Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

Now you see it, now you don’t… hello sunshine!

Good morning everybody! Isn’t it a gorgeous day! Has summer… really… arrived? Quick, get out there and enjoy it! After you’ve read this of course.

Things at pants central have been as busy as ever over recent weeks so there’s not been time for writing. All kinds of things are going on. Two of our fabulous and long standing volunteers have given notice – one is moving to Vienna, another to Reading. We’ll miss them both, loads, and more so the fact that they won’t be able to join us on our annual picnic!

We’re way ahead on our production schedule now, which is fantastic news, and we’ve Christmas pants all over the place. I have been wear testing and they are GORGEOUS. Assorted photographers have been through our doors and we now have some really brilliant shots of the pants that are fun and show off their colours. One thing I love when I go out selling is that people say how beautiful the colours are. I always reply that I’m too fussy about underwear to let anything that’s not gorgeous get made. I really do think that things that are pretty much necessary, like undies, might just as well be gorgeous. Why not have a little bit of lovely, every day, just for you?

I’ve been to a couple of awards events recently, and spent time with some brilliant people at both. At the Ogunte Women’s Social Leadership awards my friend Heidi came along with me and we had a very jolly time. I met Sam Roddick* of Coco de Mer and was a bit blown away when she told me she’d looked at our website! The next event I attended was Co-operatives Congress, last weekend, in Birmingham. It was at the Hilton Metropole and I kept getting lost – the hotel complex is VAST and it would have been entirely possible for me to have not gone outdoors from Friday when I arrived to Sunday when I left. We were shortlisted for two awards there, and one at Ogunte, and while we won neither, I was so proud of us getting to the final stages.

At the Congress awards dinner, I sat with Alastair Mumford of Topsham Ales, Tara M from The People’s Supermarket (who very deservedly won an award) and Vicki and Margaret of the Star Inn in Salford. Wine and chat flowed and it really was lovely to be around so many like minded co-ops type folks. Not to mention meeting all the Co-operatives UK people. Co-ops UK is the national body for co-ops, and we’re members of them and get support from them. I’ve spoken to them loads on the phone and it was great to put faces (and in some cases hugs!) to names. Some potentially very exciting stuff is coming out of Congress too – I met someone who works for a regional co-operative group that has department stores… they don’t buy from manufacturers or wholesalers independently but have to go through a buying group… and they want t introduce us to the group… We may still yet find that this doesn’t work out – it is more expensive for us to make things than for other people and there are certain mark ups demanded by some shops that we just can’t meet (some want 450% – that means that if they want to sell our pants at £10, they want to buy them for UNDER £2.50) but it is a very very good place to be.

The Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) is turning out to be a great network to be involved in. I’m delighted to say that a wonderful woman, another Fellow, has agreed to mentor me, and I am really looking forward to that. Two other Fellows have been providing me with business and financial advice and I am feeling that we have a much more stable footing now.

We’ve got some baby news! Our fouth wmyp baby was born a few months ago, to one of our longest standing workers, and we’re going to meet her tomorrow. We’ve scheduled co-ops training for tomorrow but I’m wondering how many women will be able to come – I’m not sure how the strikes are going to affect schools around here.

I’m going to round up quickly but there are two more things to say.

First, I’m changing the way I use twitter a bit – or rather, I’m making it clear that the @beckypants account is my personal one. I’ll tweet about work there, for sure, but I also want to be able to tweet abut the current political situation in a way that is clearly not linked to my job. The @whomadeyour account will be the whomadeyourpants? oficial twitter feed now.

And last, It’s summer – honest! Our colour of the month for June is Midsummer Mint and or June box set is called Blue and Green Should Never be Seen. And to the end of Co-operatives Fortnight – July 9 – we are giving 25% off all products on our site with code FRIENDS. Gift sets work our brilliantly – the Working Week should be £55 if all 5 pants and two postage were bought separately. It;s usually £40 for the set and with 25% off, it’s down to £30! BARGAINATIOUS!

