Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

What’s so glad about handbags and gladrags?

Hello again everyone, look, the third Wednesday in a row I’m writing! This is a habit I’m liking getting into.

Today’s subject line has been brought to you by ‘Handbags and Gladrags’, which is this weeks tune in my internal music station. This song was written by Mike D’Abo in 1967, and has, I think, stood the test of time. I love listening to it’s many versions, but I also love the meaning which Mike D’Abo himself wanted to share – he’s quoted in the Express of all places, saying that’s it’s about, ‘…saying to a teenage girl that the way to happiness is not being trendy. There are deeper values’ The line, ‘…that your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy….’ is often replaced in my head with, ‘…that some poor wee kiddie had to sweat to make…’ which tells you quite a lot about how ingrained my job is in my life.

I’m sure it will come as no surprise to you that I’m no fan of the relentless cycle of consumerism we are encouraged to subscribe to. I don’t believe that, over and above meeting our basic needs, buying things and acquiring stuff makes us properly happy. I believe it makes advertisers and corporations shareholders rich, and they like that, so they push the appetite for it. And I believe that this relentless push for new is what drives prices, and therefore the cost of production, and therefore worker wages, down. So I’m sure you can see why I’m no fan.

Just recently, a few people have questioned ‘the perceived value’ of whomadeyourpants? pants. They say that they think that people won’t pay £10 for a pair of pants, ‘they’ will think they are not worth that.. which is a politieish way of saying THEY wouldn’t pay it. Often, these same people will think nothing of spending a few hundred on a dress they’ll wear once, or a pair of shoes so pretty/uncomfortable that they can only be worn once and then get relegated to the back of the wardrobe. There seems to be a bizarre idea that the one off items should cost a bomb and the stuff we use every day should cost nothing. How can that add up? Economically and responsibly, how on earth does that make sense? Or why it can be acceptable to think spending a few hundred on something for one use is ok (and I don’t mean a once in lifetime wedding frock, I mean a once a year for the work do buying a single use frock, and once a year for a wedding.. and once a year for a party… streams of single use items bought and then forgotten), but £10 on a pair of knickers you should be able to wear for, ooh, three years, if not more, (so say one wear a week, 3 x 52 weeks is 156 weeks, 156 wears, £10 divided by 156 is 6 WHOLE PENCE a wear) is expensive?

It can’t just be me that thinks this sort of shift in perception of value is barmy, surely. How has it become the case that the everyday items are considered less valuable than the extraordinary? Given the choice, few of us would go a day without pants, so they clearly have value to us.

In my world, I spend most money on the stuff I use most – so my bag that I use every day, this gorgeous and practical thing http://www.howies.co.uk/product.php/1798/92/ cost £65, but that’s worked out at less than 20p a day so far, and I plan to keep using it for years. It makes more sense to me to spend money on the regularly used stuff – can anyone explain to why this would NOT make sense?

I’m not going to go into (even more ranty) detail about why I think this is happening as I think there are loads of reasons, some more valid than others. I’ll just say that I think that we are encouraged to think we are valuable and successful in the world if we have a lot of shiny stuff, and so we buy into this idea and buy the stuff. It’s insidious. I’m going to wrote about Edwards Bernays soon and his use of psychology to create in consumers needs that his business friends, hey presto, had solutions for, but I’ll leave it there for now and move onto an update on what’s going on here.

It’s been another week of ups and downs. Mostly ups. International Women’s Day on Monday started with me being interviewed on Preston FM (listenable here in the magic of a podcast http://www.preston.fm Our lovely new mum R has a week old baby girl now, and very diligently rang in today to say she would not be in work. I’ve said a number of times that we really are not expecting her in for quite some time, but she is very kind to call us. I’m hoping she will bring baby in one day – the women (and I) would love to meet her. We’ve had our final cheque from Skillfast, the Sector Skills Council who supported up through the Women and Work fund for training. They are closing down and the work will be taken up by Skillset so new people to meet. We’ve also had a call from the John Paul Getty Junior Trust (who my head always calls John Paul George and Ringo). We’ve applied to them for £63k ish, and they want to come and see us in a month. Will be having a massive clean and tidy up before then!

We’ve a new Treasurer, our first and only male Committee Member, Norman. He is already showing himself to be knowledgeable and experienced, which will remove some of the weight on me and the lovely Allegra who has been holding that role for the last year or so. And in fabulous, fabulous news, one of our founder members, who had to leave us for very complicated personal reasons, is (hopefully) able to rejoin. Fingers crossed. Another volunteer, the mysterious BW, has donated five ancient computer carcasses that we hope to Frankenstein into life with our other donated computer bits, so we can run some computer training and give the women access to the world of the internet.

