Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

Free Treats! (No Tricks)

This Hallowe’en, pants mean prizes!

We’ve no orange pants to offer you this Hallowe’en so instead we thought we’d help you stock up for the trick or treaters – or just give you some toys to play with on the spooookiest night of the year

Order anything at all from our shop this weekend for the chance to win one of three spoooky prizes – we’ll draw three names at random on Monday and your spooky treats will be with you by Hallowe’en. Prizes will include spooky bubble mix, spinning tops, scary sweeties and stickers and some glow in the dark fangs!

Shop here until 23.59 on Sunday 26th for your chance to win!

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Fashion Enter

How do you set up a factory in the UK with no experience of manufacturing?

When I started WMYP back in 2008 it’s fair to say I had (and still do have) a healthy level of naivety. I’d never been into a garment factory but knew how to sew (a bit, mostly square things like curtains) had my own (domestic) sewing machines and though, hey, how hard can it be? (more on the Dunning Kruger effect here…)

We’ve been merrily reinventing the wheel here in Southampton since then. And we’ve done ok – we’ve had some great experts (and some less great ones – the problem with not being an expert is now always knowing when people are flannelling you…) come and advise us and our production line looks like a production line, and has reporting protocols and QA checks built in – we’ve a robust model built from the ground up, we make great pants – it works. But there’s nothing like seeing someone else do it to really learn. There is still manufacturing in the UK but it wasn’t until August 2014 that I went to see another factory. I went to Fashion Enter.

Fashion Enter is a not for profit, social enterprise, which strives to be a centre of excellence for sampling, grading, production and for learning and development of skills within the fashion and textiles industry. Based in north London it also has a Stitching Academy which teaches young people the technical skills to be part of garment manufacture. It teaches and it makes for ASOS and many others.

I have to say that I was almost in tears standing in the factory. It felt like what we might be like when we grow up. It’s *stunning* – if garment manufacture facilities are your thing! Beautiful, organised, efficient. This is where designing your workspace pays dividend. Before you put needle to thread, you plan that cutting is *here* and overlock is *here* and lockstitch is *here* so that movement isn’t wasted, flow is created – the output from all activity is maximised without asking more of a person – just by altering, organising, managing their surroundings. I, hawk-like, took in everything – the metal detectors to make sure no errant pins are left in a garment before shipping; the trimming area where work is done standing (we do ours sitting), the ‘horses’ that carry threads and fabrics from station to station. I wanted to move in.

I just stood and stared for a long time, took lots of pictures and tried to memorise everything and then was fortunate to have a few minutes with Jenny who runs it all.

Jenny is amazing. She knows everyone’s name and I saw her be shop-floor-hands-on and strategic-plan-high-level and warm-advisor-to-me in the same day. There were tears (mine). To be told that she, like me, loves her work but that it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done – there’s real support in knowing you’re not alone. Jenny listened to me talk about what we’re doing, and what we want to do. She gave me great advice on some practical next steps – and steps after those. And possibly more valuable than any of that she hugged me and told me ‘you can do it. you’ve got the personality’.

To be told that by someone who *is* doing it was like a shot of adrenaline, a hug, a cup of hot chocolate, a firework and a gold star in one go. I came away determined to put into practice everything I learned and to go back and learn more – and I will. If you’re a designer looking for a great factory in the UK to make up your garments, or if you want to learn more about your trade, do check them out


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It’s not just pants

Living our work day in and day out, and forgetting that not *everyone* is as pant obsessed as us, it’s really interesting to find out what people do and don’t know about us. We don’t tell all of our stories all the time as we tend to think that people know then – and then we remember that there are 7 billion people in he world let alone 70 million in the UK. And we remember still have some stories to tell

So today we wanted to tell you a little bit about what we do that’s not pants.

We are first and foremost a social business. We exist to create jobs for women who need them. We could be making tables, cars or felt tip pens. The product almost doesn’t matter – the point is that we wanted to make jobs, and we needed a product that we thought people would buy to be the vehicle to make those jobs. And I wanted some pink lace ethical knickers – so we make pants.

But we do a lot more than just make pants.