Have fun in the sun folks – more soon!

*yep, Anita’ and Gordon’s daughter

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2011 pairs of pants on the wall, 2011 pairs of pants…

Good morning good morning good morning! Well, I know it’s not really morning but January is like the morning of the year, isn’t it?

So, here’s my first proper blog entry for 2011. I’m going to tell you all about or exciting plans and hopes, and then ask you if there’s anything you’d like to hear about that I don’t talk about.

Before looking forward, I need to look quickly back. 2010 was hard. Very hard. I always tried to pull the good out and into my blogs but there were times when it was tough, times we thought we might not be able to move on, or even continue. We are now streets ahead of that – we have a product we know works, and we have £50k committed funding for 2011, and £40k committed for 2012. That makes a huge difference to everything, including my personal stress levels (which themselves make a huge difference to everyone else’s in the office… ) This means that we have a really strong and solid base to plan from. And that feels good.

So. 2011. Our plans fall into two main areas – external (raise our profile, sell more, communicate with funders to report on progress and raise more funds) and internal (tighten up on what we have started to do well; formalise all our admin/finance/HR/legal procedures; begin to monitor and measure the social impact we are having, build on co-operatives training and encourage active membership of the co-op itself) Doesn’t sound much but I think it will keep us busy!

The external stuff falls mainly to me. I’ll be working with the wonderful Chris Smith and Janet Awe on PR, working out how to get us good coverage and encourage people to support us. I’ll also be out and about at events, maybe festivals, selling pants and spreading the word. We’ll be looking for a few more retail outlets, and will be asking you to help us – which shops would you like us to be sold in? Another thing I’ll be doing is working with our fundraising volunteer on a proper fundraising strategy (our current one has evolved quite a lot from the ‘go for everything. EVERYTHING! model I started with but it’s still not what I think of as a grown up strategy) , which I am, nerdily, enormously excited about.

Regarding products…We plan to build on the strong foundations and high levels of confidence the team have developed in being able to make our Aimee style for women for the whole year (introducing a second women’s style in 2012), and will introduce variety by introducing loads more colours and gift sets. We have some scorching burnt orange, laced through with bonfire night yellow and red threads; a gorgeous petrolly blue; a forest green lifted by a touch of reddy orange here and there; some icy ivory with pink, and blue; a new red… We’re planning gift sets themed to occasions – imagine, for example, a lovely ethical Valentine’s Day gift set of our red Aimee trimmed with sassy black lacking down the back, nestled in a pretty box nest to a black Aimee with red lacing, and an ivory and pink Aimee, all pretty, wrapped by us, with a little something extra thrown in. Being a Welsh girl, I’m already thinking that the green with reddy orange that I mentioned above would be a fab St David’s Day knicker! We’ll be launching men’s pants by Christmas 2011 (all being well, we are starting design in spring, will be making up samples for wear tests in summer and producing in autumn)

We’re going to introduce really simple ways of measuring how much social impact we are having as it’s hugely important to be able to show that we are doing a good and useful thing. WE know we are, the women we work with know we are but it’s nice to have some proof. (To that end, by the way, I’m going to be asking supporters for quotes that we can use in publicity materials – if you’d be prepared to give us a quote, we’re looking for short things, two sentences, about the impact and value you think we have – email me?) . Traditional metrics are a bit tricky here but Steve Coles of http://www.intentionality.co.uk has given me some brilliant advice and support and we’re also hoping to work with http://www.globalactionplan.org.uk on assessing environmental impact and looking at how we can maybe do more.

