Fashion, Fairness and A Greener Future: Smart Works at Alderley Park

    Fashion, Fairness and A Greener Future: Smart Works at Alderley Park

    Sarah Bateman, CEO of Unify Energy, talks about the latest event for Smart Works Greater Manchester, hosted at Alderley Park on Wednesday night. Sarah is a trustee for the organisation, which works to help women back into employment by offering training in interview technique, and styling tips for appropriate work wear. Since 2015, the charity has supported over 580 women, 69% of whom have secured paid employment. Here, Sarah looks back on the evening and explores how the work that Smart Works does aligns with our key purpose themes, truly helping our cities to thrive.

    “If you buy something, you’ll buy it in navy… but if you rent it, you’ll rent it in yellow.”

    Those were the words of Mavis Ackerley as she spoke at Alderley Park to an audience of over 100 guests on Wednesday night. The event was Smart Works Greater Manchester - Fashion and Fizz, and if that doesn’t sound fabulous enough, wait for the rest…

    Smart Works is a charity which supports women back into work by offering interview coaching and personal styling. The personal styling element is incredibly valuable as many of the women who Smart Works support are vulnerable and lack the means and confidence to source and choose the right clothing for an interview. Added to this, the ever-changing expectations around office wear make self-styling even more of a challenge, so the charity offers a safe and non-judgemental space for women to be guided through this journey - and they’re even given a 5-piece capsule wardrobe if they land the job! 

    I think we’d all agree that’s a great cause, and Wednesday’s event at Alderley Park was all about celebrating the amazing work that Smart Works does in getting women back into employment. 

    It’s a cause close to my heart, too: as a trustee for Smart Works Greater Manchester, I was also involved in organising the event, which touched on issues incredibly important to Bruntwood: sustainability and a fair, equitable society. In fact, it was in explaining the sustainability of renting high-end pieces, rather than buying, that Mavis Ackerley’s tongue-in-cheek commentary on styling choices emerged.

    Mavis is herself a stylist and life coach, and mother to TV’s Michelle Ackerley, who acted as compere for this fascinating evening. Also in attendance were Michelle Payne, founder of Atelier World, and VIP guest Jane Shepherdson CBE. As former leader of Topshop, and the lady credited with turning the name into a global brand, fashion mogul Jane spoke extensively about her career in the industry, as well as her role within the London Fashion Fund. The Fund works to support innovation around making fashion more sustainable, and especially champions start-ups who are seeking to change the industry for the better. This has led to investment in, among other things, a new type of cotton that takes 90% less water to grow and a photosynthesis jacket where every metre of the fabric absorbs as much CO2 as a 100-year old oak tree!

    Everyone there got a real buzz from hearing these brilliant women talk, and it was great to see the event so well-attended. At Bruntwood and at Unify Energy, we think it’s so important that our societies are fair and open to all. The work which Smart Works does to enable opportunities for women cannot be overstated, and their consciously sustainable approaches prove they are a true asset in our thriving cities. I’m incredibly grateful to Bruntwood for helping me to raise the profile of the charity to colleagues and customers, and I’m looking forward to seeing more events like this in the future!

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