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Inside Meghan Markle’s ‘Surprise’ for the Women Modeling Her Capsule Collection

A young woman who received an employment boost after being helped by one of Meghan Markle’s key charities is sharing how the duchess surprised her at a special photo shoot.

Kate-Lily de Grast-Johnson, who lives and works in London, landed job after being helped through the interview and job-seeking process by the Smart Works  charity.

And then came a “shock”: She was asked to be one of the models for the new clothing collection launched Thursday by royal mom Meghan, 37.

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Last month, The Duchess of Sussex surprised Smart Works clients during the capsule collection shoot in west London…Today, The Duchess, alongside @SmartWorksCharity – in partnership with @InsideJigsaw, @JohnLewisandPartners, @MarksandSpencer and @MishaNonoo – are incredibly proud to reveal to everyone, #TheSmartSet – a five piece capsule collection that will equip the Smart Works clients with the classic wardrobe pieces to help them feel confident as they mobilise back into the work space. • “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. Today, a year later, I am excited to celebrate the launch of another initiative of women supporting women, and communities working together for the greater good. 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 Duchess of Sussex The collection – which features a shirt, trousers, blazer, dress and tote bag – will be on sale for two weeks starting today, with the objective of selling enough units to give Smart Works the essentials they need to help dress clients for the coming year! For every item bought during the sale of the collection, one will be donated to Smart Works, this 1:1 model allows customers to directly support the Smart Works women by playing a part in their success story – how they look and more importantly, how they feel. Photo © @JennyZarins

A post shared by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex (@sussexroyal) on Sep 12, 2019 at 5:08am PDT

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“I was so shocked. But Smart Works likes surprises!” she said Thursday after being asked what it was like to meet Meghan at the photography session.

“She said hi and hugged us and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ ” says Grast-Johnson. “She was styling us. She was welcoming us. She was putting us at ease. It was phenomenal. She was wonderful the whole day.”

On Thursday, after a panel discussion about the project at a sunkissed rooftop garden at John Lewis’s store in Oxford Street, Meghan spoke with several of the women the charity has supported. “She was talking about community,” says Grast-Johnson. “Smart Works is literally a community – it has brought us together. We even have a little Whatsapp group. The ladies are constantly in touch.”

“She talked about us being together and being there for each other. More women need to be like that. The fact that Smart Works actually does that and supports you and empowers you . . . I had an experience that was negative as a woman, and you are kind of on the back foot. And then you come to Smart Works and they are sincere from the very beginning and they are there for you and you have an experience that is catered for you.”

As for her modeling job, “This charity helps with ticking off dreams,” she adds. “This is where dreams come to happen. I loved it. And now I have the clothes to take home with me!”

Fellow successful client Dionne Johnson from Hackney, London, is now a Resident Engagements Officer for a housing association. She first met the Duchess of Sussex on her visit to Smart Works in January when Meghan was made royal patron.

“Meghan is all about empowering women, so for her to be part of Smart Works, it raises the profile,” says Johnson. “Since I met Meghan, friends of mine had never heard of the charity but they’ve heard of it now.”

She adds, “Meghan was saying when she came to Smart Works and there’s loads of different clothes it is hard to style people. So having these classics in your wardrobe is perfect.”

Smart Works, which helps women find employment with coaching tips and professional attire for interviews, came to Johnson’s aid when she needed it most. “I knew it was something wrong with my interview process, it just wasn’t right,” she says. “When I went to Smart Works, as soon as I walked into that building they made me feel so welcome.

“Then we had the dressing, so they put me in something that I wouldn’t normally have worn. So that made me feel good. Then I spoke with the HR consultant and I was able to ask questions that I couldn’t really ask anybody else. So I went for the job and felt so empowered: shoulders back, head up. And I got the job.”

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