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Meghan's fashion range launches -- and her bag is already sold out

Updated 10:13 AM ET, Fri September 13, 2019

London (CNN) - When it comes to fashion the Duchess of Sussex most certainly has the midas touch, with anything she wears in public usually selling out within hours.

Now Meghan has harnessed the public's admiration for her style, putting it to use as a force for good. She's designed a line of clothing aimed at empowering unemployed women to find work.

The Duchess of Sussex on Thursday launched the Smart Set capsule collection, in collaboration with Smart Works, a UK-based charity of which she is patron.

Bringing together leading British brands and fashion designers Jigsaw, John Lewis & Partners, Marks & Spencer and Misha Nonoo, the collection features work wear essentials and classic pieces which women need for interviews and the workplace.

Moments before arriving at the launch, the former Suits star discovered that one of the items -- a tote bag being marketed by John Lewis & Partners -- had already sold out online.

The likelihood is that the other featured items -- including a trouser suit from Jigsaw, a dress from Marks & Spencer and a white shirt from designer Misha Nonoo -- will be just as popular.

The range is likely to provide a welcome boost for the ailing British high street, in particular Marks & Spencer which has seen falling sales for years -- and which the duchess claims to regularly wear.

For every item bought from the range, which will be on sale for "at least two weeks," according to the palace, one will be donated to Smart Works.

The Duchess of Sussex was appointed Patron of Smart Works in January this year. During several quiet visits prior to her appointment, she observed that while donations to Smart Works were plentiful, the right choices or sizes were not always available.

Addressing the small gathering at John Lewis on London's Oxford Street, Meghan said: "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 SmartWorks."

After meeting with them, the duchess said she asked herself: "What can I do in some small way... how can I help amplify this?"

The idea for the capsule collection came after a visit to the charity's London headquarters, she said, explaining: "We had a lot of donations but not necessarily thing that women need to have. I said, 'ok, let's try to work with what we have and make the best of it.'

"And then the next time I went there was a rack of about 40 or 50 lilac 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 go in there and you want to have a job, interviewing, you want to feel confident, you want to be wearing the pieces ... that make you feel that way and not the leftovers that didn't sell from the end of the season.

"I kept thinking about it as I went home and it didn't track for me."

Meghan said she concluded that she had to change things, and transform the concept from charity to community.

She explained: "You don't just go through your closet and toss in a box anything 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 that 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."

The duchess said that in creating the collection, her friend Nonoo was her first port of call because of her experience in designing capsule collections and empowering women.

She then set out to select "traditional and quintessential British brands" in her "new home" which led her to choose M&S and John Lewis which -- surprisingly -- she admitted to "wearing quite a bit in the last year or two."

Her inspiration for working with Jigsaw, she said, came from a prior campaign that the chain had to use focusing on the diversity of the UK.

After announcing that the bag had already sold out online, the duchess called upon her fashion partners to extend the range as much as possible to maximise the charity's gain.

Wrapping up her short but confident speech, Meghan said that the project was "in the same vein of work that my husband and I will continue doing" and promised to share about what lies ahead when their foundation, Sussex Royal, launches next year.

Nonoo, who was rumored to have introduced the royal couple, told CNN Style that the question of collaborating on the project was a "no brainer."

She said: "When the Duchess of Sussex approached me about being part of it when she became royal patron of Smart Works she obviously knew that what I do is very much about empowering women through their wardrobe and capsule collection is at the very heart of what I do, so it was a no brainer for me to say yes.

"The values were completely aligned with my own philosophy and values. She asked me to do the white shirt specifically because that's the signature of our collection."

Tweeting about the event, Smart Works quoted a client named only as "Kate" who has worn the collection already. The client said: "My outfit made me feel like a boss -- powerful and strong. It just made me feel amazing, reminding me of how far I have come and the future I have in front of me."

Philippa Charles, a SmartWorks trustee, told CNN: "SmartWorks is an amazing charity which helps women to find a job so we see ladies who have typically struggled to find employment. They are really trying hard and they basically need some support, so they see our incredible volunteers who help find them an amazing outfit so they feel absolutely fantastic.

"Then they get interview coaching, help with their CV and over half of them go on to get their job first time."


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