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Meghan Markle’s maternity leave ends with launch of new fashion range

The Duchess of Sussex today praised ‘quintessential British brands’ on her first official public engagement since the birth of her son Archie as she launched a high street clothing range in aid of charity.

Meghan’s maternity leave ended this afternoon as she arrived in London to show off the collection created by Jigsaw, her designer friend Misha Nonoo and leading high street brands John Lewis and Marks and Spencer.

Meghan was wearing butterfly earrings that once belonged to Prince Harry’s late mother Princess Diana, as well as a shirt and trousers from the new Smart Set collection as she spoke at John Lewis on Oxford Street. 

Since the birth of Archie on May 6, she has been caring for the child – but privately attended a polo match where Harry was playing and watched the women’s tennis finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in New York.

Meghan told an audience today: ‘Hi everyone, thank you so much for being here today. It’s very exciting and it looks beautiful and I’m sorry if you were waiting for a bit in this sunshine, though it’s pretty nice weather. 

The Duchess of Sussex launches the Smart Works capsule collection at John Lewis on London’s Oxford Street today

The Duchess of Sussex today launches the Smart Works capsule collection in London of which she is a patron

The Duchess of Sussex today launches the Smart Works capsule collection in London of which she is a patron

Meghan wore butterfly earrings

The earrings once belonged to Harry's late mother Princess Diana (above, in Canada in 1986)

Meghan wore butterfly earrings (left) that once belonged to Harry’s late mother Princess Diana (right, in Canada in 1986)

Meghan is supporting Smart Works, which aims to help unemployed women regain confidence to succeed at job interviews

Meghan is supporting Smart Works, which aims to help unemployed women regain confidence to succeed at job interviews

‘So I thought that it would probably be helpful for you to understand how we ended up here today and why this collection was so important to conceive based on the visits and what I was seeing when I was on site at Smart Works. And let’s maybe go back a little bit.’

She was then interrupted by emergency service sirens, laughing as she said: ‘Shall I hold for sound?’ Meghan continued: ‘When I first moved to the UK it was incredibly important to me personally to be able to connect with people on the ground doing really important work and one of the places I went to very early on was Smart Works. 

‘Now, funnily enough, and purely by coincidence it was just a year ago at this same time that I was working on a project in Grenfell.’ 

The timeless series of outfits – known as a capsule collection – that can be worn in the workplace have been created in aid of Smart Works, a charity which provides training and interview clothes to unemployed women in need, and has Meghan as its royal patron.

Speaking about the designs, the Duchess added: ‘I thought, this is going to be classics and essentials. What are traditional and quintessential British brands that I’ve become introduced to since I moved here which resonate and I knew resonated with the Smart Works customer? 

‘And for me that seemed obvious to be M&S and John Lewis which I have worn quite a bit in the past year or two since I have been here and they thankfully said yes as well, as did Misha (Nonoo).

‘And the last company that I wanted to have be a part of this project was Jigsaw and truth be told that was because I had seen a campaign that they had done the year before really highlighting the diversity of the UK and the immigrant culture and how that was a part of the fabric of the nation.

‘When I saw that I was so touched by it and I thought anybody who is seeing the world that way and seeing the community that way is someone that I think would be a great partner to have on this project. They all said yes and that was a great start, so thank you so much for that.’ 

Meghan arrives

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrives for the launch

Meghan said unemployed women will be boosted with ‘confidence’ whenever a shopper buys an item from her collection

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrives to launch the Smart Works capsule collection in London this afternoon

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex arrives to launch the Smart Works capsule collection in London this afternoon

The essential work wear includes a shirt, trousers, blazer, dress and bag – and for every item bought during the sale of the collection, expected to last at least two weeks, one will be donated to Smart Works.

Meghan – who has faced criticism in recent weeks for using private jets four times in 11 days despite campaigning on environmental issues with her husband Prince Harry – said unemployed women will be boosted with ‘confidence and support’ whenever a shopper buys an item from her collection.

The clothes include workwear essentials from an elegant blazer and well-cut trousers by Jigsaw, to a tote bag which fits all the essentials needed for an interview from John Lewis & Partners. 

It also features a classic dress, said to be flattering to all sizes from Marks & Spencer, and a crisp white shirt from womenswear designer and the duchess’ friend Misha Nonoo, who described Meghan as ‘the consummate professional’.

