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Meghan Markle Gave a Powerful Speech on What It Means to Actually Support Women

13/09/2019

Meghan Markle launched her Smart Works capsule collection and kicked off her work post maternity leave with an eloquent, personal speech about her efforts on the line. Markle spoke about what it means support other women by transforming charity into community. That means “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,” Meghan said. “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.'”

Here, Meghan’s full speech:

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 substitute weather. So I thought it would 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…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, funny enough and purely by coincidence, it was just a year ago at the same time that I was working on a project in Grenfell, because women at a community center called Al-Manaar and that’s when 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 empowering each other, me being able to have that 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 amplify this? How can we make this even better, greater, and more impactful for the women you’re trying to help?

So on my visits to Smart Works, one of the times that I went, I realized there was a little bit of a challenge in terms of styling for the women because we have 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 try to make the best of it. And then the next time I went, you’ll remember this, there was a rack of about 40 or 50 lilac colored 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, is people is 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 could be the pieces that they need to feel confidence 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’s ethos development helping women’s empowerment but also specifically capsule wardrobes. We have key pieces and we can mix and match and really maximize 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’ve become introduced to once I moved here that for me resonated, and I knew would resonate with a Smart Works customer and that seemed 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].

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 weeks but will give us enough units to be able to have the women at Smart Works have these key essentials for a year. And that in and of itself, to be able to have one small project that has such big impact is something I’m really connected to.

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 UK means quite a bit to me. It’s also the same vein of work that my husband and I will continue to doing: really strong, community-based projects. And this is something 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 this success story for these women. I think it’s really key in this day and age that we remember that it’s not just about the people that you know that 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 100 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 you 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 one-for-one model, I found, was so incredibly important and that’s why I’m really touched that 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 over here was that the tote’s already sold out online. [laughs] So that’s great. And my hope is for any of the brands, if you have that level of success you’re 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 this shared success story. So thank you all so much, I really appreciate it.

 

From ELLE US

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