Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

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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Daughters of Eve

Daughters of  Eve is a non profit organisation that works to protect girls and young women who are at risk from female genital mutilation (FGM). By raising awareness about FGM and sign-posting support services we aim to help people who are affected by FGM and ultimately help bring an end to this practice.

It works with women and girls at risk of, and living with, FGM, as well as the broader community.

It aims to end FGM by:

  • Protection – by influencing policy change and key decision makers.
  • Prevention – through raising awareness and education .
  • Provision – of the services and support needed to help survivors of FGM and other gender based violence.
  • Participation - By sharing good practice within the UK and international young on how we protect our girls from gender-based violence.

The women behind Daughters of Eve are phenomenal. Inspirational is a word that doesn’t come close. In their own words, the Daughters of Eve come from FGM practising communities and the bravery and boldness that they have shown in their steadfast determination is really something to behold.

We salute them.

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Day of the Girl

October 11th 2012 was the first ever UN Day Of The Girl. Two years later, there are events happening globally. In our small way, we’re contributing tomorrow – we’re giving our blog and facebook over to Day of The Girl and we’ll be posting all day about organisations we love that are doing great things.

It can be easy to think – at times – that we in the UK might not need something like Day of The Girl. But the reality suggests we do. As thing like the Everyday Sexism project, Pink Stinks, No More Page 3, Child Eyes and Count Dead Women show, girls and women right here in the UK still suffer disproportionate discrimination and violence simply because they are female. The gendering of toys and books limits expectations and interests and has an impact on what and who children believe they can be – and as Emma Watson said in her recent UN speech, this impacts negatively on us all. If we are taught, socialised and trained to believe that gender roles – down to the emotions we’re allowed to feel – are tied to our gender, were constantly reinforcing difference.

Here are some stats and info from the UN, Daughters of Eve, Plan UK , Rape Crisis England and Wales and Count Dead Women

  • Rape, sexual, domestic and partner violence, sexual harrasment. 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. Additionally, some studies show that up to 70 per cent of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner. In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, intimate partner violence accounts for between 40 and 70 per cent of female murder victims. Rape is ‘a mistake’ that ‘boys’ should not be punished for, that certain politicians believe women cannot get pregnant from Statistics on the number of rapes worldwide are difficult to collate as under reporting is common but it is estimated that
    • 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year
    • Over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year
    • 1 in 5 women (aged 16 – 59) has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

    Between 40 and 50 per cent of women in EU countries experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at work In the United States, 83 per cent of girls aged 12 to 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools. A 2005 survey by Amnesty International found that 33% of people believed that women shared responsibility for their rape.

  • Femicide and honour killing. In the UK, more than two women are killed by men every week. In Central America hundredshundreds - of women are killed every year. ‘Honour killings’ – whereby a girl or woman is killed by her family to preserve ‘the honour’ of that family – are recorded across Europe, Asia, the Americas…
  • Child Brides. More than 64 million girls worldwide are child brides, with 46 per cent of women aged 20–24 in South Asia and 41 per cent in West and Central Africa reporting that they married before the age of 18. 1 in 3 girls in the developing world are married by their 18th birthday. This can end their chance of completing an education and puts them at greater risk of isolation and violence. For girls under 15 the incidence of early and forced marriage is 1 in 9. Some are married as young as five years old. Victims of early and forced marriage typically have children very young. Approximately 70,000 girls die in labour every year because their bodies aren’t ready for childbirth.
  • FGM. Approximately 140 million girls and women in the world have suffered and live with the after effects of female genital mutilation/cutting. It is estimated that 23,000 girls are cut every year in the UK.
  • Trafficking Millions of women and girls are trapped in modern-day slavery. Women and girls represent 55 per cent of the estimated 20.9 million victims of forced labour worldwide, and 98 per cent of the estimated 4.5 million forced into sexual exploitation.

These stats are sad and hard to read – but there is hope. Voices like those of Malala Yousafzai, Nimko Ali, Leyla Hussein, Fahma Mohammed, Emma Watson are being heard. Change is starting – and we can all make it come faster, by celebrating girls and women for exactly who they are. We’re all good enough, just as we are. We don’t need to be cut, or controlled or protected or policed. We just need the room to be.

We’re celebrating girls and women today. We’ll be celebrating them – and ourselves – tomorrow too, and the next day. The Day of The Girl is a wonderful thing. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if we didn’t need it?

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