Meghan said: ‘Since moving to the UK, it has been deeply important to me to meet with communities and organisations on the ground doing meaningful work and to try to do whatever I can to help them amplify their impact.

‘It was just last September that we launched the Together cookbook with the women of the Hubb Kitchen in Grenfell. Now, one year later, I am excited to celebrate the launch of another initiative of women supporting women, and communities working together for the greater good.

‘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.

‘Thank you to the four brands who came together in supporting Smart Works on this special project – placing purpose over profit and community over competition.

Meghan's maternity leave came to an end this afternoon

The Duchess arrived to proudly show off the collection in London

Meghan’s maternity leave came to an end this afternoon after she arrived to proudly show off the collection in London

The Duchess of Sussex arrives to launch the Smart Works capsule collection at John Lewis on Oxford Street in London today

The Duchess of Sussex arrives to launch the Smart Works capsule collection at John Lewis on Oxford Street in London today

Meghan's bracelet

Meghan's designer friend Misha Nonoo

Meghan was wearing this bracelet at the event (left), which was also attended by her designer friend Misha Nonoo (right)

‘In convening several companies rather than one, we’ve demonstrated how we can work collectively to empower each other – another layer to this communal success story, that I am so proud to be a part of.’

The collection will be on sale for at least two weeks and available in the dressing rooms of Smart Works which Meghan supports as royal patron.

Online, the John Lewis leather Smart Set tote bag is available in tan or black, priced £109, and is described as ‘a lightweight, versatile and practical weekday accessory for the modern woman’.

Both have already sold out online, having been snapped up within hours of being unveiled.

While the Marks & Spencer Smart Set crepe shift dress, which costs £19.50, is available in rich blue, black and pink and in regular and petite sizes.

Meghan has launched the timeless series of outfits - known as a capsule collection - that can be worn in the workplace

Meghan arrives for the collection unveiling today

Meghan has launched the timeless series of outfits – known as a capsule collection – that can be worn in the workplace

The collection will be available in the dressing rooms of Smart Works which Meghan supports as royal patron

The collection will be available in the dressing rooms of Smart Works which Meghan supports as royal patron

The High Street retailer’s website says ‘cut from crepe that handily doesn’t require ironing, the shift shape flatters your figure with its clean and simple lines’.

Kate Stephens, chief executive officer of Smart Works, said: ‘It’s just the most amazing initiative. We need to have these wardrobe staples to give to our clients so they’ve got the right clothes to go for interviews, especially in a range of sizes.

‘It’s a new kind of charitable endeavour, really bringing together brands from across the sector to launch this campaign. It’s incredibly generous of them but also really exciting – it’s almost like a new community of brands and retailers and the customer.’

Juliet Hughes-Hallett, chair and founder of Smart Works, said: ‘Today Smart Works celebrates its sixth year and its 15,000th client – its 15,000th moment of helping a woman back into the workplace. We have dressed and trained every woman as if she was the only one and made each and every client feel exceptional.

‘The Smart Set capsule collection will make a significant difference in our ability to dress our clients in the high-quality clothes and accessories they need, giving her the opportunity to regain her confidence, look fabulous and get the job.’

Meghan announced the project during her guest editorship of British Vogue, and writing in the fashion bible she said: ‘The reason I was drawn to Smart Works is that 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.’

Meghan privately visited Smart Works several times before being named as its royal patron in January

Meghan privately visited Smart Works several times before being named as its royal patron in January

Since the birth of her son Archie on May 6, she has been caring for the child, which is her first with Prince Harry

Meghan arrives for the event today

Since the birth of her son Archie on May 6, she has been caring for the child, which is her first with Prince Harry

Meghan privately visited Smart Works several times before being named as its royal patron in January and has a long-standing commitment to supporting women’s empowerment.

The duchess’ friend Nonoo is credited with introducing Harry to his future wife via a blind date and she had a VIP seat at the royal wedding.

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.

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. 

Meghan has a long-standing commitment to supporting women's empowerment through the projects she is involved with

Meghan smiles as she arrives today

Meghan has a long-standing commitment to supporting women’s empowerment through the projects she is involved with

Meghan announced the project with Smart Works during her guest editorship of British Vogue earlier this year

Meghan arrives for the launch today

Meghan announced the project with Smart Works during her guest editorship of British Vogue earlier this year

Meghan’s visit comes after the Duke of Sussex visited a secondary school which is among hundreds to have signed up to a rugby union initiative.

