Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

This is the Last Post on this blog (we have a new home)

Hello pants Fans

After writing this blog here since *checks* my WORD a long time ago, we’re now moving this blog into our shop. It’s new home will be here

This wordpress blog will not be updated any longer after today. We’ll try to respond to comments if they appear but we’re trying to get everything under one roof to make it all easier to manage.

All the old posts are making their way over to our new home but there is a bit of tidying up and rearranging to do just like when you move into any new place.

See you at the new place – wish we could throw a housewarming party!

 

 

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All change, all change! Rosalind Pants Price Reduction.

I am delighted to tell you that the two new (to us, They’re reconditioned and we love them for it) machines we took delivery of a few weeks ago, Fred and Ginger

IMG_0187

have done exactly what they were supposed to do. We can now apply our beautiful edge laces to our Pants in a FRACTION of the time it used to take

Rosalind was  previously priced at £21.50 as it took literally 15 minutes to attach that lace all around the waist and both legs.

From today, all Rosalind COLOURS are £18, Rosalind Kohl Black is £15 and the Rosalind Working Week Pack is now £65

Hooray for Fred and Ginger!

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What does Magna Carta mean to you?

Yesterday, I went to meet a friend who also has a background as a chemist (as in someone who understands chemistry not a pharmacist) to talk a bit more about fabric sourcing and impact – blog post coming on that soon. I try to make every train ticket to London work hard so had booked another meeting later on and took the opportunity to fill a bit of the time in between by going to see the Magna Carta exhibition at the British Library.

I learned about the Magna Carta when I was about nine. I *think* I went to an exhibition about it or something as part of a school trip. I’m not sure. But I know that I’ve had a copy of it hanging up in my house for years. Before saying anything else…. I know it didn’t do much for women, and I know it mostly got repealed and and and. But at nine years old, I fell in love with it. I loved that some men stood up to a figure of authority that was behaving unfairly and that they got organised and challenged that unfairness. I loved that they took the king, bodily, so that he had to listen. I’m no vigilante but I do sometimes think, ‘don’t ask permission, ask for forgiveness’, and I’ve always thought they must have got to the end of their tether to do that.

The exhibition was brilliant – do go if it’s your kind of thing – and my heart swelled to see how many people, in how many countries, have tried to curtail unfair power, to claim and assert the rights of regular people, through history. I knew that the Capitol Building had a gold engraved copy of the Magna Carta but I didn’t know there were similar charters, pre the Runnymede sealing of the first version, in 1215, in other counties. None seems to have quite the mythology that Magna Carta does but there are documents from France and other countries which show similar statements and intents. And then later, the are other documents which either directly reference if or which are clearly influenced by it.

The governing rules of the first English colonies in America – Virginia, and later Pennsylvania – are, in places, almost direct copies. Compare ‘justice shall neither be sold, denyed nor delayed’ with ‘to no-one will we we sell, deny or delay rights of justice’. Later still, the English Bill of Rights of 1689, echoes Magna Carta and it was of real political significance during the English Civil war (I was taught about this by a fantastic teacher, Mr D Thomas, who had us use pencil cases and files to show how the battles played out. In hindsight, he was clearly a republican and socialist and I was and am still deeply influenced by his teachings) the U.S. declaration of Independence, and the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights share the feel, the aims and some of the words. I joined Amnesty at the age of 15 on the power of those words. I have them hanging up in my house too, next to a translation of the Magna Carta. I think they’re beautiful.

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I’m aware that this isn’t about Pants. But it is about rights, and WMYP is emphatically about rights, too. It’s about saying workers have the right to earn a fair wage. It’s about saying it’s not right for workers to be forced to work in factories with what turn out to be fatal cracks in the walls. It’s about saying that we have equal rights with the people sand blasting jeans in China and that they and the 170 million children (11% of all children) globally involved in the garment trade have equal rights to us. Those children should be getting the education children here are. It’s an accident of birth that we are where we are and they are where they are. It’s about saying that as moral, decent, regular humans, with heads on our shoulders, brains in those heads and absolute shared humanity in our hearts, just – be decent. Don’t be evil. Don’t exploit, or bully, or shame. Don’t support people who do. Don’t incarcerate people without trial, or, as most of us aren’t heads of state, don’t support countries who do. Don’t steal. Don’t close your eyes to the wages that aren’t being paid when you buy a bargain you don’t need but it’s cheap.