Internally, sewing is going well, the quality is just gorgeous now. Our two supervisors Hani http://www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk/allaboutus/whomakes.php?wid=10005 and Sacdiya http://www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk/allaboutus/whomakes.php?wid=10001 are learning fast and the women seem to respond well to them. It’s got a lot less chaotic and much more smooth. We’ve got a whole bunch of pants that just need bows sewing on, so we’ll suddenly have a lot (I hope) and I want to get back in touch with all the shops, who said they want pants, soon as we should be able to start fulfilling their orders. Our finance systems is bedding in thanks to the splendid, wonderful and ever brilliant Helen and Jeff who have said they and the Mark Thomas List will pay for it for us for the first year. True friends, who have done so much for this, I’m looking forward to saying thank you in person when we go to to see Chumbawamba together tomorrow (todays blog was very nearly brought to you by Chumbawamba’s song ‘I wish that they’d sack me’, as two years ago I saw them sing it, and I was preparing to hand in my notice at my old job. Helen, Jeff and I sat and giggled as Helen said, ‘This is for you, this is your song) http://www.songlyrics.com/chumbawamba/i-wish-that-they-d-sack-me-lyrics/

We’ve hosted some fab massage sessions with the delicious Sharon, and a crochet lesson with Jo and Thea of the Let’s Try learning exchange project locally went really well yesterday. And today there is the steady buzz of the machines from the other end of the building, Della is overseeing it and sewing on bows with the women, there are occasional flutters of chatter but it’s heads down, work on. It’s break time soon and I’ll join the women for tea and cake and lunch and laughs.

Today is a day I really, really love my job, and am so grateful so many people have seen the same vision I have and have given so much to make it happen. Thank you 🙂

Ever seen a blind man cross the road
Trying to make the other side?
Ever seen a young girl growing old
Trying to make herself a bride?

So what becomes of you my love
When they have finally stripped you of
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you

Once I was a young man
And all I thought I had to do was smile
Well you are still a young girl
And you’ve bought everything in style

So once you think you’re in you’re out
‘Cause you don’t mean a single thing without
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you

Sing a song of six-pence for your sake
And drink a bottle full of rye
Four and twenty blackbirds in a cake
And bake ’em all in a pie

They told me you missed school today
So what I suggest you just throw them all away
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy

They told me you missed school today
So what I suggest you just throw them all away
The handbags and the gladrags
That your poor old Grandad had to sweat to buy you


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9 Responses

  1. sarahsfleeces says:

    Here here! I couldn’t agree more – consumerism is such a false illusion and yet so many people follow it in an almost religious like fashion!

    I heard a good quote the other day “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”, how profound is that?! If we can learn to make the most of what we have and be content with it, however much or little that is, then we can find true happiness and peace, and there’s alot to be said for that as I don’t know many truly peaceful people…

  2. Natalie says:

    Fantastic blog, nice to see my thoughts shared in words. £10 might seem a lot for pants but there is more value behind them that just the material. People will start to understand and appreciate your message some day. Keep sewing x

  3. Jo says:

    Well Becky, the part were you said about how people will pay a lot for a one off and think that paying £10 for a pair of exceptionally well made, beautiful pants is crazy, is true.

    The only reason folk will pay hundreds of pounds for a one off and some people will object to payong £10 for pants is because their heads are full of projecting an image of wealth to others, as lots of peolple these days just seem to be driven by trying to give off an image of being wealthy, this image seems to boost their self worth. Were as some of us already know our selfwoth and don’t feel the need to display such insecurities. I love having nice things, but I don’t feel the need to pay the earth for them.

    Fantastic work that you’re all doing and eh, great pants too, well worth the price. Keep going.

    • beckypants says:

      Cheers Jo, I’m glad to hear so many people see the same link to the illusion of self worth as me. I like me so don’t need to prove how fab I am with loadsabling 🙂

  4. I’ve experienced the same reaction.

    It’s infuriating when people boast about their bargains – all I can think about is who made the garment. It still surprises me that people care more about cheap, low-quality fashion than they do about where it was made, what from, and who by. And of course there are those that don’t care how much they spend or about the garment’s origins.

    Oh, a happy medium, where price reflects the time, effort and resources that have gone into creating the item, producing a long-lasting product.

    Long live slow fashion.

    Keep up the good work!

  5. Plucker says:

    I’m off to petition my MP to change the law so that you have to wear your pants on the outside of your other clothes, then we’ll see who’s prepared to spend 10 nickers on yer knickers….

  6. angela says:

    Another great post and ties in nicely with the words of Srikumar S. Rao on happiness at work. Hope yo can get to this. It’s a great talk from him – very inspiring.


  7. Allegra says:

    Hi Becks
    Your blog reminded me of an event I’ve never forgotten, years and years ago, when I was talking with one of my cousins, who was in Market Research, and who told me that his perfect achievement would be to create a product nobody needed or wanted, create demand for it and turn it into a sales leader. I was horrified and sickened by the idea then, I still am. What he described is how the market now works, and its utter perversity and exploitative nature.
    I think we should sing and shout and celebrate – even more than we already do, if possible – that we ask people to pay what it really costs to produce a good quality, useful and pretty product in a fair environment.

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