Passionate fan Prince Harry visited the Rugby Football Union (RFU) All Schools programme at Lealands High School in Luton later today.

The programme was launched to increase the number of secondary state schools playing rugby union, with the aim of introducing 750 additional schools to the game.

It is focused on introducing young people to rugby union and then helping them to move to local rugby clubs.

Harry’s visit to Lealands High School, the 750th school to sign up to RFU All Schools, celebrated the programme reaching this milestone.

The Duke of Sussex visits the Rugby Football Union All Schools Programme at Lealands High School in Luton this morning

The Duke of Sussex visits the Rugby Football Union All Schools Programme at Lealands High School in Luton this morning

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex's last public appearance together was at The Lion King premiere in London on July 14

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s last public appearance together was at The Lion King premiere in London on July 14

The duke met students and coaches from five local schools, as well as volunteers from local rugby clubs in Luton.

He also watched schools taking part in skills sessions and playing mixed touch rugby matches, before meeting programme alumni.

Harry trained as an assistant development officer with the RFU as part of his gap year in 2004, and once qualified he went out to schools and clubs around the country assisting community rugby coaches to teach the game to young people.

The duke, who has travelled the world supporting the national side, was in Sydney in 2003 to watch England triumph over Australia in the Rugby World Cup final. 

First look at Meghan Markle’s charity clothes collection: Pieces including a £19.50 M&S dress and a £109 bag from John Lewis go on sale hours before official launch (and the tote has ALREADY sold out!)

The Duchess of Sussex’s charity clothing range was launched online this morning hours before its official launch – and it’s already selling out.  

Meghan, 38, will formally present the five-piece capsule collection, which benefits the Smart Works charity, at an event this afternoon, marking her return to official engagements following the birth of son Archie in May.

However this morning Marks & Spencer and John Lewis – two of the four retailers taking part in the project – put two of the five pieces from the collection on sale. 

The M&S website has a £19.50 ‘Smart Set’ crepe shift dress available in two colours – blue and black. John Lewis unveiled a £109 tote bag from the ‘Smart Set Capsule Collection’ in tan and black but it has already sold out in both colours.

Both items, thought to have been released on the retailers’ websites this morning, reference the Duchess of Sussex and the Smart Works charity in the product description, alongside a quote from the royal: ‘Not a handout, a hand, held.’ 

The first pieces from the Duchess of Sussex's charity clothing range are available to buy online - hours before the official launch

The first pieces from the Duchess of Sussex’s charity clothing range are available to buy online – hours before the official launch. Among them is this £19.50 shift dress from M&S (pictured)

The M&S Smart Set dress

The M&S Smart Set dress

 The M&S Smart Set dress comes in three different colours: blue, black (pictured) and red

The range has been created in collaboration with M&S, John Lewis, Jigsaw, and Meghan’s designer friend Misha Nonoo. 

For every item bought during the sale of the collection, expected to last at least two weeks, one will be donated to Smart Works, which offers clothing and interview coaching to unemployed women. 

It was already known the collection would include professional pieces like a shirt, trousers, blazer, dress and bag, but the exact designs had been kept a closely guarded secret. Today it was also announced that there are just five pieces in total. 

The dress and tote bag seen online today are the first look and suggest the collection will aim to deliver a ‘classic’ aesthetic that caters to a range of body types, according to celebrity stylist Lucas Armitage.  

The Duchess will make her first public engagement since the birth of son Archie today to launch the limited edition clothing lin

The Duchess will make her first public engagement since the birth of son Archie today to launch the limited edition clothing lin

Both items, thought to have been released on the retailers' websites this morning, reference the Duchess of Sussex by name in the product description. John Lewis (top) and M&S

Both items, thought to have been released on the retailers’ websites this morning, reference the Duchess of Sussex by name in the product description. John Lewis (top) and M&S

Made from ‘subtly grained and soft-to-touch leather’, the bag is described as ‘a lightweight, versatile and practical weekday accessory for the modern woman’.

The ‘generously-sized bag’ has an open-top design with ‘plenty of room to fit whatever you need to get you through the working day’.