I know our modern life is full of compromises and competing pressures and I know that money is tight for a lot of people. But I genuinely think we all want to make good choices and support others and it’s unfair to say that people who haven’t much money don’t or can’t care. The future is a big place and maybe a necessary decision taken in one set or circumstances today will be different tomorrow. Information is key. Knowing your rights is key. Stand up for your rights, and the rights of others. They’ve been hard won by people who actually fought. We – you, me – can vote, every time we go shopping, for the rights of others. And we don’t need to kidnap a king to do it.

 

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What do *we* have a position on?

Recently, at the WOW Festival, I met tons of amazing women doing amazing things. I had fantastic conversations about all kinds of projects. Lots of people asked us to work with them.

I wasn’t really sure how to respond.

When I write this blog, I’m really aware that *I* am writing it, but Who Made Your Pants? is very definitely about *we*. And *we* have lots of different views. We are Muslim and athiest, vegetarian and meat eating, feminist and not. So WMYP is neither religious nor athiest, it takes no stance on meat eating and while we’ve been called a feminist business, we don’t call ourselves that.

When *we* came out in support of No More Page 3, it was because we all agreed. And so *we* supported it. But when we’re approached about other projects, I often don’t have an answer. *I* need to check with everyone to find out what *we* think and if *we* don’t have an agreed position, then *we* don’t have a position.

I know that a lot of you out there supporting us would identify as feminist and I personally absolutely do. You’ll appreciate that there have been expectations placed on us that *we* would naturally support certain campaigns. What I personally might support is one thing but I hope you can see that *we* have a huge variety of views as women, and so we’re not going to have a view as an organisation if it doesn’t chime for us all. At the risk of sounding very cagey, there are security concerns to bear in mind. The last thing I want to do is talk on behalf of *us* about something that is going to put a colleague of mine at risk.

Over the next while, *we* are going to be talk about a number of projects we’ve been approached about. If you’re waiting for a response from me, please bear with me. We’re working this out as we go.

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Why don’t you make…..?

We often get asked for products that we don’t make. These often include cotton pants, bras, leggings, socks and Tshirts. One one memorable occasion there was an approach about fence panels.

What we get asked about most often, though, is *this* particular sort of Pant. We get sent Pants in the post, we get sent photos of Pants, and at events like the WOW Festival in London, a wonderful woman came back on the second day to show us her favourite (washed and clean) Pants. Thank you Purple Lady, for that.

I’ll be honest. I love this. I love Pants so what’s not to like. And, frankly, from a business perspective, if you tell us what you like, and we can make it – well, then you’ll buy it! That’s the sort of intelligence that we need so we can make the money to pay the wages.

However, the short and simple answer the ‘Why Don’t You Make…’ is almost always ‘we can’t’ (at the moment, at least)

We operate within various limits. We *only* buy reclaimed fabric. So, we can only make Pants out of what fabrics we can find. We have one supplier. If he hasn’t got it, we can’t get it. So, if he can’t get cotton – so we can’t get cotton. Man Pants, for example, do tend to be made of cotton – not lace (stretch or rigid, double galloon or ‘all over’) or printed lycras, or net. So we can’t make Man Pants. Or printed jersey Pants for women. Or leggings, or Tshirts. (HOWEVER. If you know of someone that has access to reclaimed jersey, in minimums of about 50m I WANT TO KNOW.)

We’ve been asked to make Very Very Wide Aimee shorts. Aimee shorts are made from fabric that comes to us in either 16, 18, 21 or 23cm depths. The curved edge at the top of the waist and the bottom of the leg is the edge of the fabric – we don;t cut that, it;s how it comes. We can’t make them bigger unless we get bigger fabric. It’s not won’t. It’s can’t.

Another limit is the skill set of our team. For *reasons*, most of our team don’t want to work full time. None of our team knew how to sew underwear when they started here, so they’ve learned here. If you do something every single day you get really good at it really fast. Our team are good – very good – at what they do. But we are, right now, at the stage where they don’t do this every day and so it just takes time to get excellent. And it takes time to learn how to apply skills learned in one situation or product to another.

Right now, when we make a new style, we takes weeks – months even – to train our team. That eats into Live Production time. And we need to make Pants to sell Pants to make money to pay wages. There’s a fine balance to strike between wanting to make MORE MORE MORE PRETTY THINGS and needing to keep those wages being paid. And we’re ok with that. We just need to get it right.

