Smart People – Alex Knight, Fashion Communication Student

Alex Knight, a Fashion Communication student at Northumbria University, tells us all about her experience working with Smart Works Newcastle this month.

After first discovering Smart Works back in 2018 and then hearing the fabulous news, in January of this year, that HRH The Duchess of Sussex was becoming a royal patron for the charity, I was excited to begin working with the growing charity here in Newcastle.

Walking into the office space, I was not only greeted by the wonderful Helen and Nathalie but was also impressed with the amount of high quality stock the service has as well as the welcoming and safe environment the space offers.

I began my summer placement with the charity by assisting with organising stock for an upcoming pop up sale to help support the charity’s service. While sorting through the donations, I soon learned how the service is supported by the community, which continues to grow and expand with donations being delivered most days!

It was not long before I saw the inspirational work the charity offers. By speaking with the volunteers who were assisting with the day’s appointments, I learnt and observed how the whole appointment works from start to finish, beginning with the client being warmly greeted by the whole team before being taken through what the appointment would consist of. Next the client and volunteers work together to establish the client’s style and her preferences when it comes to what she would feel comfortable wearing for her upcoming interview.

Then I sit back and watch as the magic really begins.

The volunteers work in pairs to search through the rails to find the perfect outfit. The client is invited to try on a variety of pieces and the volunteers help and advise with their great knowledge and experience. The client steps out of the fitting room looking fabulous and most importantly feeling fabulous. Their beaming smile is echoed across the whole office and in that moment, I truly understood the impact and difference Smart Works was having on women not only in Newcastle but all across the country with their services.

The women then leave the office, already feeling empowered, and head to a separate area where they are given specialised, one to one coaching from a trained professional who help them to shine in their interview. They are given tips on how to best answer questions as well as being informed about what the whole interview process will consist of. The client then comes back to the office space where they are greeted with their outfit packed up and ready for them to take away. The women also receive a small goodie bag containing items such as lipstick, sanitary products and other items they may need to help them feel their ultimate best.

As well as assisting with general tasks and the service I was also given the opportunity to work on social media posts and offer my input and suggestions into other decisions. I was also involved in some of the planning for the upcoming Lulu Guinness event which had a buzz of excitement surrounding it, especially when the raffle prize was delivered– a brand new bag donated from the designer.

Although my time here at Smart Works has been short, it has been more than sweet. The whole experience has been so rewarding to be a part of and I have truly understood and embraced the charity. The work the whole team do is utterly inspiring. It is clear to see in the client’s face when they leave Smart Works, that they are ready to take on their interview feeling confident in themselves and this shows the great impact that this charity has.