Revealed: Stylist’s take on the first designs

Celebrity stylist Lucas Armitage said: ‘Meghan Markle is known for her love of the form fitting and attention grabbing dresses so to see such a departure from her all eyes on me philosophy is a welcome step for me

The shift dress is maybe underwhelming from a fashion point of view but it’s a dress that will look great on most body shapes.

‘The gathers round the neckline add some welcome detail and the loose fitting sleeve is a firm favourite for M&S shoppers.’

He added: ‘A classic leather tote is a bag every woman needs and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s classic styling makes it the perfect all round bag.’ 

It has a large exterior slip pocket and two phone-sized slip pockets, one card slot and a zipped pocket inside, and two shoulder straps and a detachable and adjustable crossbody strap.

Described as ‘a staple in your autumn wardrobe’ and ‘a perfect choice all year round too’, the dress is ‘cut from crepe that handily doesn’t require ironing, the shift shape flatters your figure with its clean and simple lines’. 

Speaking to Femail, celebrity stylist Lucas Armitage said: ‘Meghan Markle is known for her love of the form fitting and attention grabbing dresses so to see such a departure from her all eyes on me philosophy is a welcome step for me. 

‘The shift dress is maybe underwhelming from a fashion point of view but it’s a dress that will look great on most body shapes. 

‘The gathers round the neckline add some welcome detail and the loose fitting sleeve is a firm favourite for M&S shoppers.’

He added: ‘A classic leather tote is a bag every woman needs and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s classic styling makes it the perfect all round bag.’

It was previously noted that the bag was designed so that it could fit a laptop – a must for many busy professional women on-the-go.  

The full collection will be launched by the Duchess of Sussex in person this afternoon.

Meghan privately visited Smart Works several times before being named as its royal patron in January and has a long-standing commitment to supporting women’s empowerment.

She announced the project benefiting the charity in her September issue of British Vogue, which was given the tagline ‘Forces For Change’. 

Meghan Markle says it’s been ‘deeply important’ to work with communities since moving to the UK as she releases unseen photos ahead of her charity clothing collection launch

The Duchess of Sussex told how it has been ‘deeply important’ to work with local communities since moving to the UK as she prepares to launch her charity clothing collection this afternoon. 

In a statement released today, Meghan, 38, championed her own charity work and spoke of how ‘amplifying the impact’ of grass-root level groups has been a focus of her work as a royal.  

Ahead of the launch of her latest project, a limited edition clothing range to benefit the Smart Works charity, the Duchess also shared previously unseen photos from a shoot for the collection last month. 

The black and white images capture Meghan beaming as she hugs and helps to style the women who took part in the shoot. All of them are Smart Works ‘clients’, women who have benefited from the charity’s services. 

The women are dressed in the five pieces from the collection: a £19.50 dress from Marks & Spencer; a £109 John Lewis tote bag; a £120 shirt from Meghan’s designer friend Misha Nonoo; and a £199 jacket and £120 trousers, both from Jigsaw. 

The Duchess will formally unveil the collection this afternoon and all five items will be available to buy both in store and online from today.  

Ahead of the launch of her latest project, a limited edition clothing range to benefit the Smart Works charity, the Duchess of Sussex shared previously unseen photos from a shoot for the collection last month. The images show the royal sharing a light-hearted moment with some of the women chosen to model her collection, pictured

Ahead of the launch of her latest project, a limited edition clothing range to benefit the Smart Works charity, the Duchess of Sussex shared previously unseen photos from a shoot for the collection last month. The images show the royal sharing a light-hearted moment with some of the women chosen to model her collection, pictured

Meghan Markle, 38, was captured embracing one woman on the set of the shoot, which took place last month

Meghan Markle, 38, was captured embracing one woman on the set of the shoot, which took place last month

The Duchess of Sussex shares a light-hearted moment with the women on the set of the campaign, which launches today

The Duchess of Sussex shares a light-hearted moment with the women on the set of the campaign, which launches today

The Duchess of Sussex shared a handful of photos from the shoot on her official Sussex Royal Instagram account, including the one above

The Duchess of Sussex shared a handful of photos from the shoot on her official Sussex Royal Instagram account, including the one above

For every item bought during the sale of the collection, expected to last at least two weeks, one will be donated to Smart Works, which offers clothing and interview coaching to unemployed women. 

