Fix Up, Look Smart



Partnerships and community are at the heart of everything we do and so we have partnered with the charity Smart Works as we love the work they do.

Smart Works is a UK charity that provides high quality interview clothes and interview training to unemployed women in need. They harness the power of clothes and confidence to allow a woman to be her best at a crucial moment in her life, giving her the confidence, the self-belief and the practical tools required to succeed at interview and transform her life.

When you shop selected items from our archive sale, we will make a donation on your behalf, to help support this incredible cause. Think of it as the new BOGOF (buy one GIVE one free).

Our Creative Director spoke to Smart Works CEO Kate Stephens, to discuss the power of what we wear, the importance of community, and how the charity is coping during these testing times.



"I love the fact that we can give a tangible impact to the positive power of fashion. It is so much more than the clothing itself; it’s what looking and feeling great does for a woman’s confidence."

AMY POWNEY: When I first begin designing and thinking of initial concepts for the Mother of Pearl collections, my number one focus before my pencil hits the paper is to make sure all women would feel great in what I’m designing. We’re donating selected styles that we believe can be worn in different ways to suit any woman. What would you suggest are the key items women need in their wardrobes for interview dressing?

KATE STEPHENS: The clothes we wear can be a powerful tool to express how we feel and how we want to be seen. For me, the key is having clothes that have longevity that I'll want to wear again and again.I think the building blocks of a work wardrobe are a crisp white shirt, a simple dress, a pair of tailored trousers, a blazer and a pair of smart shoes. Once you have the basics then you can start having a bit of fun, adding in pieces that reflect your personality and that make you feel confident and empowered. The key to succeeding at an interview is believing in yourself, if you can find items that help you recognise the value you bring, you’re already halfway there.

AMY: You mention that one in two of the women you help, gets the job. That’s an amazing statistic. What part do you think clothing has to play in this?

KATE: Yes, 65% of the women we see secure employment within a month of their Smart Works appointment. I love the fact that we can give a tangible impact to the positive power of fashion. It is so much more than the clothing itself; it’s what looking and feeling great does for a woman’s confidence. The difference that this makes is so immediate; we call it ‘the mirror moment.’ When a client walks out of our dressing room in her chosen outfit and looks in the mirror, you can see her shoulders relax; she smiles and stands a little taller. She sees a version of herself that she might not have connected with in a long while; often due to a long period of unemployment and often vulnerable circumstances. It's that feeling of self-belief that you get when you truly feel good about yourself that they take away with them and to their interview. It can be life changing.



"The difference that this makes is so immediate; we call it ‘the mirror moment.’ When a client walks out of our dressing room in her chosen outfit and looks in the mirror, you can see her shoulders relax; she smiles and stands a little taller. She sees a version of herself that she might not have connected with in a long while; often due to a long period of unemployment and often vulnerable circumstances. It's that feeling of self-belief that you get when you truly feel good about yourself that they take away with them and to their interview. It can be life changing."

AMY: Having worked in the fashion industry for nearly 15 years surrounded by inspirational and very stylish women has made me realise just how expressive dressing can be. How do you think personality can be shown through clothing?

KATE: We ask our client at the start of the appointment what colours, patterns and styles are her favourites. Often, once she tries on a brightly coloured piece, it really lifts her confidence and helps her to shine. The red coat that’s included in the sale for example will be a huge hit, it’s a great piece because it will make whoever wears it feel confident, but it will also be an amazing conversation starter which can be crucial in an interview setting.

Our dressers instil confidence in our clients to try things they might not have thought of before, and to experiment with fashion within the appointment; it’s a lot of fun. And we are lucky to have some incredible dressers – including our Chair and Founder Juliet Hughes-Hallett, who mixes colours and patterns with a confidence that always brings joy, and Jane Shepherdson, whose easy utilitarian style is somehow aspirational yet accessible. Our clients really do get the best service.

AMY: It’s often said that confidence is attractive. Interviews are a nerve wracking task for the majority of us, how do you at Smartworks instill confidence in the women you are helping?

