NTU and White Rose Offer Free Professional Wardrobes for Students

Words: Addie Kenogbon
Photos: Mateusz Majewski
Saturday 09 March 2024
reading time: min, words

Nottingham Trent University has joined forces with popular charity clothing shop chain, White Rose, to launch the UK’s first ever professional student wardrobe, aimed at helping to empower students to get out into the working world. But what does a wardrobe have to do with career support? We popped along to a very special launch event and fashion show at NTU to find out more.

White Rose X NTU Fashion Show 2

Nottingham Trent University has become the latest spot in the city to welcome a branch of popular sustainable fashion brand, White Rose, marking its eleventh Nottingham store. However, this one has one major difference. All items are absolutely free.

What’s the catch I hear you say? Well, you need to be a student to access it. Dubbed ‘The Professional Student Wardrobe’, the NTU White Rose store is stationed at the university’s Newton Building, and is chock-full of smart dresses, suits, shoes, blazers and more - everything you need to get suited and booted.

With students able to pay the shop a visit ahead of an interview, placement or the first days of work, and take home free items of professional clothing, it offers a very different take on career support for the many students about to embark on the journey into the working world.

The launch follows a recent NTU survey, which revealed that 76% of students surveyed in the academic year 2021/2022 stated that the expenses of a potential interview impacted their decision to apply for a role or attend an interview.

We were invited down to the official launch of ‘The New Professional Student Wardrobe’ during a special fashion show at NTU. Debra Easter, director of employability services at NTU and the driving force behind the initiative said, “Many students can’t pay for professional clothing and I asked myself, ‘how do we actually address this issue around clothes for recruitment and interviews, where there’s the need to dress up?’”

Commenting on the need for such an initiative, Jane McNeil, Pro-Vice chancellor for education at NTU, said, “We want our students to find a fulfilling graduate role after they finish their studies, without worry about costs associated with that journey. And, our Employability Team’s project directly addresses this need.”

Over the years, NTU has financially supported students through a range of initiatives, including the Opportunity Fund as part of its Student Success Endowment, however, the new Professional Wardrobe goes even further Debra explains, delivering a real and meaningful social change.

The eleventh store opens of sustainable fashion brand, White Rose. However this one holds a major difference. All items are absolutely free.

Debra and her team made the decision to collaborate with White Rose, a preloved clothing shop chain launched by NTU alumnus, Grace Walker back in 2009 to raise vital funds for the Aegis Trust charity, an international non-profit organisation which builds peace in communities at risk of genocide. Its work also involves fostering long-term peace by encouraging change from mindsets of mistrust and prejudice to a position of shared responsibility for peace and stability.

The collaboration will see both NTU and White Rose operating joint donation drives where professional clothing will go to NTU and non-professional items will go into White Rose shops. To facilitate this, NTU has a collection point at the Newton Building where anyone can donate looking to give their wardrobe a clear-out. These items will be either stocked at the new Professional Wardrobe or sent to White Rose shops, ready for a second life in someone else’s wardrobe.

When browsing through the new Professional Wardrobe located on the ground floor of the Newton Building. The new shop is well stocked with high-quality clothing, many of which are top-end highstreet brands such as Zara, with students even able to get their hands on a few designer pieces too.

Care has also been given to ensuring the shop is as inclusive as possible. “It’s been really important to us that we’re size inclusive, gender neutral and culturally appropriate,” says Debra. “So we've tried to make sure that people don't feel they have to go through male or female sections. Instead it’s actually about just wearing what you feel is appropriate for yourself.”

Students are able to take home two free items a year which can be brought back and swapped for other items should they wish, as long as they’re in good resellable condition, ensuring that the whole process is fully sustainable and circular, in keeping with White Rose’s ethos.

For those who are unsure of what to wear, NTU offers guidance and advice through a team of fashion advisors as well as the university careers advisors. Debra says, “We currently have a team of fashion advisors running the shop. They’ve done some work with employers and offer advice to students that come in.” The university also offers additional support and guidance. This includes coaching, masterclasses and mock interviews performed by a range of businesses from across the city that the uni has partnered with.

In the ever-evolving world, there are some that argue whether there’s still the need for people to dress professionally for interviews and work life - especially post pandemic. However Debra believes there’ll always be a need. “We recognise that the working world has changed and it’s incredibly difficult to negotiate dress codes,” says Debra. “We advise students to always do their research on the organisation. Look on LinkedIn. Look at what people are wearing.”

To help launch the new initiative and demonstrate the amazing pieces available, the students and staff put on a fashion show, with looks curated and styled by the students themselves, based on the students’ dream future roles. As the models took to the catwalk, it brought to life just how special the initiative was, and the sheer difference it could make to students’ lives.

“We’re committed to finding solutions to unlock all our students’ potential, no matter their background,” says Pro Vice Chancellor, Jane McNeil. “Around a third of NTU students experience financial barriers, so to level the playing field and create an experience of higher education that isn’t tied to financial circumstances is crucial.”

To find out more, or if you’d like to donate, donations can be made at any White Rose store or via post through the website. Alternatively, if you’d like to set up a collection drive at your place of work, White Rose will come and collect the items from your office.


We have a favour to ask

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion

Please note, we migrated all recently used accounts to the new site, but you will need to request a password reset

Sign in using

Or using your

Forgot password?

Register an account

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.

Forgotten your password?

Reset your password?

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.