There’s another limit. Our slice of the Pants market is *tiny*. It’s a big risk for us to introduce anything new when there are – relatively – few people out there waiting to snap up our stuff. Using bras as an example, we just don’t have enough people out there (yet!) to make that viable. Even just to provide a small size range – let’s say 28-36, A – E cup – that’s 30 different size variations. Making one of anything is expensive so we’d need to make – let’s say – an average of 25 in each size. A minimum run therefore would be 750.

We make, at most, about 450 pairs of any one Pant and even then we end up with some going into the sale. 750 bras (let alone thinking about the technical skill we don’t yet have and the pattern making and testing and and and and…) gives me the vapours.

This same thing applies to our size range. We get occasional requests for size 6, 20 and other sizes. These requests are very very occasional though and to add extra sizes to our size range would incur costs we’d not recoup. That’s wages money we’d be risking. As things stand today, we are selling around about 7-10 pairs of size 18 per month. We make size 18 in every colour and style – and there are more than 10 styles, so you can see that we’ve a lot of Pants (which represent fabric bought and wages paid to make them) sitting in the stock room. Most of our size 18s sell in our sale – lovely for bargain hunters, but not so great for us!

We need to get bigger – much bigger – before we can think seriously about introducing new products. We do want to and have an idea about crowd funding which we’re working out before we talk about it next month. But we’re not there yet.

I have never minded operating within narrow parameters. I am a huge believer in Do One Thing Well and I think that limits can teach us to be really creative. It’s exciting going to pour supplier and looking at all the reclaimed treasure. It’s exciting seeing a colleague put Skill A and Skill B together and suddenly we’re a step closer to being able to drop in a new style.

So. That’s the story. For now, at least.

And no, we didn’t make the fence panels.

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Wedding planning? Pin to WIN a Brand New Knicker Drawer

We’ve weddings on our mind at the moment. Not just because I’m as proud as PUNCH that I’m going to be Groomswoman for my wonderful brother and his fabulous fiancee at their wedding this summer (I LOVE THIS SO MUCH), but because for the first time EVER we have found some fabric that we love that is suitable for Bride Pants.

On the 17th April, a tiny Bride collection will go on sale.

We’ve 160 pairs of Ding Dong Belle in our Aimee style

ding dong belle f lr

60 pairs of Mari Belle in our Cecilia style

Mari Belle fLR

and a tiny 40 pairs of Blue Belle in our Rosalind style

bluebelle fLR

They will all be £18 – no launch pricing as they are just so limited. There will be gift wrap options and keepsake boxes too. All three Pants have old and new covered – Old as in reclaimed fabrics, and New Pants. And Mari Belle and Blue Belle also get your Blue!

We’re also going to be launching a New Knicker Drawer product on April 17th – and that’s what you could WIN!

Lots (really, lots) of women have told us that when they got married, for hen presents, each woman going to the hen do (all of these women were keen to stress there were no L plates or veils involved) bought them a new pair of knickers. We thought this was a lovely idea and so we’ve found some beautiful Blue keepsake boxes, and a hen party or group of friends can come together and build a Knicker Drawer of your choice for the Bride, something that she will really treasure. The gift of a good pants day is hard to beat!

So, how to win?

Simple!

  1. Before 23.59 on the 16th April, Follow us on Pinterest, set up a Board called WMYP New Knicker Drawer competition.
  2. Pin this Original Pin to it from our board here and pin your favourite seven Pants from our website, including your favourite Bride Pair. 
  3. Put the link to your Board and the date of your wedding into a comment under our Original Pin
  4. Cross everything for luck!

The winner will be announced on April 17th when our Bride Collection goes on sale. Whether you win or not we wish you a wonderful wedding and a very happy married future!

WMYBridePinToWin

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Help us help Ovarian Cancer Action

Starting tomorrow, and all, weekend we are raising funds for Ovarian Cancer Action. It’s easy – buy any pair of pants, or a pack, and select ‘Pants Donation £2.50′ or ‘Pack Donation £5′  We’ll then match your donation* and send the cash to Ovarian Cancer Action. Every single pound will help

Ovarian Cancer Action fund research at their Ovarian Cancer Action Research Centre.  They are committed to reducing the number of women who die from the disease and they also raise awareness of the symptoms. have a

Ovarian cancer is the UK’s biggest gynaecological killer and yet less than 10% of women in the UK know the signs and symptoms. You can help us to promote earlier diagnosis, giving women the best chances of survival – remember these symptoms and tell your friends and family.