KATE: So much of a Smart Works appointment is about letting each client know that they are in a safe space and are supported by a group of women who are invested in her success. Our centres are bright and welcoming, and there is always a smiling face and a cup of tea on hand to make a client feel calm and uplifted. The coaching session is a key moment in instilling confidence and helping a client feel supported. After her styling session, each client benefits from one-to-one coaching with one of our experienced Volunteer Coaches. They help her to speak confidently about her skills and attributes and to reinforce the feeling of confidence and capability that we hope her styling session has given her. It’s about reminding her that she can do this; she has what it takes to get the job and to start an exciting new chapter. We want every woman who has an appointment to leave our centre feeling uplifted and ready to seize the opportunity ahead of her.



"Often, once she tries on a brightly coloured piece, it really lifts her confidence and helps her to shine. The red coat that’s included in the sale for example will be a huge hit, it’s a great piece because it will make whoever wears it feel confident, but it will also be an amazing conversation starter which can be crucial in an interview setting."

AMY: During the COVID crisis, unemployment is a key issue. At MoP, we are committed, more than ever to honouring our orders to help support women in our supply chain, (80% of garment workers are women). How are you and the team at Smart Works working through this period, and how have you overcome doing your work remotely, especially considering personal interaction is such a key part of your programme?

KATE: It was a sad moment when we paused our face-to-face service, but we have swiftly adapted our service to launch a virtual offering. Each client has received a session of online coaching with one of our regular coaching volunteers and, where possible, a parcel of workwear essentials safely delivered to her door. These contain a letter written by one of our volunteer dressers, passing on the luck and wishes she would usually have received in our dressing room. Our virtual service is thriving, and we will continue to do everything we can for the women who need us. Our phones continue to ring, and in our first six weeks, we have delivered over 200 hours of support. Our team has been inspired by the women we have met during this time. Many are interviewing for positions on the front line, as carers, retail staff or working for the NHS. Working from home is simply not a reality for so many people in our country and the dedication of these women to return to the workplace when we need them most has been so moving.

AMY: Can you share a special memory or career highlight that you feel encapsulates the work that you do at Smart Works?

KATE: We have just wrapped up the end of our financial year and despite the times we are all going through now, we have had the most amazing twelve months at Smart Works, full of special moments and highlights. We opened our newest centre in Leeds this year (I am from West Yorkshire, so it was particularly special to bring the service home), as well as celebrating helping  4,000 women across all our centres; more than ever before. September also marked the launch of the Smart Set Capsule Collection, which brought together key UK retailers, together with our Patron the Duchess of Sussex, to donate key workwear pieces to Smart Works wardrobes. We are so grateful for every brand who chooses to donate to our wardrobes; in doing so, you are making a tangible impact in becoming a part of another woman's success story.



"Our phones continue to ring, and in our first six weeks, we have delivered over 200 hours of support. Our team has been inspired by the women we have met during this time. Many are interviewing for positions on the front line, as carers, retail staff or working for the NHS. Working from home is simply not a reality for so many people in our country and the dedication of these women to return to the workplace when we need them most has been so moving."

AMY: If someone reading this journal is feeling inspired and wants to help support Smart Works, how can they get involved?


KATE: Smart Works is powered by a community of fashion retailers, businesses and individuals who are passionate about helping women be successful, so our community is incredibly important to us. There are so many ways to get involved. You can volunteer your time dressing or coaching, both in person when we can return to our centres and now virtually. You can fundraise for us by attending our events or organising your own. We run Fashion Sales throughout the year (watch this space for our next one later in 2020) and have a wonderful membership group called The Fashion Club, where for a yearly subscription we put on inspiring in-conversation events with leading lights in the fashion industry. You can also support us by donating pieces from your own work wardrobe that have brought you success directly to our wardrobes. Every item we receive has either been donated by a brand like Mother of Pearl or from a kind individual who wishes to pass on her clothing to another woman who can benefit. If you have high-quality workwear, shoes and accessories that need a new home, we would be delighted to receive them.



"Every item we receive has either been donated by a brand like Mother of Pearl or from a kind individual who wishes to pass on her clothing to another woman who can benefit. If you have high-quality workwear, shoes and accessories that need a new home, we would be delighted to receive them."

We use cookies to enhance your shopping experience. By continuing using the website we assume that you agree to the use of these cookies. For more information check our Privacy Policy. OK, GOT IT