model the new range, having previously joined Meghan in a photo shoot in August.
Andrea Ayivi, 21, who now works for the civil service having formerly being supported by Smart Works, got to meet Meghan at the event.
She said: "It was amazing, it was great seeing the whole team. It's a unity thing, a community at Smart Works."
Meghan picked John Lewis and M&S because they are "traditional and quintessential British brands" that would resonate with Smart Works' clients and Jigsaw because of an advertising campaign they ran celebrating Britain's diversity.
Jennifer Saunders, a patron of Smart Works, praised the clothes, saying: "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.
"It helps not just the women, but it helps their families, it helps society."
The community project reflects the work she and Harry want to be doing in the future, when their Sussex Royal foundation is official launched in 2020.
Amelia Mendoza, a Smart Works trustee, said the duchess had helped dress clients for interviews during private visits to the organisation.
She said: "She was completely hands-on and got stuck in and some of the women didn't know who she was. She had a really good eye and was wonderful to have around."