Internal processes may sound dull but for a policy wonk like me they are fascinating and, of course, critical. So much of everything we did last year could come under the rubbish business term of ‘fire fighting’ – we developed stuff when it was needed, not before, as we had no time to be strategic. This year we are going to start with a review of pretty much everything – legal, HR (this is huge for us as our employees are, and will be, refugees or wives of refugees, so we have to be certain every bit of immigration paperwork is totally correct) suppliers of everything from our fabrics to our paperclips, production processes including how to predict when we will need to buy new stuff, reporting.. it goes on and on but I’m ecited by it. It feels to me that we have a big thing to tidy up and organise and that makes me VERY happy (Della may have a different feeling about my excitement, I know! Della, I won’t try to DO it, I’m just looking forward to us planning it!)

Anyway – you probably get the feeling, correctly, that I could go on about this for ages. So I shall stop. I am hugely happy and optimistic at the moment and I hope you agree with me that 2011 looks set to be a lot of fun. Now we are properly up and running, please, do tell your friends. My twitter feed is where breaking news tends to break – http://twitter.com/beckypants – maybe see you there.

A very happy new year to you all – let’s make it a good one, without any fear

Xx

Becky

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I’ve stopped shaking now.

Hello everybody and welcome to this, possible one of the happiest blog posts I’ve ever written. It’s been an immensely busy and productive few weeks, hence me not being here to write. Goodness, apart from a tiny little post at the end of June, I’ve not written since May! So much to report. Where shall I start? At the very beginning?

On the 31st of May, I opened the door of my house to Emma Kidd, a brilliant and experienced lingerie product designer and developer, who left the trade because of a lot of the ethics and what she saw. She had contacted me in November last year off the back of a blog post we’d had posted on Ethical Junction, saying she loved what we were doing and could she help. We’d talked for a while, and arranged that she would come and visit and have a look around. And so, on the 31st, she stepped off a train and into whomadeyourpants? land.

As you’ll know, we’ve had some issues about production – quality has been inconsistent at times and we’ve had troubles with machines. Emma took one look at the place and our design and with her experienced eye, spotted a bunch of things we can improve in quick step short time to make our quality better and our productivity leap. She’s back again today, and thanks to some Southampton City Council funding can come back a few more times. We have a GORGEOUS new design (look here. http://twitgoo.com/1790z9 You’ll have to lean your head to the right as I can’t work out how to rotate the photo – doh!) and it’s easy and quick and gorgeous and has just the right amount of challenge for the women to be able to really own it. It’s perfect. Emma, we love you.

There’s a whole lot more new going on too. We have some new trainees – so many of our went off to have gorgeous babies or were sick, we had to recruit fast. Some of the new women already have skills, which is ace, as they are showing our existing women new ways to work and inspiring them. It’s fab.

I actually took some leave, sort of, in mid June. Apart from the fact that I came in on the 16th to speak to a broadsheet journalist (the article isn’t out yet so can’t say who) and then went off and chaired a Women’s Forum meeting on the 17th. But I had a fab solstice day, digging up my garden and clearing rubble. It was lovely working in the sun, getting tan lines ( I want to be more stripy. Animals have more than one colour on at a time but people don’t. Not naturally at least. It’s horrifically unfair) and building a fab insect house out of old rotten tree stumps. A bee came and had a look straight away, which made me happy.

The first ever Co-operatives Fortnight started on the 17th June too, and I was invited to speak at Co-operatives South East AGM, which I happily did. On the day of an England game. In a room, with windows open, opposite a pub with doors and windows open. Interesting! I also spoke at a Co-operative Regional Membership event on the 5th July, at the Art House in Southampton, which was fun. I was very very proud to accept a Co-operatives UK 2010 award there – we were recognised by them for our contribution to Innovation, Creativity and Excellence. Sadly, I was not able to attend the Congress Dinner in Plymouth and accept the award in person due to admin error, but the lovely Ian Rothwell collected it for us and a pretty handmade plate has now made it, in one piece, to my office.

