Previously the Duchess of Cambridge worked at Jigsaw, the retailer that is now selling Meghan Markle’s clothing collection.
The Duchess of Sussex has a clothes collection that she herself helped create, which shares a surprising connection to her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton.
On Thursday we saw the Duchess step out in London for her first official post-maternity outing to celebrate the launch of her capsule collection. The collection is directly connected to Smart Works, a charity that she supports which helps women find employment with coaching tips and professional attire for job interviews, with all benefits from the line going to it.
The collection includes multiple business inspired items that are sold at retailers such as John Lewis & Partners, Marks & Spencer and Jigsaw. The Duchess of Cambridge worked in the last one during the time she and Prince William were only dating. Kate had the role of accessories buyer for the clothing brand back in 2006. She got the job after she personally contacted and spoke with Belle Robinson, the brand’s founder and family friends. For the first couple of days, the Duchess spent some time in the brands London office, where she acted just like any other employee.
“She sat in the kitchen at lunchtime and chatted with everyone from the van drivers to the account girls. She wasn’t precious,” Robinson told the Evening Standard in 2008.
“I have to say I was so impressed by her. There were days when there were TV crews at the end of the drive. We’d say: ‘Listen, do you want to go out the back way?’ And she’d say: ‘To be honest, they’re going to hound us until they’ve got the picture. So why don’t I just go, get the picture done, and then they’ll leave us alone,’” Robinson said.
This gig didn’t last long for the Duchess, as she quit the same year, saying that she needed “some time to herself”. Her next job was working at her family’s company, Party Pieces.
In the 2013 book, Kate: A Biography, by Marcia Moody, she tells us about how the royal mom was involved in some of Jigsaw’s design aspects.
“Kate co-designed a charm necklace while she was there — a fine silver chain hung with a silver bean, rose quartz crystal and pink freshwater pearl,” she wrote. “The necklaces sold for $70 each and were created with jewellery designer Claudia Bradby.”
Meghan, as patron of the Smart Works charity, explained during her launch event on Thursday that for every item bought during the two-week online and in-store sale of her capsule collection, one will be donated to Smart Works-giving customers the chance to help empower and support other women and play a part in their success story.
“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.”
“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 in 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.”
The collection has all kinds of outfits, made with the exact idea of leaving a good impression during interviews and at the workplace. Some items in the collection are 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 Duchess got in on the action as well, wearing two items from her collection herself to the launch event-designer Misha Nonoo’s white button-down shirt and slim-fit tapered black trousers from Jigsaw. She finished her look with a thin brown belt, matching pumps and jewellery from her late mother-in-law Princess Diana. The jewellery items from Diana she chooses were stunning butterfly earrings and a gold cuff bracelet featuring diamonds and blue stones, both previously seen being worn by the late Princess.
Meghan kicked off the sale by buying five pieces of clothing herself, which we will no doubt get to see when she goes on a royal tour to Africa with Prince Harry and her son Archie very soon.
“When you walk into a Smart Works space you’re met with racks of clothing and an array of bags and shoes,” Meghan wrote in the September issue of British Vogue where she first revealed her partnership with designer friend Misha Nonoo and others to create the women’s workwear capsule collection. “Sometimes, however, it can be a potpourri of mismatched sizes and colours, 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, but it also reminds us we are in it together.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, Nonoo said, “Creating this capsule collection alongside The Duchess of Sussex, Smart Works, John Lewis & Partners, M&S and Jigsaw, has been an incredible experience. 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.”