Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

5,4,3,2,1 – we have lift off!

Hello world,

Well, we did it – pants are go, our new website is up and running (go look, go shop!). I had huge amounts of fun at both of our fabulous launch events on the 1st December and I am thrilled to be able to say that I also received a phone call during the day which meant that I can eat for the next year – UnLtd have awarded me a Level 2 award of £15,000 – just for me, not the project. For me and my living expenses.

Let’s run back over the launch day and what led up to it.

On November 25th, the women in the sewing class had their last lesson with June and Ria, and I was delighted to be able to offer every single one of them a job. At the end of the lesson, we had a paperwork session – we had letters printed up making a formal job offer, and also forms to say they had finished their training for one of our funders and what seemed like a hundred other things. I was really pleased – the women have absolutely brilliant English compared to my ability in Farsi or Arabic or any of their languages, but the written word can be challenging, and when it comes to legal stuff, people have to understand before they sign. But we got through the lot, and the women even started teasing me about it all, which made me laugh.

Up til now, the women have just been coming in on Wednesdays but I have been saying to them for weeks that Tuesday the 1st December was a really important day – our launch day, and I wanted as many of them as possible to be a part of it. The plan was to have a sewing session 12-3 and then an evening reception from 5-7 at the Civic Centre in Southampton. That way, all our friends and supporters could have the opportunity to come and see us. whomadeyourpants? is all about showing people that factories can be fun places, not sweatshops so we are going to be open and invite people in – but the 1st was particularly about celebrating.

I’m writing this at 19.38 on Thursday 3rd December – and I have finally recovered. The 1st was utterly brilliant. June and Ria came in to supervise the session (they will be coming in for a while as the women really settle their skills) and they and three fabulous volunteers, Della, Maryam, and Aimee, were all in by about 9.45.As everyone set about making everything work, my adrenaline and I were left to make cheese and pineapple sticks in the kitchen and all of a sudden, it was 11.30. The women were on time, a fantastic event in itself, and then our first visitors arrived at 11.45 just as the finishing touches were being put to everything. Wine and juice poured, snacks arranged – and whoosh!

Between 12 and 2.30, about 60-75 people came through our doors, and I spoke to three groups of students from a local secondary school, was interviewed by the BBC South Today (it went out that night and will be up on our website soon) and Unity Radio and another film company too. Most interestingly for me, I had the opportunity to speak to so many people who have helped. I’m not sure how people feel about me mentioning names so I shan’t but, the chap who helped me with £600 before we existed legally – it was amazing to show him what his faith early on has helped to build. It was non stop but really thrilling – I loved it. The women were great, they had fun, and we’d managed to sort a way of keeping the camera shy our of shot. All the volunteers were stunning – I’m so glad they were there and part of it, and that they can see what we’ve been working towards.

One of the big moments of the day was the signing of the contracts – the women all came together and I went through what contracts mean, and then they signed and the BBC filmed it – the creation of ten jobs (the 11th woman was away). A truly awesome moment that I’ve not had time to reflect on until now. I do struggle to be proud of myself but I think I can manage it for that.

At about 2.30, I finally spoke to someone who had tried to call me and who I had called back, and we’d kept missing each other. It was someone who I had asked not to call me on the 1st with bad news – but I’d forgotten asking that so as soon as I knew he’d called I was terrified. The call was from Stuart from UnLtd who had been trying to get hold of me to tell me that I’d been successful in achieving a Level 2 award. That means £15,000 for me, just for me, for my living expenses. This means that pants is so much more secure – I can work full time for a whole year, and any other funding we apply for will be backed up by the fact that we have already been invested in. We can also start asking for salary for other staff – I want Della to be paid for the work she does, and we need to pay our bookkeeper. This money means so much more than just my salary.

Launch day continued with me being whisked off to the hairdressers (which makes me sound so much more girly than I am, but I was best kept out of the way to be honest) and throwing myself into some grown up clothes, before at 5pm, it all kicked off again and the drinks reception started. Along with another 70 or so people, The Mayor of Southampton, Cllr Liz Mison, was there, and the Vice Chancellor of the University of Southampton, and loads of people who have helped and supported. It was fantastic to be able to celebrate with them and really toast all that has been achieved. Hard to believe it was just 17 months, to the day, since I started work on this full time. Della did a sterling job of selling T shirts and badges and, in her words, it couldn’t have gone better. It was brilliant. At about a quarter to six, I introduced the Mayor, who said such lovely things about me and the project, and then spoke a bit myself. I shared the cutting of the cake with two darling twins, aged 5, daughters of the women I wrote about last time, and was then, delightfully, presented with the very first pair of pants completed. After all the work, I had them – the pink, lacy, ethical knickers I had set out to create way back in 2006.

I have to say that the rest of the evening is a little fuzzy – I’d been rushing round all day the one or two* glasses of wine I had hit me quite hard, but the whole evening was excellent. Almost all the people I have leant on, cried at, been inspired by and worked with were there, and the ones who could not make it were missed. But we ate, drank and were merry, the women met the people who have been supporting us, and I grinned and grinned and laughed and did not fall off my high heels.

Since then, I have slept A LOT and am feeling bright eyed and busy tailed and ready to go back into work tomorrow. I needed today off but tomorrow it’s back to it – and I can’t wait. Over the next few days I hope to get a load of our photos up so you can see what went on, but until then, hooray to pants and all who have helped us come this far. Onwards and upwards!

*I may have miscounted. Perhaps

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5 Responses

  1. Noely Noel says:

    This is awesome. You deserve to be extremely proud of yourself for achieving so much in such a short time, and you’ve been given a wonderful award to prove it. What you’ve done is an amazing thing and I hope you get many years of enjoyment out of it.

    I’m now inspired to fully develop my own project in the spring 🙂

  2. beckypants says:

    thank you mister 🙂 I am proud now it has had time to sink in. 🙂

  3. The Light in Chains says:

    Fantastic stuff – well done you. I shall go and rummage through your pants now.

  4. Clair says:

    Hooray and congratulations!

  5. Andrea says:

    You’ve done so brilliantly! I’ve loved reading how you’ve been getting on and your amazing journey to launch. You should be sooooo proud of all you’ve achieved, you’re such an inspiration.
    Very well done on the UnLtd award, you deserve it, and also on the new website, it looks fab.
    All the best for 2010 🙂

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