On a less glamourpuss note, we’ve realised that we really need some support with and for our admin team of volunteers. They are all fab and enthusiastic people who will all turn their hands to anything, and they deserve more time than I can give them in terms of help. I’m always rushing round at a million miles an hour doing 15 things at once and so it’s hard for them to ask if they just have a quick question. We advertised the volunteer post of Office and Volunteer Manager at both local Universities and through Southampton Voluntary Services, and we’ve had some great applicants. So far it looks like we’ve found a person for that post and also someone who can be a bit more PA type person for me. I generate huge amounts of admin and regularly spend half a day on it myself, and I need to be doing MD work (so I’ve been told) so we’re hopeful. Both women have agreed to come in tomorrow for a trial shift. Exciting! We’re looking for some support on bookkeeping too as our current, brilliant volunteer has to leave us. If you can help, please get in touch.

Let’s finish on a high. The reason for the headline this time round is not a song, nor a Sesame Street tribute. It’s just the truth. We’ve had some good funding news. £2000 from Southampton City Council, £3500 from the Hilden Charitable Fund, and then yesterday afternoon, I opened an envelope containing a cheque for £30,000. Look at all those zeroes!

£30,000. £30,000!

On seeing this, I let out an involuntary scream in the middle of the car park, and ran back into the building, terrifying two poor men in the process. I could barely open the door and just ran in screaming for Della. I was having trouble standing at this point, and when Della took the letter off me and read out that we’d been awarded £60,000 over three years, I actually slid down the wall I’d been leaning on and ended up on the floor. I don’t know how long I sat on the floor and I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or what. I couldn’t read the letter, I couldn’t even hold it I was shaking so much.

When I eventually calmed down (a bit) I cycled into town, via the lovely Allegra’s office for a special Allegra hug, and banked the cheque, and came on back to the offices where I had a mammoth adrenaline crash. It’s not really sunk in to be honest but it’s frankly astonishingly good news. It’s specifically to pay rent and a bit of salary for me – life saving. If I sit and think about it for more than a second I get all shaky again. The fact that someone believe in this, and me, so much that they are prepared to put that in is something I don’t know how to cope with.

But I’d like to learn, so if anyone else has £60k lying around, let me know, eh?

🙂

That’s all for today folks, sorry for the long radio silence but I hope you’ll agree I’m back with a blinking great bang 🙂

More soon

Becky

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X marks the future.

Good morning everybody! And what a wonderful day to go and exercise your democratic right to put an X in a box. Have you been and done it yet? Don’t forget – I did forget one year and still feel the shame and so now get a postal vote so I will never let down Mrs Pankhurst again. Vive those amazing brave women who, LESS THAN A CENTURY AGO, fought for me and every woman here to have the vote. I’m quite humbled by their actions and suffering for the cause – please do read more about it if you’ve time – wikipedia has a very readable article here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffragist and I heartily endorse the Fawcett Society and their excellent ‘this is what a feminist looks like’ T shirts’ http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/

Onto matter pants related, before I well up any more. Quality is still improving – when I look at how far the women have come in a few months, I’m thrilled. This does recognise that the pants a few months ago were.. not all great. In recognition of this, we will be offering everyone who bought pants from September 2009 to an as yet not agreed by Committee date, a discount or freebie or special offer sometime in the future to asy thank you for supporting us.

So, what’s happened over the last week. We’ve had visits from the Hilden Charitable Fund, from Alan Whitehead MP, from Jonathan Cheshire of the Wheatsheaf Trust, from my fab mentor Rob Bentley of Wessex Partnerships, and yesterday I had what felt like hundreds of meetings with the women, someone from Serco, and Hyde Housing.

Hyde Housing are interesting me. It would appear that Housing Associations are tasked with providing similar services to those provided by councils/the state – support into employment, debt advice, all kinds of stuff. And Hyde locally have a high number of tenants who are likely to be the same sort of people that we want to support. This is really interesting – from day one, I have wanted to support the women who are most marginalised, the ones not accessing mainstream support services. Right now we are working with women at a higher level, as otherwise we’d have even more problems getting going. But to backtrack, it’s always hard to get to these most marginalised women as most of the access routes are via support services. However, the possibility of access through their housing is a real breakthrough – those women who are stuck at home all the time will be showing up on the HA lists lists of people who they are tasked to support most, so we should be able to offer some really good stuff there. I hope! It’s long term, but a great relationship to kick off.

