Ella Dodd, Head of Events and Community Fundraising at Smart Works Charity

What is Smart Works mission? 

Our mission is to inspire and empower all women who need help getting into work. We listen to our clients and use the power of high-quality clothing and one-to-one coaching to help them see their true potential and succeed at interview. We want any woman who needs our help to be able to find her way to a Smart Works centre.

Why are clothes so powerful in the interview process? 

We believe in fashion as a force for good. Every day, we see the magic moment when a woman puts on a new outfit, looks in the mirror and begins to see hope and possibility. We know that when a woman looks and feels her best, she can transform her life.

When a woman comes to Smart Works, what is the process that she goes through? 

At the heart of Smart Works is our Interview Preparation service. Each client is referred and receives a bespoke dressing consultation with two trained volunteers, to find a beautiful and high-quality interview outfit that will fill her with confidence. This is free of charge and the clothes are hers to keep. This is followed by a one-to-one coaching session with an expert interview coach, where each client receives valuable interview preparation, unlocking her potential and enabling her to succeed at interview. When she secures a job, she can come back to us for a Second Dressing where she will receive five more items to form a capsule working wardrobe to last until her first pay cheque.

From working at Smart Works, what would you say are some of the biggest challenges women face when looking for work?

We have heard from our clients about the pressure of the cost-of-living crisis and the desperation it is creating. More women are applying for lower skilled and lower paid jobs that they are overqualified for, because they simply have to secure something to make ends meet. Unfortunately, these opportunities don't often lead to the stability they had hoped for and sometimes find themselves quickly out of work again. 

Another challenge that our clients face is the impact of being a parent, and data from our Unemployment Index shows that not only do parents spend longer out of work, but they also face the additional financial challenge of covering childcare whilst working. The full Unemployment Index can be found here.

How can you help towards Smart Works/what can you do to donate?

Visit our website for more information on how to make a donation or donate clothes for our wardrobe. You can also visit our International Women’s Day pop-up shop on 57 Carnaby Street, where all the proceeds will come directly to Smart Works. The pop-up is open until 24th March and features beautiful stock from our retail supporters, including Lily & Lionel.