Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

Brown eyed girl… (and why we don’t yet do man pants)

Morning all!

Well, spring has put in an appearance and now, by the looks of today, disappeared again. Hope it comes back soon.

I am feeling much, much refreshed after my break and I am pleased to report that Della is back in the office, her flat, partner and animals all safe though shaken since that terrible fire.

In other news. Our first ever whomadeyourpants? baby has been to visit us today! Five weeks old and gorgeous, the prettiest eyes and apparently a joy to the family as her dad is one of seven boys! She and mum are doing really well. Mum is hoping to come back to work in two weeks as long as her husband can look after baby while she is here. It’ll only be for about four hours in total but for a lot of the families we work with, childcare is a huge issue. A lot of the husbands have jobs with lowish pay and long hours and very little security (one person I spoke to works for an agency and told me that days off sick were almost punished as no more work would be give that week. A day off for an appointment or a lesson was the same), so taking time out is a struggle. But it’s great to know she wants to come back to us and it was really lovely to meet the little one.

Lots of other things have been happening, particularly around fundraising. We are preparing for the John Paul Getty Junior Trust visit next week, and the Hilden Charitable Fund are coming to see us the week after. I’m writing bids for about six other funds too, and we are awaiting decisions from two other funders. Let’s hope they say yes! Sophie from Lush came to see us yesterday, as we have applied to their Charity Pot Fund to pay for the development of case studies on each of our women. We want to show people what life is really like for refugees, and explain why they are here. Plus I have a personal mission to get the UK to understand the difference between migrant, immigrant, illegal immigrant, economic migrant, asylum seeker and refugee (a post for another day) See photos of Sophie’s visit here http://www.facebook.com/charitypot?v=wall and we had a great chat. I’m hoping to work with Lush locally as well as they, like us, are driven by ethics.

If you’ve followed that facebook link above, you’ll see that the question was raised there about why we don’t do boy pants. This was also flagged in the comments following Lucy Siegle’s mention of us in her Observer column. We do plan to do pants for men, and children, but not yet. And there are two main reasons why – short version is 1) All in good time… Our women are learning one thing at a time (and we only launched in December 09) and 2)we use upcycled fabrics for our pants, which tend to be synthetics. I’m not, personally, sure how many mens or kids pants are made of synthetics so we’d need to look for another supplier. Again… all in good time.

Here’s the longer story

We currently make three styles in three colours in eight sizes – a total of 72 products. To get to an agreed design we commission a series of designs (which costs money) and then select the sort we like best. Revisions are then done (which costs money) and we then tweak and test and show people until we are happy. The picture is then turned into a design (which costs money), usually in a size 10 or 12, and a mock up pair made (which costs money). This is then tweaked and tested and shown around until we are happy (which costs money). Once the final design is agreed, there is a process called ‘grading’ which is where the pattern is scaled up and down to the rest of our size range. This is a very skilled job (it all is, as I’m sure you can tell) and therefore.. costs money..

Once we have the grading set, patterns are produced for each panel. There are all manner of ways this can be done in industry, all of which.. cost lots of money. And as we are currently new, tiny and poor, we do it old skool way with each pattern piece cut out of interfacing (a stiffish sort of cloth which goes into collars). This means that every pair of pants is hand cut, every pattern piece hand cut.. it is very labour intensive – three women cut every week, six sit at machines, and one hand sews bows on. And regular readers will know that our teams only sew for three hours a week each, and we only have two teams right now. We are aiming for ten teams (imagine, us being able to help 100 women a week!) but.. all in good time.

The second point, on the materials, is something scheduled for investigation in 2011 and launch in 2012. We buy fabrics from people who buy fabrics from lingerie companies at the end of season, or when there have been overruns or, for whatever reason, there is surplus fabric around. We do this as I think it is better to diver materials from landfill than it is to produce virgin materials – upcycling is one of the key principles of whomadeyourpants?

It is relatively easy to get lingerie fabrics this way, but I have not yet looked into the availability of the sorts of stuff man pants are made of.. and I’m suspecting that guys, mostly, don’t want pink lace. I’m guessing most man pants are cotton, so we need to find a supplier of upcycled cotton (and relevant elastics etc if possible) in the quantity we would need.

The overarching thing is.. all in good time. I have grand plans and huge ambitions for ridding the world of sweatshops and empowering women through work, and of course, producing really great pants… but we have to get what we are doing now right first. Our very first employees, recruited December 1st 2009, are still training on the job, and we are still working how to do this thing we call whomadeyourpants? It’s brilliant that so many people want us to expand our product range so, if I might be so bold, might I suggest you sign up to our mailing list (or RSS this blog, or become a fan on facebook) to be among the first to hear about any new products as and when we can.

Thanks for reading everyone, it’s tea break time now so I’m off for a caffeine fix. Catch you next week!

Becky

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  1. […] The busiest day of the year was July 28th with 137 views. The most popular post that day was Brown eyed girl… (and why we don’t yet do man pants). […]

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