Serco came along to see me about a personalised employment plan thing they are looking to develop. It was a reasonable meeting but I’m not entirely sure it’s for us. As much as anything I like working with smaller groups and Serco are MAMMOTH. The woman who visited did make it plain from the start that they run places like this http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/managingborders/immigrationremovalcentres/yarlswood http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yarl%27s_Wood_Immigration_Removal_Centre which, to be honest, I want us to have absolutely nothing to do with. So we shall see.

We’ve had some good news on funding. £5k from Lush has arrived into our bank account – thankyou Lush! And we have got through the first stage of an application to Ford. And Hilden and John Paul Gettys have had the further information they have requested. And we have been awarded £674 from the Co-op bank customer donation fund for computers, and £400 from local learning exchanges. So it’s trickling in.

It’s not easy though. I am not being paid at all, but am living off my UnLtd award. Which is fine til you do maths and work out that my mahoosive mortgage and having to buy a new washing machine when mine broke (erk) mean I am poorer now than I have been since I started this. I’ve even run out of overdraft. So I can empathise with the few women who, yesterday in our review meetings, made it clear that they want wages. NOW.

Remember a few months ago, I wrote this post https://beckypants.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/rolling-rolling-rolling/ about how the women came up with their own plan about how we’d progress when we couldn’t pay them. Well yesterday, we had a review, two months into the three, to see how things are going. One woman spoke for a few and made it very clear that they think they should be getting paid. She said they think they are good enough to work without the teacher now. The fact that she then went and ran her four thread machine for half an hour without noticing it only had three thread in would suggest that this was not the case. And we are still producing as many pants that need repairs, hand stitching or are seconds as we do ones that are saleable first time round. It’s really hard. I want to pay them, really. I’m no gangmaster, I’m no slave driver. But while we are ticking along with sales through the website, they are not making enough good pants for me to do any sales and marketing pushes and so we are not generating enough income to pay them. We can get grants to pay for training, but we have to show receipts from the trainer so we can’t divert money or use it for different things. We just do not have the money to pay them, and it’s really hard to get that message across. Not all of the women feel like this, and that’s great and wonderful. I do struggle with the idea that, as this woman said, ‘when you pay us we will be better but until then we don’t care’ – that’s NOT co-operation inaction, but something driven by very different motives or perhaps subject to very different pressures. I know that one women became subject to dramatic levels of domestic violence after she engaged with us (and ultimately had to leave us as she had to move away) and so it’s always in my mind that this is a real possibility, even if it’s unlikely. I also struggle with the idea of the women having to leave – it may well be that there are family pressures on them that make going out and earning ok, but going out and having fun less ok. I don’t know quite what to do here and am very glad I have my Committee to go to for help. I’m also glad that we had a very sociable lunch after this meetings, with lots and lots and LOTS of cake.

Think that’s all for today. It’s freezing in our office, again, and we are too poor to put the heating on really. I’m a bit tired of being broke, both here and at home. It seems so barmy to me that something as arbitrary and invented as money can cause such problems. I know it’s relative and that I have a house all to myself (well, I say that. Two cats take up an awful lot of sofa/bed and leave so much fluff everywhere I tend to sit down only rarely) but it’s hard when things like roofs/floors/ceilings/fences/sheds/bikes/heating/showers all break at once and I can’t afford to fix them 😦 And hard when we’ve no money t pay people. Someone find me a lottery ticket or a leprechaun, please.