We teach English. We teach employability – how to call in sick, how to ask for holiday, why being on time is important. We teach sewing skills – sometimes to people who have none – you don’t have to be able to sew, read or write to get a job here. We teach professionalism and teamwork. We teach that there are formal ways of doing things –  bits of paper to fill in and whiteboards to read. We talk about what clinics there are and who to talk to about a bad tooth, or – on one memorable occasion what ‘wedgie’ meant. On that day, to us, it meant, ‘ah, you have a teenage son’. We talk about all kinds of religious festivals, and athiesm too. We talk about school, school governors, why bank holidays are so called. We learn about life and work in other countries – it;s most certainly not just one way. And we have lunch together, every day, at 12.30. We all stop and just be women together. It’s GOOD.

We make pants. But we don’t make jobs to make pants. We make pants to make jobs.


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Patchwork Present

Here at Who Made Your Pants? we hate waste. We hate wasted fabric – so we use stuff leftover from big underwear companies and make pants out of it. And we hate the wasted resource and talent when people are unable to find jobs or access services so we make jobs and signpost women to services.

Our friends over at Patchwork Present hate waste too. So much so that they are set up to allow friends and family to come together to fund the one gift that someone – or sometwo or more – really want.

It’s a genius idea , ‘a whip round’ as founder Liv’s nan calls it. And it’s simplicity masks a wonderful elegance.

How many times have you been given a bit of plastic tat because someone felt they needed to give you *something* but didn’t know what you wanted and didn’t have much spare cash? Or – worse, perhaps, been given an expensive present by someone who obviously thought they’d hit the nail on the head – only for you to have to do *that* smile that says ‘receipt please’? How much more amazing would it have been if they’d been able to put that fiver towards the one present you really wanted?

If you want to go to space or have some new shoes or want to become a crazy cat lady or just eat a lot of cheese there is a patchwork already made for you – or you can build your own. We LOVE that gifts can start from just £1 – everyone can really, genuinely help.

If you’ve something in mind for Christmas, or a wedding to plan – or just got your eye on something fabulos – do check them out.

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Adieu School for Social Entrepreneurs  

Since October 2013, I have been on a training and development programme called the Lloyds Scale Up Programme at the School for Social Entrepreneurs.

My year there ended recently – the 2nd October. And I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned. It’s both ‘wow everything’ and ‘oh that old thing I’ve known that for ages’ – as it’s just all assimilated so fast.

I don’t know about you but I am deeply – deeply – cynical about a lot of training and learning. Maybe it’s the countless sales courses I’ve been on in my time but I tend to think that a lot of training is a chore, its not relevant, it not applicable – and its a waste of time as it takes you way from the actual work in hand.

When I applied to go on this programme, I will be bluntly honest and say that the £15k grant that came with the training was as attractive as the programme sounded. The thing that really grabbed me though was the focus on practical learning,. Their website says

‘Our courses are practical, rather than theoretical, and you will be able to apply what you learn to your own organisation straight away’

and it’s absolutely true.

Every eight weeks or so I’ve trotted up to Tooley Street in London for two days. I’ve stayed with a friend, which has been nice, but also eased the train fare burden. I’ve rocked up to number 139 by 9.45 each day and had coffee and biscuits – and carrot sticks, thanks to course colleague Jo- and then spent two days talking, listening, learning, absorbing. Rhiannon said, in our end of course wrap up, ‘I’m not really sure where I learned anything – I never felt like I was being taught’ and I know what she means. But like her, I’ve gone away every time able to go straight back into work and say right, we need to think about this thing this way. And every time it’s made us leap – leap – forward.

I’d genuinely be a little bit embarrassed to tell you about some of these changes as where we were before them now looks- frankly – terrifying. A kind of ‘oh my GOD how had I got us into that situation and not noticed’ . But that’s the reality of running a social enterprise and being broke and trying to do everything well and kindly, you cant keep your eye on every ball and you can easily find yourself with something fairly major going horribly wrong right in front of you – that you’d not had time to notice yet. When you’re constantly firefighting, the biggest fires get your energy – it doesn’t mean there aren’t smaller ones but they just have to wait.

