The Duchess of Sussex & Cuyana donated 500 totes to Smart Works

Women love tote bags. I love tote bags. They’re my purse of choice, even if my totes are rarely even half-full. My current favorite tote is from Coach, and it had longer straps to function as a big shoulder bag or oversized shopper. Many working women know the benefits of totes – you can cram everything in, including a laptop or tablet, plus your phone and gadgets, plus snacks, a wallet, sunglasses, reading glasses, a makeup kit and everything else. Well, the Duchess of Sussex knows what working women want and need, and she’s come up with another great collaboration for her years-long work with SmartWorks. SmartWorks is the UK non-profit which provides clothes, accessories and training for women joining or rejoining the workforce. Meghan put together the Smart Set capsule collection in 2019, and she’s done smaller things for SmartWorks in the years since. Now she’s put SmartWorks together with Cuyana.

Meghan Markle is totes ready to give back this holiday season. Ahead of Giving Tuesday, the Duchess of Sussex has teamed up with one of her favorite fashion brands, Cuyana, and her patronage, Smart Works, to help women get back into the workforce with style.

Cuyana will donate 500 of its Classic Structured Totes ($248) to the UK-based women’s empowerment charity, of which Markle has served as patron since 2019 — and the design is one the California duchess loves to carry herself.

“Smart Works invests in women so they know they can thrive in any workplace, and Cuyana is a company that is by women and for women, so this feels like the perfect fit,” Markle said in a statement.

The organization, which runs nine centers across the United Kingdom, helps unemployed women with career coaching and wardrobe consultations, providing them with an interview outfit and, after employment, a capsule wardrobe of workwear items — and now, the luxurious leather bags will be part of the charity’s offerings.

Markle has been spotted carrying one of Cuyana’s black leather totes on several occasions, including during an appearance at Wimbledon in 2019, and while visiting a women’s center in Vancouver in 2020. She even gifted one of the brand’s bags to each of the guests at her 2019 baby shower.

Referencing the clothing line she created in 2019 to benefit the charity in conjunction with several UK retailers, Markle added in her statement, “Similar to the Smart Set collection we created many years ago for Smart Works, this collaboration will support women in the UK as they mobilize back into the workforce.”

[From Page Six]

This is excellent for Meghan, excellent for SmartWorks and excellent for Cuyana. A donation of 500 bags will help these women walk into their job interviews and their new jobs with added confidence. A good purse is a good investment, and this Classic Structured Tote is really beautiful and it’s something which will “go” with most outfits. I wonder if this sand-color tote is the only version being donated? Do you think Cuyana will donate some in black? Anyway, what a great story.

Photos courtesy of Backgird, Instar and Cover Images.

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65 Responses to “The Duchess of Sussex & Cuyana donated 500 totes to Smart Works”

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  1. ThatsNotOkay says:

    It’s a beautiful bag and a lovely gesture. And, yes, totes are amazing pieces. You can even use them as your sole piece of luggage for short trips, if you pack right. This is what you can impactful service, as opposed to just lip service.

  2. ML says:

    This is an excellent choice! It looks much more professional than say a backpack or cloth laptop bag, and employers judge you on presentation during job interviews.

    • Becks1 says:

      Yeah, its a great bag and its going to help women feel more professional and prepared as they go to a job interview, and like you said, employers judge you on presentation. This is going to help their presentation. And its a bag that they can keep for years.

  3. Nanz says:

    Great (Smart) work, Duchess! She never shows up empty-handed.

  4. Grumpier says:

    I love this. And I love the dignity it gives these women too, this is a bag that a duchess carries, it’s something to be proud of, to feel proud of and to stand a little taller wearing. That will carry with them more than the bag itself! Good work!

    • Christine says:

      This. It’s not just a tote, it’s respect, from Meghan to other women. I love this so much.

