A portrait by Esther Theaker of one of the women taking part in Burberry's project with the Smart Works charity.

GET SMART: Burberry is marking International Women’s Day by spreading the love, and the checks and the trench coats, to women in need of work wardrobes. Since 2013, the brand has been teaming with the British women’s charity Smart Works, which offers new, donated clothing and styling advice to women in need who are trying to get back into the workforce. Burberry has always donated clothing to Smart Works, but this year for the first time it invited seven women from the program into its London showrooms for a styling session and the opportunity to pick out their capsule work wardrobes.

The clients are at stage two of the Smart Works program, meaning they have secured employment and will need clothing to wear to their new jobs, ahead of their first pay checks. Half of Smart Works’ clients are from an ethnic minority, are long-term unemployed and have been unsuccessful with a large number of job applications. Smart Works said the majority of women it helps eventually secure full employment and that it aims to dress 3,500 women this year in the U.K.

A portrait by Esther Theaker for Burberry’s project with Smart Works.  Esther Theaker/Courtesy

Judy Collinson, Burberry’s chief merchandising officer, helped to curate the donated wardrobes, and was in full merchant mode earlier this week, pulling suits, trenches, lightweight cashmere, capes, silk scarves, handbags and shoes — and then replenishing the racks with more. She said that dressing well “gives you confidence in everything you do — and it gives your potential employer confidence, too. It shows your intentions, and impresses them.”

She added that the partnership also contributes toward Burberry’s efforts to revalue surplus stock while supporting local communities.

In September, Burberry pledged to end its practice of destroying unsalable products, building on the goals it set in 2017 as part of a five-year responsibility agenda and its commitment to help tackle the causes of waste.

A portrait of a woman taking part in Burberry’s project with Smart Works.  Esther Theaker/Courtesy

“We already reuse, repair, donate or recycle unsalable products and we will continue to expand these efforts,” the company said at the time. As a last resort, Burberry would burn unused clothing, fearing that it would pass into the hands or counterfeiters or the gray market. On Friday, to mark International Women’s Day, Burberry is set to release portraits by Esther Theaker of the Smart Works clients.

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