She got the clothes, she got the confidence, she got the job. This is the motto and ethos of Smart Works, a charity that uses fashion to change unemployed women’s lives for the better, supporting them with clothing and coaching as they prepare for job interviews.
Smart Works Leeds is based at Mabgate Mills, where there are more than 40 volunteer dressers and coaches, with years of experience working in retail and business.
To raise funds, there will be a huge fashion sale at the Corn Exchange this week, with designer and premium high street womenswear at discounted prices. Smart Works partners include Burberry, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Hobbs and Bobbi Brown, and for this sale, there are also generous donations from Harvey Nichols Leeds, Joe Browns, Brora, Aurelie, Marks & Spencer, Boden, Bo Carter, Very Stylish Girl and more.
The Smart Works Leeds Summer Fashion Sale, in association with The Yorkshire Post, is at the Corn Exchange in Leeds on Friday, June 24, 6-9pm, tickets £7.50 per guest, and all day on Saturday, June 25, 10am-6pm, tickets £5 per guest. Tickets: at leeds.smartworks.org.uk/events or [email protected], Instagram @smartworksleeds
The Friday event will also have pop-up stalls hosted by Yorkshire-based independent brands including Zara-Mia Ava, Natalia Willmott, Satya En Ro bags, The Pod Online, Robin Gifts, Glitter Glamour Boutique at Bo Carter. There will be raffle prizes from Harvey Nichols Leeds, Clockface Beauty, Laura Pitharas, Satya Ro Bags, Very Stylish Girl and Aurelie.
Well-known Yorkshire faces are also supporting the event and have donated pieces, too:
Christine Talbot is a TV presenter and journalist, Instagram: @christinetalbot
Christine has donated three dresses, including a pink dress from Working Wardrobe. She says: “A good sheath dress in a block colour tends to be the uniform of the female TV presenter. They look professional, don’t strobe and look nice on TV, so I have quite a few from time at ITV Calendar. I'm really thrilled that they can be put to good use again.”
Stephanie Hirst is a presenter, DJ and public speaker, Instagram: @stephanie.hirst
Stephanie has donated a dress from Ted Baker. She says: “It’s been a go-to for when I want to feel instantly smart and dressed-up and because of the style it’s easy to wear, comfy and doesn’t need much in the way of accessories.”
Ruth Preston, from Leeds, is a blogger and influencer, Instagram @wearitlikeruth
Ruth is donating a coatigan, a Matalan dress and Next shoes. She says: “I’ve styled these three pieces together as a work-to-drinks look. The heels are fab with jeans, T-shirt and blazer. The dress can be worn through the seasons, and the coatigan is the perfect extra layer in-between seasons, over skinny jeans, with a simple Breton tee and white trainers. Classic.”
Emily Gray is a personal stylist at John Lewis Leeds, Instagram @johnlewis_emily
Emily is donating a mixed print YAS wrap dress. She says: “This is a classic style, but the mixed print gives it a retro vibe. I love styling it for dinner with a pair of strappy sandals for a wedding or a night out, or with trainers for a relaxed brunch.”
Sally Simpson is a presenter and journalist with ITV Calendar, Instagram: @mymidlifestylish
Sally is donating a long, purple jacket from Monsoon. She says: “I’m a big fan of colour and this jacket is an instant feel-good item. I’ve teamed it with top-to-toe white but it goes just as well with black, grey or even a colour clash like orange. Skinny jeans and loafers would keep it casual. The three-quarter sleeve makes it perfect for layering.”
Bernadette Gledhill, from Huddersfield, is a model, event coordinator and coach, @bcg2m.
Bernadette is donating a dress by a favourite Spanish designer. She says: “This would be ideal also for anyone that loves to dance. It is a Size 10 and has a fitted tailored bodice with a built-in bra. I have styled it in many ways, in a formal way for a wedding and adding a crew-neck and leather jacket for a casual look.”
Victoria Thewlis is a personal stylist, Instagram: @victoriathewlis_stylist
Victoria is donating a Somerset by Alice Temperley midi dress. She says: “I wore it for a wedding last year. I love the colours and print and it made me feel amazing. I want someone else to feel that joy too. I would style it with pink or lilac accessories or pair with neutrals. It would also look great dressed down with ankle boots or trainers, or layered with a cardigan or roll neck underneath.”
Annie Stirk, from York, is a classic and commercial model, Instagram: @anniestirkmodel
Annie is donating a Hobbs dress. She says: “I have only worn it a couple of times. It is fully lined, very easy to wear and looks smart but stylish. It doesn’t crease and looks great with black shoes. I’ve styled it here with black suede wedges and black tights. The dress could be glammed up with silver jewellery for evening, and statement shoes in a bold colour.”
Smart Works client Belinda Webb, 25, from Keighley, wears a White Stuff dress from the sale. Belinda was referred to Smart Works Leeds by Stronger Families and recently got a job with the National Trust. She says: "This outfit makes me feel confident. I love the style, fit and colour. It feels like I bought it for a lot of money." Picture by Lottie Roberts.
Laura Pitharas is a Yorkshire designer based in London, Instagram: @laurapitharas
Laura is donating an organic bamboo silk dress, £325, laurapitharas.com, to be raffled. She says: “It was designed to be worn for any occasion or season from the beach to work or a wedding. It features our signature oversized cuff detail, smocked mock neck and is extra floaty to ensure free movement. A statement, timeless, understatedly elegant piece made sustainably.”