  5. C-Shell says:

    And just like that Meghan has captured the attention of everyone on both sides of the Atlantic. And she did so without planting a gazillion articles about how important she is. I love her/their model of getting a project fully up and running and then letting their beneficiaries do all the publicity. It’s another home run, and this collaboration is brilliant.

    I, too, love a good tote, and this one looks amazing. In any color!

    • Ginger says:

      Exactly. Meghan didn’t need the British tabloids to write how amazing and what an expert she is, she actually DID something and she did it quietly.
      That’s how you do it when you actually care.

    • one of the marys says:

      C-Shell I like that she can bypass social media and let the beneficiaries do the publicity as well. They just have to stay on top of the trolls. Shameful that people follow her everywhere even onto charitable sites.

  6. Amy Bee says:

    I love this. It seems Meghan really loves Smart Works and what they do.

  7. girl_ninja says:

    Lovely, useful and thoughtful gift Duchess Meghan! Cuyana is on my list of coveted totes so I appreciate that the women who are getting back on their feet will have a function and beautiful piece. Like Kaiser, tote bags are my go to everyday handbag. I only use a crossbody/clutch if I know I don’t have any errands or a night out for dinner. I just NEED a bigger bag.

    I hope that Duchess Meghan does a What’s in my bag or In the Bag cause I love those and I am so nosey.

    Cathy will go on another visit empty handed giving her Botox smile and kind words *eye roll*

    • Shawna says:

      That’s a really good idea for promoting the charity. Hope an assistant is reading this!

    • Sophie says:

      Cuyana’s products are top notch quality. I have some of their leather goods, cotton basics, and alpaca products. They are all amazing and have held up really well. This is such a great endeavor for all involved.

  8. Petra (Brazen Archetyped Phenomenal Woman) says:

    Meghan’s commitment to the various organization she supports is beautiful. She is still doing the work with Smart Works.

    And to the people that are going to complain about the price of the tote, I say just because people depend on Charity does not mean they shouldn’t be splurged (I know $248 is not a splurge to some) on every now and then.

    • MsIam says:

      For a good leather bag it is a decent price and should last them several years. Only an idiot troll would say otherwise. In fact, I thought the bag would cost more. Lol at Page Six calling it “luxury”.

      • Petra (Brazen Archetyped Phenomenal Woman) says:

        Mslam, Yes, it’s a good price. The “luxury” line from the tabloid is the only reason I mentioned the price of the tote. The usual suspects on other platforms are already talking about the price. I was expecting the same taking point here too from them.

  9. Well Wisher says:

    A good story. Meghan is always thinking about others, understanding the joy of giving and extending oneself.

    Good on her.

    Harry and Meghan deserve the accolades coming their way.

  10. Harla A Brazen Hussy says:

    Once again Meghan puts compassion into action! She doesn’t whine about “wishing we could do more”, she just does more and brings others along for the ride! I am so inspired by her and how she has chosen to live her life, full of authenticity, compassion and kindness ❤️

  11. Laura D says:

    Every time I see an article like this I want to weep. The BRF really did shoot themselves in the foot when they went out of their way to bully this poor woman out of the country. This is what modernizing the monarchy is all about. Not, keeness, wiglets, and smiles. SMH

    • Debbie says:

      Hey now, @Laura D. A lot of lives were greatly improved by that cockamamie pie graph. So, don’t forget the pie graph.

  12. Frippery says:

    This is great! A good bag is such a confidence booster too.

  13. Moxylady says:

    I’m not a purse person but OMG THAT BAG IS GORGEOUS
    I would feel so confident walking into an interview with that. Well done Madam Duchess.

  14. Eurydice says:

    A lovely story.

  15. Neners says:

    I really love projects like this! It’s such a simple, concrete way to help women out as they move forward in their careers and literally everyone wins.

  16. Julia K says:

    I’m unsure how to interpret this. Cayuna is donating the bags, not Meghan. Is the post about Meghan putting Cayuna and Smart Works in touch with each other? Is this the partnering the post refers to, but the headline reads “duchess and cayuna donate” . Guess I was expecting to read that they had a monetary connection. My post covid brain is still foggy.

