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Suits you, sir! Clothing scheme to help Sunderland graduates onto career ladder

Home / More / News / Suits you, sir! Clothing scheme to help Sunderland graduates onto career ladder

Published on 18 June 2021

Darren Tate
Darren Tate

It is probably something most of us take for granted – opening our wardrobe and picking out something smart for those important occasions. Some people, however, do not have this luxury.

For the unemployed or those on a low income, buying a suit, shirt, tie and shoes for a job interview can be very difficult.

This inspired former University of Sunderland student, Darren Tate, to set up Suitability, which provides suits for men who cannot afford them, as well as employment advice and support.

The 38-year-old, from Sunderland, is doing all of this while holding down a separate full-time job as an employment advisor.

“The first suit I donated was my own for a young gentleman on my caseload and he went into his interview looking and feeling confident and again he was successful, and Suitability was born,” Darren explained.

“There is already a fantastic service for women, so I wanted to create the male equivalent.

“Suitability is a Community Interest Company and offers free interview clothing to unemployed men across the North East, supporting them to not only look good but feel confident to succeed when attending their interviews.”

It all began in 2018, when Darren used his parents’ garage and loft to store donations from friends and family. When the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, he adapted his delivery method and began a virtual service, donating a lot of suits to those attending funerals.

Darren’s stock jumped from 100 suits up to 400 in just a few months and he quickly outgrew the space. After getting the keys to a large storage unit, which he could use for free for nine months, Suitability grew from strength to strength.

Darren, who graduated from Sunderland with a Sport and Exercise Development degree in 2002, said: “Fast forward to 2021 and we've had some amazing people and businesses get involved with clothing drives as well as retailers Next and Master Debonair donating some wonderful clothing to support our cause.

“We have even received some fantastic suits from ITV weatherman Ross Hutchinson, comedian Jason Manford and Sunderland AFC legend Kevin Ball.

“We have also gained more referral partnerships with local employability programmes as well as local Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) services.”

This year, Darren is going back to his roots and helping Sunderland’s male students get suited and booted for their graduation ceremonies – as well as supporting them in any interviews going forward.

Wendy Price heads up the University’s We Care team, which supports students who have been in care or who are estranged from their family, often without any emotional and financial support.

She said: “Graduation ceremonies are an event which many of our students look forward to and can’t wait to attend. However, for some of our care-experienced and estranged students, not having a suit to wear, and not being able to afford to buy one, can be a huge barrier.

“We are delighted that Darren has kindly offered to support our male students by providing clothing for their graduation ceremonies. This will help them to not only look amazing but feel more confident too.

“The support Darren is providing in this region is much needed and truly inspiring. Men right across the North East are not only being provided with a suit, but also the confidence they need to succeed.”

Suitability is always looking for good quality suits, shirts, ties, trousers, shoes and self-care products.

To donate, email: suitabilitycic@gmail.com