So. In practical terms, what have I learned? I’ve learned the what, why and how of Management Accounts, I’ve learned about how to slow down when I speak in public. I’ve learned that I am not alone – that there are other people trying to do a good thing and finding it hard. I’ve learned that I LOVE Action Learning. I’ve learned that lots of social businesses live a knife edge existence. I’ve learned about board structures and leadership and how to ensure your values stay when your organisation grows, I’ve learned to say no to offers of help that aren’t helpful and I’ve learned t trust myself more. I’ve learned structures for talks  – I’ve learned that there ARE structures for talks! I’ve learned that sometimes a nail is just a nail – I’ve learned things I didn’t know I didn’t know and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.

As well as that I’ve had a fantastic tutor who has been unafraid to tell me when I need to change something. That’s priceless. When you’re at the top of your own small tree, people don’t. And I know I am a better person and WMYP is better and stronger as a result. Thanks Bert.

If you’re running, starting or thinking about a social business I would genuinely recommend you fight tooth and nail to get onto courses at the SSE. The entire team are brilliant – they communicate helpfully, thoughtfully and constructively. I suspect I’m not among alone social entrepreneurs in that my social business grew out of my own pain and problems – I’m used to thing being hard and to having to fight. The SSE team are genuinely good and supportive and it took me a while to get used to that.

I’m already booked onto my next course there and know it will not be my last. See you at the coffee pot.


(um – and um. The SSE and Lloyds run a Social Entepreneru of The Year Award. And I’m a finalist. And if we win we get £10k – votey vote vote?  )

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Pink Stinks

Next up and last in our day of the girl top of the pops is Pink Stinks.

If you’ve not heard of them we’re surprised – they have a powerful voice from what is a tiny organisation. They don’t hate pink –but they hate that pink has become the signpost for all things girl. From an increasingly young age, children are being funnelled into identifying with toys, games and other products, which separate them and narrow their range of play and experience. When the pink section is full of lipsticks and make up kits and princess dresses – when girls are told, shown and led to believe that those are *their* things and they’re not allowed anything else, there’s often not room left or magnifying glasses and dumper trucks.

They have reached parliamentary committees and the mainstream media regularly and have won awards for their activism. We think that most people don’t know how tiny Pink Stinks is – it really is. All power to Abe and Emma for their work.

We love Pink Stinks campaigns - do check them out on facebook and twitter

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Number five in our Day of the Girl round up are our friends ScienceGrrl

Formed in 2012 as a response to the hilarious European ‘Science, it’s girl thing’ campaign – which featured no actual science – ScienceGrrl believe that science is for everyone and are passionate about celebrating women in science and passing on the love of science to the next generation. They are a grassroots group with chapters in cities around the UK (we wish there was one near us) – they aim to be a genuine support to women in science.

We’ve partnered in the past and sold a pants pack in their colours – we even got the chance to do a photo shoot with them and Liz Bonnin in the Science Museum space section before anyone else came in for the day!

They are on facebook and twitter – do check them out especially if you are close to one of their chapters

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A Mighty Girl

A Mighty Girl is one of our favourite online organisations. It produces great inspiring content on facebook and twitter but also has great resources that you can tap into.

And if you’re sick of a diet of gendered toys, books and clothes, they have great options for everyone from babies to adults – we want everything they have!

They are on facebook and twitter 

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WOW – Women of the World

 Our third girl friendly organisation for day of the is is the WOW – Women of the World – festival. Run annually in London, WOW takes over the entire Southbank Centre. The brainchild of Jude Kelly, Wow 2015  will be an eight day celebration of all things women and girls – that will also look to what has to be done to make things better. It’s definitely serious but there is a lot of fun, a lot of laughing – and quite often, our pants. It also has sister events around the UK and has run great speed mentioring sessions on the London Eye on every Day of the Girl

WOW is a buzzing energetic space – put it in your diary for March 2015

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Plan UK

Plan uk

Second in our list of organisations to shout about on Day of the Girl is PlanUK

PlanUK is a great charity which works with the world’s poorest children so they can move themselves from a life of poverty to a future with opportunity. Their ‘Because I am a Girl’ campaign is an ambitious one – to ensure that all girls can live safe from violence, go to school, marry who they want, when they want and have their voices heard. It doesn’t sound like we should need to fight for that does it – to marry who we want? – but we do.

Plan are working tp end FGM and child marriage within a generation. We hope they succeed.

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