    • NemesisPuff says:

      I get where you’re coming from, just answering to say I personally, and professionally, think this type of engagement is the kind of “philanthropy” deep-pocketed people and businesses should be utilising. It’s essentially platforming smaller businesses, causes, ideas when your own platform has the room. Monetary contributions can and will only go so far, but what makes interest in today’s wide plethora of options, stick?

      She’s definitely the relevant linchpin. Whether Cuyana approached Meghan or Meghan approached Cuyana about a social giveback opportunity doesn’t matter, in terms of that giveback’s impact, which I think is the point in “collaborations” like these. In fact, I’m glad it’s not something limited edition like a Meghan Markle colour or Duchess of Sussex monogram or something, because then it would have to be put into production, and at some point Cuyana would have to decide if it’s financially worth a smaller run “just” for donation. Maybe there’s a longer-term collaboration in the works, but for a relatively small investment on both their parts, the impact and timing is huge! Great for post-Black Friday and holiday sales (who else waits for the holidays to put that special item on their wish list, or waits for a good excuse to “get another bag”??), great advertising for SmartWorks’ works (who else donates to charities instead of gifting?), and obviously, great addition to Meghan’s portfolio.

      I’m digressing, but I think it’s smart for Cuyana and Meghan to align themselves and their goals and highlight their shared values through their support of SmartWorks. It feels genuine, achievable, relevant, and impactful BECAUSE it’s on-brand for both of them and their purported ethoses. (This is why so much of the BRF’s “service” doesn’t stick, especially in modern-day PR and marketing. They should be focusing on that, instead of forcing/paying people to lip-service the random things they do.)

      Sorry if this isn’t a direct response to your query, you just made me think of the strategy behind it! I’m just finishing a cup of coffee and the succinctness hasn’t hit yet 😉

    • SAS says:

      I actually did assume that Meghan was the financial connection, that either she or Archewell paid Cuyana for the bags. Otherwise, being credited for facilitating the project is fair enough I guess and certainly boosts the profile of the program more than if this press release didn’t include her name at all.

  17. Jais says:

    Love this. And now I really want a cuyana bag.

  18. B says:

    Tangible results always. I love it!

  19. Surly Gale says:

    Brilliant and generous! Like many, I love a great tote. One of the things inside my wonderful tote is a smaller, cross-body bag for keys, wallet, phone when I don’t want to haul my tote in to do a grocery shop or for dog walks.
    I have a fold up saw, a measuring tape, appointment book (I’m not electronic), logbook, Japanese pruning knife and other marvels. I feel chuffed when I need (or someone else does) something and it’s “right here”!! As a forest walker and I earn my living gardening, these items come in handy so often, even I am amazed. LOL
    Well done, Princess Meghan.

    • NemesisPuff says:

      I love hearing about others’ utility bags! I’m not a gardener or have any professional reason to carry as much “go-bag” stuff as I do, but my god. The impotency I feel when I realise my measuring tape and multi tool were left behind…

      Now I’m just wondering how good the Cuyana totes will look with flagging tape poking out!

    • Jaded says:

      I have one of those sets myself! A smaller bag inside a large tote. They’re great for travel and I can switch out essentials into the smaller bag for dining out. Also, Mr. Jaded is type 1 diabetic so I carry his gear (tester, batteries, granola bars, etc.) in the big bag.

      Kate, if you or your PR people are reading CB, take note. THIS is how you do public service and philanthropy, not just some performative meaningless bullshit word salad.

    • Bellah says:

      Which brand of fold up saw do have in your bag?

  20. Lexistential says:

    Ohhh those bags are so gorgeous. I spent yesterday browsing them! These are so beautifully made and a real confidence booster, and what a great collaboration.

    Meghan’s model for work, consistency, and impact is the clear winner over Kate’s performative “I”m sorry we can’t do more.” It’s a colossal shame that all the dunderhead family members and courtiers in the Firm teamed up to oppose Meghan’s work (and alienate her).