Goodness me, I’ve written a lot today! Just a last few things. I had a brilliant opportunity to go and meet the wonderful folk of the Mark Thomas Mailing List on Friday night. They have very kindly supported us by donating money and paying for our lovely finance system for a year, It was great to be able to say thank you in person (and drink gin and wiffle at them of course) Big thanks to our smashing bookkeepeer Helen for the ticket and making it possible for me to go, and for the sterling work she is doing on our accounts – we are very nearly ready to have our first ever AGM, nd our first ever accounts. It feels very grown up and totally bewildering but Helen does a very good job of getting me to understand it.

Ooh, those of you who follow me on twitter will know that I have been sadly bike less for a few days. Well, my trusty steed is back with me and riding like a dream. The bottom bracket had failed catastrophically and apparently took quite some effort to remove. My very generous brother paid for the wonderful wonderful chaps at Rock and Road Southampton http://www.rocknroadcycles.co.uk to get the bit and fit it and I picked it up yesterday. We had a joyful cycle together the Common and I feel quite myself again.

Happy voting everyone, more next week… when we’ll know who’s behind the big black door.

Becky

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I know who made my pants…

There probably aren’t many blogs (at least not, er, you know, respectable ones) out that there tell you much about the underwear of the author, but today, three years and eight months after I first settled on the name whomadeyourpants? I am delighted to report that today, I know who made the pants I am wearing right now.

They were made on the 9th December by Roshna, Samia, Hani, Zakara, Batol, Hajera, Sacdiyo, Sarah, Hamdi and Emine. They are made from fabric that we bought from KLS Fabrics in Cheshire http://www.klsfabrics.co.uk who themselves buy up the stuff that gets binned at the end of a season (yes, there are fashion seasons in lingerie). They are stitched together with thread from the Lancashire based http://www.empressmills.co.uk (even though the threads are made across the border in Yorkshire. They are held up with elastic made and dyed in Wiltshire by http://www.stretchline.com

I am quite tickled by this, so much so that I actually woke up excited about that pants I was going to wear today. It’s been a long time coming (especially as we sold out – you may well have had whomadeyourpants? pants before me!) but I’m really pleased. It’s quite amazing. Remember whatsisname, I liked it so much I bought the company? I prefer my version – I wanted them so much, I started a co-op.

But even though we are quite a lot about pants, we are also quite a lot about empowerment, and I think we have started taking some steps towards that in a broader sense this week. We’ve been having some production issues- machines not working, and teamwork being.. a new concept and the fact that we lost four weeks production due to the weather and the building we work in being inaccessible. We are capable,now, of a good level of production, but we’ve been struggling to achieve it. Something had to be done.

So yesterday, we had a big meeting with the women we employed in December and told them a bit about how many pants we need to sell to pay them and the bills. It’s hard to know how much detail to go into as there are still very mixed levels of English, but we are a co-op and it’s right that everyone shares the responsibility. In my mind, taking responsibility is a step to becoming empowered – if things are always someone else’s fault or choice or decision, how can anyone feel they have a responsibility over anything?

The meeting was great – the women told us about a few problems they were having and they suggested some solutions, and we’ve now set it up so that Della (who, I’d like to point out, is a full time volunteer. This whole operation runs on volunteers at the moment) will be the women’s manager until we get to the stage where we have team leaders trained and in place. She will be in the machine and cutting rooms with them to see where issues arise and see how we can help sort them. It feels good and all the women said they felt good about that too. Which is what we’re aiming for.

Since I won the Level 2 UnLtd award in December, my diary is starting to fill up with London based meetings which is going to be really useful. UnLtd don’t just give money but loads of support and access to their prop bono network of experts who want to help social entrepreneurs. Loads of people want to help, mentors, legal people, marketing people – nice. I’m trying to find a way of getting there cheaply, £35 for a train fare twice a month is just too much for me. And I’m even off to the House of Lords soon, which feels a bit odd. That’s with Skillfast, the sector skills council for fashion and textiles. They have funded part of our training under a scheme called Women and Work and we’re hoping to get government support for the continuation of the project.