This short video explains some of the the primary signs and symptoms for ovarian cancer which are:

  • Persistent stomach pain
  • Persistent bloating
  • Finding it difficult to eat or feeling full quickly
  • Needing to wee more often

Other symptoms you may notice include:

  • Back pain
  • Changes in your bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation)
  • Feeling tired all the time

If you’re regularly experiencing these symptoms on most days it’s important to talk to your GP as soon as possible.

You can direct people to our awareness film here:

*We will cap our match donations at £2.50 per pair of pants and £5 per pack. Donations over those amounts will be matched to those amounts.

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What are our packaging materials made from?

tl;dr We buy everything recycled  and UK made that we can – all our paper packaging materials have a majority of recycled content and are biodegradable

We love reclaiming fabrics to make our Pants from and so it makes sense to us that we use reclaimed/recycled materials to post them to you.

Our Pants look nice and feel nice and we want every part of receiving them in the post to be nice too. We’re not got a shop for you to come and meet them in so we need to make that moment when you open them lovely for you.

The boxes we post your Pants out in are – we think – about as beautiful as a cardboard box can be.

They’re also made from over 90% recycled material, right here in the UK. When we were looking for a box supplier in the beginning, we were really surprised to find that it’s almost impossible to get a 100% recycled box so we settled for 90%+ knowing that the boxes we chose were strong enough to reuse as drawer organisers/building blocks for forts (we’ve been sent pictures) after they’ve been through the post. They come to us flatpacked and we make them up here. We like these a lot.

The paper tape we seal the boxes with is 100% new content and made in the UK. We’re testing recycled tape right now. We’re happy with the strength here and are testing a few boxes in the post. The main function of the tape is to be secure so if you’ve ordered recently look out for a note in your parcel and if yours has one saying it’s used recycled tape please tweet/FB us a pic of how your parcel arrived. Work in progress.

Our tissue paper is mostly recycled but not 100%. The actual percentage varies depending on the colour, but is a minimum of 60% recycled content. This is made in the USA – we would *love* to find a UK manufacturer of recycled (nice looking and feeling) tissue paper in a variety of colours. We’ve looked online and at trade fairs and not found one – if you know of one please tell us in the comments!

The little logo labels we seal your parcels with and the address labels we put onto the boxes are sometimes recycled and sometimes not.. We buy labels from a green supplies company and they’re little and sometimes don’t have what we need. And sometimes we get a local printer to rpint them for us and it depends what we have. We’re working on finding an all the time solution.

The ribbons we use to seal gift wrapped parcels are currently from a variety of places – floristry suppliers,  a local shop, a UK manufacturer.  We only really need quite small quantities at the moment and the minimum we’d need to order from a wholesaler is often beyond us. We’re working towards building a relationship with a manufacturer soon and we’re hopeful that can be a UK one.

Our boxes, tissue paper, tape, packing slips and labels are biodegradeable, compostable, great for building things out of or storing treasures in. And we love this from Liz – who upcycled some of the ribbon on one of her pants parcels

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What does ‘fashion’ mean to you?

Is it just ‘clothes’ or is it something with seasons, that changes? Are there rules you need to follow? What does that mean if you love a bootleg when skinny is in? Do you care? Mind? Notice? Do you get excited about what’s coming next, look back at old pictures wondering why the hell you wore *that* or do you wear the same kinds of things over and over? We’d love to know – please tell us!*

We’re musing on this at the moment. Musing, too, over the idea that it so often seems that there’s a view that what we wear is *for* someone else. I remember some man telling me – telling me – that I must have wanted men to look at my breasts as I was wearing a vest top. Now I’ve been above a C cup since I was 14 and there’s nothing I can do about that – I don’t decide what size boobs to wear in the morning when I choose my Pants. And there wasn’t a bit of me thinking about him or any other man when I got dressed that day. It was summer. I was hot. Vest top. Simple. Do you think about other people when you’re getting dressed? It’s interesting stuff, this.

We wear all kinds of clothes here. Catherine used to run a vintage shop and so has a wardrobe bursting with everything from Roxane Gay’s ‘Bad Feminist’ T shirt to designer labels and she loves and revels in putting outfits together. I’ve been wearing black since I was 14, and almost everything I own is rescued from a charity shop and worn with DM boots or DM shoes and is loved, loved loved – I don’t have many things but the things I have I wear time and again. Our colleagues wear all kinds of colours, and a mix of traditional and western clothes.  We’ve also learned about traditions whereby after marriage, in some cultures, the bride is bought an entirely new wardrobe by her in laws. Those clothes really mean something.