  21. Elizabeth says:

    Of course, one of the Royal Rota, Jennie Bond had to bitch about the cost of the bag, claiming that she personally has never owned a bag that cost more than 25 pounds. Like how dare these women get a bag that is nicer than hers! Why couldn’t Meghan find a company that makes cheap bags that fall apart after a year instead. Instead of focusing on the fact that Meghan has done something tangible for the charity that she is a patron of that will really help the women the charity works with.

    • dee(2) says:

      I don’t know who that is but since it’s a RR, I’m sure her hatred of Meghan led her, but it’s not really that uncommon of a sentiment from some. There is a distinct contingent of people who feel like if you are economically disadvantaged you don’t deserve nice things. I don’t know if they feel some type of way about those ” beneath” them carrying or owning the same nice things they do or what. They are the same as the people that get upset when people on SNAP benefits (food assistance) buy cookies or ice cream or shop in places like Whole Foods. Basically, you’re poor and should have only crap to wear and gruel to eat.

    • C says:

      Fun fact – I used to do phone fundraising for a certain organization in the UK and called her and she was the worst person I ever talked to, lol.

      • Emme says:

        Unsurprising, @C. Jennie Bond is a sour-faced, dull, one-trick pony. If she hasn’t got the royals to sycophant over she has nothing.
        And as fo never spending more than £25 on a handbag….dear Lord, you’d only get cheap and nasty plastic for that price!

    • MsIam says:

      Those same folks would call Meghan cheap if the bags all came from Walmart.

    • Nic919 says:

      Seeing as none of these rota complain about the expensive clutches used by Kate, who buys them with money coming from taxpayers, it’s ridiculous to complain about Meghan’s extremely thoughtful gesture. Providing dignity to women who are looking for employment is only something that a woman who needed to work would understand. And she manages to do more for a charity across the ocean than the BRF do for the ones down the road from their palaces.

      • Saucy&Sassy says:

        Nic919, I have no doubt that this tote will sell well and the company gets to reap those benefits, too. That will be a boon to small business with the UK economy being what it is.

        This Jennie Whomever needs to be grateful for what she has and happy for the women who will get these purses. It never fails to amaze me that people can be so jealous under these circumstances. Take your fake umbrage and chill.

  22. L4Frimaire says:

    What a great gesture! Love how Meghan just cuts through the noise and just delivers. These bags are gorgeous and it will be such a booster to the clients to get such a good item. Some hater was suggesting that they should make do with £25 handbags, completely missing the point. These women deserve to be invested in and to have something of value. Love how Meghan partners her causes with donors.

    • aftershocks says:

      This is such a cool idea and endeavor to help SmartWorks clients. Other charities, individuals, and philanthropies should take note. 👍Meghan is such a wonderful ideas person who knows how to bring creative projects to fruition in simple, efficient, cost-effective ways. As her Suits colleagues famously said about Meghan: “She gets sh$t done!”

  23. SarahCS says:

    For anyone on IG I recommend following the Smart Works account, their ‘she got the job’ posts are a highlight to any day.

    Smart Works also seem very smart (yep) about their partnerships, I love a brand called Baukjen who are all about the traceability and environmental impact of their clothes and over the weekend they had a deal where if you bought something they would also donate something to Smart Works. I really wanted to participate but the tops I wanted are out of stock at the moment.

  24. First comment says:

    And this is how you do it… simple, impactful and effective

    • aftershocks says:

      ^^ Yep, exactly!

      Meghan is able to achieve these acts of kindness in part because she learned how to be self-directed, how to stay positive, how to overcome challenges by working with what’s in front of her, and above all, how to network. She’s a combo of shy and outgoing, vulnerable and ambitious, smart and humble. She’s fearless and fabulous, by virtue of love, generosity, and faith. Her ‘faith is stronger than her fear.’ None of this means Meg is perfect. She’s just able to be herself and allow her humanity to shine. One of the first things I observed about Meghan years ago, is that she’s a fast learner who always applies what she learns. She lives fully in the moment.

