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Inside Meghan Markle's fashion launch: £100 goody bags, Amy Pickerill's surprise appearance and more

The Duchess of Sussex unveiled the Smart Set Capsule Collection, which will benefit her patronage Smart Works

Danielle Stacey

The Duchess of Sussex returned from maternity leave on Thursday to launch her highly-anticipated Smart Set Capsule Collection to benefit her patronage Smart Works, which helps women back into employment. The workwear essentials include a £19.50 shift dress from Marks & Spencer, a £109 tote bag from John Lewis, a £199 blazer and £120 trousers from Jigsaw and a £125 shirt from Misha Nonoo.

 

Meghan, 38, launched the range on the rooftop of John Lewis’ flagship store on Oxford Street in London, where guests included fashion designer and good friend Misha Nonoo, members of the fashion industry, the media and Smart Works executives and beneficiaries.

Meghan's friends were in the audience

While fashion events usually include a glass of bubbly, only water was served throughout the launch and guests took home a goody bag worth £100, which included a Bobbi Brown lip tint, a cleanser, a S’well reusable water bottle and a leather card wallet on a strap.

READ: Meghan Markle makes radiant return to work following maternity leave with Archie - best photos

Wearing the Misha Nonoo shirt and Jigsaw trousers from the collection, Meghan delivered her six-minute speech without notes, stopping only once at the beginning to “pause for sound” while sirens in Oxford Circus wailed.

Meghan didn't have any notes to hand when she made her speech

A royal source tells HELLO! that aides had offered to prepare notes for her speech, but she didn’t have any to hand when she spoke. At the end of her talk, Meghan admitted she had learned the John Lewis tote bag had already sold out while she was on her way to the launch in the car, urging brands to generously restock “so that everyone can play a part in this shared success story”. Friends of the Duchess told HELLO! that she came across on the podium “exactly how she always is in life - kind, eloquent and compassionate."

As expected with any royal engagement, security around the event was tight and guests were given wrist bands, but the Duchess took the time to speak with and take photos with Smart Works’ clients, including Kate Johnson and Zara Najimi from the campaign shoot.

Meghan with some of Smart Works' clients

Among the notable attendees was also comedienne Jennifer Saunders, who is a patron of Smart Works. The Absolutely Fabulous star, 61, tweeted: "Was excited and proud to be at the launch of #TheSmartSet today and so impressed with Duchess of Sussex who spoke with confidence and clarity and passion about this wonderful charity and without notes. How refreshing. She’s impressive and has come up with this brilliant idea.” 

RELATED: Meghan Markle's new womenswear collection: The inside story and the behind the scenes details

ITV News' royal editor Chris Ship tweeted that when Jennifer arrived, she said: “I’ve never seen security like that before."

Security was tight at the launch

Meghan’s close friend and former director of communications for Burberry, Isabel May, and her former assistant private secretary Amy Pickerill were also present. HELLO! revealed in March this year that Amy had handed in her notice because she was planning a move overseas. She helped the Sussexes with the birth of baby Archie and supported the couple as they settled into their new home Frogmore Cottage, in Windsor.

Meghan said she had to get back to feed Archie as she left

As Meghan said her goodbyes, she was heard saying: "I've got to get back to the baby, it's feed time." The Duke and Duchess of Sussex welcomed baby Archie Harrison in May and are taking him on their royal tour of Africa later this month. 

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