The people we notice in the street are the ones with their own style, not the ones that look like they’ve walked out of a shop window. Is this the difference between fashion and style? Who knows. But what we do know is that fast fashion is a thing and that there are people for whom it is important to buy now, wear today, replace tomorrow.  I know the ‘buy fewer better things’ idea isn’t accessible to everyone- Terry Pratchett puts it beautifully, ‘

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”
― Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms

Either which way, there’s another end to fashion. In just over a month, it will be two years since Rana Plaza, an eight storey building, collapsed claiming over 1100 lives and injuring over 2500 more people. Clothes were being made in that building for brands including (among others) Benetton, Bonmarché, Monsoon Accessorize, Mango, Matalan, Primark, and Walmart.

The building had been extended without permits, made taller. It had generators on high floors in case of power cuts. It was also being used for manufacturing when it had been designed as office and residential. Even in our tiny factory, sewing machines make a heck of a lot of vibration. Imagine what the vibration of one, two, three thousand machines would do to hastily built walls. It’s terrifying.

None of us here think that we should wear sackcloth and guilt. We are allowed to love clothes, and we are allowed to love different ones on different days. We’re allowed to want to express ourselves through our clothes and we’re also allowed to just wear clothes because we like them and it not be a statement to anyone else.

What do you think about this? We’ll be talking about this in the month leading up to the Rana Plaza anniversary and we’d genuinely love to know what you think. *

 

*Please note that this blog was written in the past and scheduled to is go live while I am on holiday so any comments will be answered when I’m back. Much obliged!

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So what’s a Social Enterprise then?

At the WOW Festival over the weekend, I must have said the following words 500 times.

Who Made Your Pants? is a social business. We exist specifically to create jobs for women who are refugees. We do that by turning perfect fabrics left over from big underwear factories into new pants in our tiny factory in Southampton. And we’re called Who Made Your Pants? so we tell you who made ours.

If you live in the social enterprise world, you might wonder why I talk about us as a social business and not a social enterprise.

If you don’t live in the social enterprise world – and there are bajillions more of you who don’t than who do – it’s my strong suspicion that right now you’re thinking, what the hell is a social enterprise and has it got anything to do with Captain Kirk.

First off, sorry, no it doesn’t. But to save any disappointment, here’s a picture of him anyway.

CapnKirk

And, incidentally, enterprise just means ‘a project, or undertaking, a business or a company’ according to Google.

The words ‘social enterprise’ have no legal meaning. They aren’t a badge or a stamp or a standard or a sign we’re in a club or gang. They don’t guarantee any standards, behaviour, codes of practice or anything. But what they tend to mean is ‘a business which trades for social good’. These businesses will measure their profits and losses like any other business – if you don’t know how much money you’ve got you’re going under, no matter how lovely your principles are – but they will also measure their impact on society, or the environment, or both. They will often be set up specifically to challenge or change something. We set up to create jobs for women, and we do that by making pants. We could be making tables to make this happen, the product doesn’t matter.

Pants to make Jobs

Some social enterprises, like us, are visible to you. Others – arguably the majority of them – are visible to ‘behind the scenes’ folks and are organisations which provide services or training like the wonderful Unthank Family Centre supporting families in Norfolk, or the Smart Schools Council which aims to help all young people to play an active, conscious, democratic role in their communities, or Bright Shadow – a fab theatre company on a mission is to enable people with dementia and those affected by it to live well and to thrive.

What we all have in common is that we see a problem that we want to address and we want to do that using trade. I love social enterprises.We might want our economy to be different but the world we live in today has us buying and selling and shopping and consuming and that isn’t going to change any time soon. So the idea what we can use that power – harness it and drive change with it – well. To me that’s a no brainer.

If you ever think about starting a business for social good do check out The School for Social Entrepreneurs (they are recruiting now for the Scale Up Programme which I was on last year. IT’S AMAZING)

And if you want to genuinely put your money where your beliefs are, check out some of our favourite social enterprises:

Elvis and Kresse for their LOVELY bags upcycled from firehoses

Divine Chocolate because YUM

Our stationery supplier The Green Stationery Company

and there are tons more in the Social Enterprise UK directory

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