      I could be nitpicky and critical about Meghan. That’s extremely easy to do. So many people do that out of jealousy and negativity, without any real foundation or credibility. Meanwhile, Meghan is always focused on being the best she can be, while also lifting up others. She gets up every day and puts her best foot forward. As does Harry. Archie, Lili, Guy, Pula, and Mia are lucky to have M&H. And vice versa. 🌟

      • CheChe says:

        Thank you for acknowledging Meghan’s humanity. At times I wonder if people need this woman to be perfect to be praiseworthy. The nitpickers should look at themselves and ask “What have I done for others?”(Oprah)… Meghan puts a lot of good in the world through her actions and Lord knows we need more of that spirit.

  25. Missy says:

    This is a very nice gesture; I just wish the bags were not leather but made from some other type of material.

    • Saucy&Sassy says:

      Missy, I’m seeing more and more faux leather, so I expect that at some point soon we’ll see a tote.

  26. Pumpkin (Was Sofia) says:

    Nice idea! And the bag looks great but I really am not in a position to shell out for one LOL. Maybe next year though 😉

  27. QuiteContrary says:

    What a fab collab.

    Even if a Kate staffer tried to execute something like this on Kate’s behalf, she’d mess it up. She’s never really worked, so she doesn’t understand, as Meghan does, what women in the workforce really could use.

    • Nic919 says:

      The useless and expensive clutches she brings that have no purpose confirm just how little kate understands what working women need. She’s never really had to work and she’s been a privileged rich girl her entire life and it shows.

  28. aquarius64 says:

    It’s a great thing that Meghan is donating quality handbags for SmartWorks. Jennie Bond is being a witch because her employer is apparently not paying her enough; and her classism is showing. People from lower economic statuses don’t deserve nice things. Meghan is not donating Birkin bags. It also highlights the Waleses don’t give anything from the duchy of Cornwall

  29. Jessica says:

    I love this collab! An influencer I follow got a Cuyana bag a few years ago, and I’ve had my eye on them ever since. Maybe in 2023 I’ll prioritize saving for one. They definitely earned my purchase with this!

  30. dee says:

    This is SO effective – I immediately went to the Cuyana site and now want to order one for my mum. they look like fantastic bags and the other commentators are right, women entering the workforce need to have a decent, long term investment bag – my leather tote has lasted me ten years and it still looks great. This is a really excellent collaboration! Well done, Duchess and Cuyana!

  31. DeluxeDuckling says:


  32. ChillinginDC says:

    Love it.

  33. CourtneyB says:

    Complaining about the price. 😂 So petty. It’s actually a pretty good price. $25 and it may look cute but will soon fall apart. Plus it was likely built in a sweatshop. (They’d probably make a story out of that!) This isn’t some logo crazed bag like Chanel or LV. It’s just a good, solid, attractive, PRACTICAL tote. Perfect for SmartWorks and their goals.

  34. Sid says:

    Very smart collaboration. Cuyana bags are great quality, so those ladies will be carrying theirs forever. I appreciate the way Meghan leverages her professional relationships to help different charities and businesses link up.

  35. Raiza says:

    I’m reading this at work and next to my work laptop is my tote bag, which right now contains: phone, kindle, charges, makeup kit, sunglasses, small tupperware with nuts, my wallet. So I just laughed at how on point your description was, Kaiser.

    The Cuyana tote is super cute, I love that Meghan keeps on working with Smart Works. As always, a woman who gets stuff done!

  36. jferber says:

    Of course she did! And Kate walks into any charity office for the photo op toting a plate of biscuits (if that), “wishing” she could do more. You could do what Meghan does, you bitch. And stop faux-apologizing for your stingy, un-humanitarian attitude. You give what you are: nothing.