A speech delivered by The Duchess of Sussex at the launch of the Smart Works capsule collection in London

Published 12 September 2019

As women, it is one hundred percent our responsibility, I think, to support and uplift each other

The Duchess of Sussex

Hi everyone, thank you so much for being here today, very exciting and it looks beautiful and I’m sorry if you were waiting for a bit in the sunshine. So I thought it would probably be helpful for you to understand how we ended up here today and why the collection was so important to conceive based on the visits and what I was seeing when I was on site at Smart Works.

Let’s maybe go back a little bit - 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 that I went to very early on was Smart Works. Now, funnily enough and purely by coincidence it was just a year ago at the same time that I was working on a project in Grenfell with these women at a community centre called Al Manaar and that’s where we put together the Together cookbook. So, though this is a year later, and obviously this is fashion not food, at its core these are very similar projects because they are about women who are empowering each other, me being able to have the opportunity to meet them, get to know them, learn from them. And then, say what can I do, in some small way, how can I try to help you amplify this, how can we make this even better, greater, and more impactful for the women that you’re trying to help?

So on my visits to Smart Works, one of the times that I went I realised there was a little bit of a challenge in terms of styling for the women because we had a lot of donations, but not necessarily the things that women needed to have. So okay, let’s try to work with what we have and make the best of it. And then the next time I went there was a rack of about 40 or 50 lilac coloured 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. And a big piece of this is trying to transform the idea of charity to community and the way that we do that I think as people. It’s when we go into our closet as a woman and you say I’m going to make a donation. You don’t go through your closet and just toss in a box whatever you don’t care about anymore. That’s charity as we know it today. Community is going through your closet and saying, this is the blazer I wore when I nailed my first job interview and got my dream job and I don’t need that anymore because I’m where I want to be. But if I’m able to share that blazer and be part of another woman’s success story then that’s community. And so when I thought about it in that personal space, I said on a bigger level what can we do with brands and what companies would be able to help us convene and come together to really build a collection for the women of Smart Works that can be the pieces that they need to feel confident going into those rooms?

This is sort of how we thought of the Smart Works capsule collection. The first designer that I thought of immediately was a really good friend of mine Misha Nonoo, who has spent a lot of time with her brand ethos developing women’s empowerment but also specifically a capsule wardrobe. So you have key pieces that you can mix-and-match and really maximise what you have. We all know that in your closet, right. You have certain pieces that you can take from four items of clothing and suddenly you have 10 outfits. So that was really important. Separately, I thought if this is going to be classics and essentials, what are traditional and quintessential British brands that I became introduced to once I moved here, that for me resonated and I knew would resonate with a Smart Works customer? And that seems obvious, to do M&S and John Lewis, which I’ve worn quite a bit in the past year or two since I’ve been here. And they thankfully said yes as well, as did Misha. 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’d seen a campaign they had done a year before which was really highlighting the diversity of the UK and the immigrant culture and how that was a part of the fabric of the nation. And when I saw that I was so touched by it and I said anyone 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. So they all said yes and that was a great start. And so thank you so much for that. As we’ve seen this evolve I think what’s been really amazing is to know that these women will now be equipped in a project that will just be a couple of weeks but will give us enough units to be able to have the woman at Smart Works have these key essentials for a year. And that in and of itself, to be able to have one small project to have such big impact, is something that I’m really connected to.

This is the kind of work that I have been doing for a really long time and to be able to do it here in my new home in the UK means quite a bit to me. It’s also the same vein of work that my husband and I will continue doing, really strong community-based projects and this is something that we’ll be excited to be able to share more about next year, when we launch our foundation, Sussex Royal, in 2020. So I think at the end of the day I just want to thank all of you for being able to be here, be a part of the success story for these women. I think it’s really key in this day and age that we remember It’s not just about the people that you know you’re supporting, it’s about the people that you don’t know, that you may never know, you may never meet. As women, it is one hundred percent our responsibility, I think, to support and uplift each other, to champion each other as we aim to succeed, to not set each other up for failure but instead to really be there rallying around each other and say I want to help you. And you may not ever meet that person, but you’ll know when you put on that blazer or that shirt, or you carry that tote, or put on those trousers or that dress, that some other woman on the other side of this country is wearing that piece because you made that purchase. And that’s why the 1:1 model, I found, was so incredibly important and that’s why I’m really touched everyone agreed to do this business model in that way. One quick thing that I found out as we were in the car on the way here was that the tote had already sold out online. So that’s great. So my hope is that for any of the brands, if you do you have that level of success that you are seeing really early on, to hopefully amplify what you’ve been able to already be so generous in doing with your contribution and extend it for just a little bit more so that everyone can play a part in the shared success story. So thank you all so much and I really appreciate it. Thank you.