There are loads of other things going on.. off the top of my head, we now sell T shirts and badges and albums online – and the album is set to be on itunes and amazon soon. We might be on a local radio station soon, and I’ve been in the local paper talking about my time with Rape Crisis – http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/features/living/4858726.Life_after_rape/ We’re starting to offer some broader training on stuff like saving money, computers and things. Della held a volunteer induction day, and we’ve more volunteers lined up – brilliant stuff.

For once my brain doesn’t feel like it’s going at a million miles an hour, which is sort of nice, but a but odd. I’m not used to it. I’m not used to handing work over – it’s been such a long time of me doing everything. It’s really quite brilliant to be able hand stuff over and it get done – looking forward to more of the same! The aim is that I have time to do sales, marketing, PR, and the bit that I am really good at and really enjoy – telling people all about our FABULOUS PANTS! With luck we will be restocked to a sensible level within the next three weeks.. and I plan to write a bit more regularly, so I will keep you up to date.

Hope you’re all keeping well, warm and happy!

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Pants! whomadeyours?

Hello! This is my first foray into the world of blogging so I hope I can work out what I’m doing.

I’m Becky and I’m in the process of setting up whomadeyourpants? a worker co-op empowering marginalised women here in Southampton. We’re going to make fabulous pants, for women, men and children (we hope) and all the while, provide some opportunities for women who have had them taken away.

The idea is to try and get a few people (or a lot of people) asking questions about where their clothes come from. Who made them, where, how far have they travelled? How much did they cost to produce? How much did the workers get paid? How many hours do they have to work? Are the conditions good? Are the fire doors locked or unlocked? How old are the workers – under ten? Do the workers have to take contraceptives to keep their jobs? Do they have contracts of employment? These things all happen in various parts of the world – they won’t happen in this business.

For more information we have a website here http://www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk and there will be a mailing list soon too. Things are coming on well, and there should be plenty to write about soon. For now though, I shall leave a few bits of information and come back another day.

whomadeyourpants? a new workers’ co-operative, based in Southampton, will empower marginalised women by providing flexible work, education, and a social and community space. It will, in time, provide childcare, space for meals to be eaten, access to community advisors, and (eventually) access to computers and a small garden space.

What is a co-operative business?

It is owned and run by it’s members, working together to achieve their common aims;
It is based on values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity (fairness) and solidarity;
It is a sustainable solution for businesses and community groups

Worker Co-operatives

are businesses owned and controlled by the people who work in them. The workers share the responsibilities and rewards, and a co-operative often provides a safer environment than self-employment.

What is whomadeyourpants? all about?

whomadeyourpants? aims to tackle two problems.

One is that there are a lot of women in Southampton who are ’marginalised’ through no fault of their own, and who would like to be able to be involved in work. The project understands that many of these women may not speak much English, and so may find it hard to get into ‘normal’ jobs. English language training, and sewing training, will be provided for free. It also understands that many women cannot, or do not want to, commit to many hours of work. For this reason, there will be lots of flexibility in how many hours, and at what times, workers can work. The project will be located within a safe walking distance of St Mary’s, Newtown, Northam – premises are being looked at at the moment.

The second problem is that of ‘unfair trade’. Lots of clothes are made in very bad conditions in poor or developing areas of the world. The workers are treated badly, they might be forced to take the contraceptive pill, or subjected to internal examinations and sacked if they are pregnant. They are made to work very long shifts for very little money, and are sometimes made to take narcotics so they can work longer.

whomadeyourpants? wants to show that trade does not have to be unfair, that workers can be in good, safe conditions, and good products can come out of it.

The project will be democratically controlled by all workers who choose to become members of the co-op. All workers will be able to be members of the co-op if they meet certain ‘entry criteria’ which are not yet set but will be agreed by the founding members in consultation with the groups whomadeyourpants? engage with and the Co-operatives Assistance Network

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