Meghan Markle’s maternity leave comes to an end as she wears Princess Diana’s earrings at launch of her new Smart Works charity fashion range in London

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

Meghan’s maternity leave ended this afternoon as she arrived in London. Meghan was wearing butterfly earrings that once belonged to Prince Harry’s late mother Princess Diana.

Since the birth of Archie on May 6, she has been caring for her son – 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 a crowd at John Lewis on Oxford Street:

‘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.” 

“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.”

Meghan looked relaxed as she was ushered up to the store’s sixth floor open-air terrace where the clothes and accessories were on display as part of a reception. 

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 wore the blouse created by her friend and designer Misha Nonoo, who is known for her white tailored shirts, and a pair of the trousers by Jigsaw.

When she met Jigsaw’s chief executive Toby Foreman he completed her on the trousers saying ‘they look fantastic’, and the duchess replied ‘thank you, they’re comfortable’. 

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.

Meghan gave an unscripted speech when she first arrived and revealed the tote bag from John Lewis & Partners had already sold out online.

She laughed as she told guests from the retailers involved in the project that she was told the good news in the car before she arrived adding: ‘So that’s great.’

The duchess went on to speak about the ethos behind the project:

“I think it’s really key in this day and age that we remember it’s not just about the people you know you’re supporting, it’s about the people you don’t know – that you may never know, may never meet.”

“As women, it is 100 per cent our responsibility, I think, to support and up-lift each other. 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.”

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. 

“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.

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 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’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 earlier 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 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. They will continue working to provide for many. They’re told to have done more charitable work than anyone. With that being said, they should be respected, not belittle and insulted. Tell me your thoughts below..

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