In a statement released to accompany the photos, the Duchess told how working with local communities had been a key focus of hers since moving to the UK. 

THE SMART SET COLLECTION IN FULL

Marks & Spencer – The Smart Set Dress; Price: £19.50 

Jigsaw – The Smart Set Suit; Price: Jacket: £199 Trouser £120 

Misha Nonoo – The Smart Set Shirt; Price: £125  

John Lewis & Partners – The Smart Set Tote; Price: £109 

She said: ‘Since moving to the UK, it has been deeply important to me to meet with communities and organisations on the ground doing meaningful work and to try to do whatever I can to help them amplify their impact. 

‘It was just last September that we launched the ‘Together’ cookbook with the women of the Hubb Kitchen in Grenfell. 

‘Now, one year later, I am excited to celebrate the launch of another initiative of women supporting women, and communities working together for the greater good. 

‘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. 

‘Thank you to the four brands who came together in supporting Smart Works on this special project – placing purpose over profit and community over competition. 

Other images capture the models relaxing and joking on the set of the photo shoot, which was held last month

Other images capture the models relaxing and joking on the set of the photo shoot, which was held last month

Models showcase the £109 John Lewis tote bag, left, and the £120 Jigsaw slim fit trousers, right, in a photo from the shoot

Models showcase the £109 John Lewis tote bag, left, and the £120 Jigsaw slim fit trousers, right, in a photo from the shoot

Models in the £125 Misha Nonoo shirt, left, the £120 trousers and £199 Jigsaw jacket, centre, and the £109 tote bag and £19.95 Marks & Spencer dress, right

Models in the £125 Misha Nonoo shirt, left, the £120 trousers and £199 Jigsaw jacket, centre, and the £109 tote bag and £19.95 Marks & Spencer dress, right

‘In convening several companies rather than one, we’ve demonstrated how we can work collectively to empower each other – another layer to this communal success story, that I am so proud to be a part of.’

The Smart Set will be available in stores, online and in Smart Works Dressing Rooms across the UK from Thursday 12 September. 

To ensure the capsule collection is as accessible and inclusive as possible, the pieces will be available at a range of different price points and in a range of different sizes and colours.

Meghan privately visited Smart Works several times before being named as its royal patron in January and has a long-standing commitment to supporting women’s empowerment.

She announced the project benefiting the charity in her September issue of British Vogue, which was given the tagline ‘Forces For Change’.   

The £199 Jigsaw jacket is worn over the £19.50 dress from M&S, showing how the pieces can be styled together

The £199 Jigsaw jacket is worn over the £19.50 dress from M&S, showing how the pieces can be styled together

The model adds the £109 leather tote bag from John Lewis to the look, showing how the range is designed to mix and match

The model adds the £109 leather tote bag from John Lewis to the look, showing how the range is designed to mix and match

A model showcases the tailored jacket (£199) and trousers (£120) from Jigsaw

She wears the suit with a Misha Nonoo shirt

A model showcases the tailored jacket (£199) and trousers (£120) from Jigsaw, which she wears with the Misha Nonoo shirt 

A model looks stunning in the £19.50 dress from M&S, pictured, which is designed to flatter any body shape

A model looks stunning in the £19.50 dress from M&S, pictured, which is designed to flatter any body shape

Writing in the fashion bible she said: ‘The reason I was drawn to Smart Works is that 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 their two London offices, and additional bases in Edinburgh, Manchester, Reading, Birmingham and Newcastle.

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.

The versatile M&S dress, pictured, is shown styled both with and without a belt

The wear-anywhere piece costs just £19.50

The versatile M&S dress, pictured, is shown styled both with (right) and without a belt (left). It costs just £19.50

A model wears two pieces from the collection - the dress and jacket - which is being released to benefit Smart Works charity

A model wears two pieces from the collection – the dress and jacket – which is being released to benefit Smart Works charity

The Smart Set suit from Jigsaw

The suit is the perfect pairing for the £120 crisp white shirt from Misha Nonoo

The Smart Set suit from Jigsaw (left and right) is the perfect pairing for the £120 crisp white shirt from Misha Nonoo

The collection (including the jacket and shirt pictured) is available to buy from today and will be on sale for at least two weeks

The collection (including the jacket and shirt pictured) is available to buy from today and will be on sale for at least two weeks

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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