The outing marks the Duchess of Sussex's first official work engagement since she and Prince Harry welcomed their son in May

By Erin Hill
September 12, 2019 09:23 AM
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Meghan Markle stepped out for her first official post-maternity leave outing on Thursday when she launched the Smart Works capsule collection in London. The line will benefit her patronage Smart Works, a charity that helps women find employment with coaching tips and professional attire for their job interviews.

The royal arrived wearing two of the items from the collection — designer Misha Nonoo’s white button-down shirt and slim-fit tapered black trousers from Jigsaw. Meghan has purchased all five items of the collection herself and is expected to wear some of them on her upcoming royal tour in Africa with Prince Harry and their son Archie.

The Duchess of Sussex, 38, gave a short speech before watching a panel discussion with Smart Works representatives, two of its clients and a Smart Works Patron. She will then meet with Smart Works and brand representatives who will talk to Meghan more about the organization’s journey every client undergoes — from the wardrobe to the interview room.

Meghan Markle
Chris Jackson/Getty

“When I first moved to the U.K. it was incredibly important to me personally to be able to connect with people on the ground who were doing really important work. One of the places that I went to really early on was Smart Works,” Meghan said at the event.

“To be able to have one small project that has such big impact is something I’m really connected to,” she added. “This is the kind of work that I’ve been doing for a really long time and to be able to do it here in my new home of the U.K. 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 we’ll be excited to share more about next year when we launch our foundation, Sussex Royal, in 2020.”

Meghan Markle
Shutterstock

For every item bought during the two-week online and in-store sale of the collection, which will last for at least two weeks, one will be donated to Smart Works — allowing customers to help empower and support other women and play a part in their success story.

Meghan Markle
Tim Rooke/Shutterstock

“Since moving to the U.K., it has been deeply important to me to meet with communities and organizations on the ground doing meaningful work and to try to do whatever I can to help them amplify their impact,” the Duchess of Sussex said in a statement released by Buckingham Palace on Thursday. “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.”

Meghan Markle
Chris Jackson/Getty
Meghan Markle
Chris Jackson/Getty

The collection includes key essentials women need as they attend interviews and enter into the workplace — including an elegant blazer and well-cut trousers from Jigsaw, a tote bag which fits all the essentials needed for an interview from John Lewis & Partners, a classic dress (for just $32!), flattering to all sizes from Marks & Spencer, and the perfect crisp white shirt for $125 from the womenswear designer who pioneered ‘the capsule wardrobe’, Misha Nonoo.

The outing marks Meghan’s first official work engagement since she and Prince Harry welcomed their son, Archie Harrison, on May 6, making her return to royal duties just over four months after Archie’s birth.

In the September issue of British Vogue, which she guest edited, Meghan revealed her partnership with designer friend Misha Nonoo and others to create the capsule collection of women’s workwear.

RELATED: Meghan Markle Makes Sweet Nod to Husband Prince Harry with Her Stylish U.S. Open Look

“When you walk into a Smart Works space you’re met with racks of clothing and an array of bags and shoes,” Meghan wrote. “Sometimes, however, it can be a potpourri of mismatched sizes and colors, not always the right stylistic choices or range of sizes.”

“To help with this, I asked Marks & Spencer, John Lewis & Partners, Jigsaw and my friends, the designer Mischa Nonoo, if they were willing to design a capsule collection of more classic options for a workwear wardrobe,” she added. “Taking the idea further, many of the brands agreed to use the one-for-one model: for each item purchased by a customer, one is donated to the charity. Not only does this allow us to be part of each other’s story, it reminds us we are in it together.”

“Creating this capsule collection alongside The Duchess of Sussex, Smart Works, John Lewis & Partners, M&S and Jigsaw, has been an incredible experience,” Nonoo said in a statement to PEOPLE. ” Empowering women has always been my goal as a designer and I was thrilled our brand could support so many women’s professional pursuits in this special partnership.”

Nonoo and Meghan have been friends for years, and often posted photos of each other on Instagram before the Duchess of Sussex deleted her personal account soon after her engagement to Prince Harry. The designer was a guest at Meghan and Harry’s royal wedding, as well as Meghan’s New York City baby shower earlier this year.

Meghan Markle
Jenny Zarins

The royal mom shared the first glimpse of her project in a candid Instagram Story last month. In the video, which is set to the Bill Withers’ 1977 hit, “Lovely Day,” the Meghan surprises a group of women as they arrive to the collection’s photo shoot.

RELATED: Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Announce New Details of Upcoming Africa Tour with Archie

Smart Works Capsule Collection
Jenny Zarins
Smart Works Capsule Collection
Jenny Zarins

At Smart Works, clients receive one-on-one interview preparation and an outfit to help them secure employment, according to their website. Once the client lands a job, they receive five additional pieces of clothing to help see them through to their first paycheck.

“The reason why I was drawn to Smart Works is that it reframed the idea of charity as community…..it’s a network of women supporting and empowering other women in their professional pursuits,” wrote Meghan.

During a January visit to her royal patronage, Meghan played a hands-on role in helping Patsy Wardally find an interview-ready outfit. Meghan helped style Wardally for the important interview as she was being fitted in a patterned pink dress with a belted waist.

Meghan Markle
Clodagh Kilcoyne - WPA Pool/Getty Images
Meghan Markle
Clodagh Kilcoyne - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Meghan also sat down with some of the women to discuss why she was drawn to their organization.

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“It’s a community that I’m so drawn to about it here. It’s not just donating your clothes and seeing where they land, but really being part of each other’s success stories as women. If that’s in the tools that you give or the interview prep that’s happening, every piece of it.”

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