Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

New Pants! Coming soon!

Hello there!

The bonanza Bank Holiday is over and it’s back to earth with a bump. Hope you enjoyed your time off, whatever you did with it. We’re back in to some exciting new developments….

A lot of thought goes into our pants. We’re an empowerment project using work to support and nurture women, so our designs reflect what our team can do well, quickly, to build confidence, and then how we can best develop their skills by incorporating new designs, stitches etc. Our current pants use three different machines and stitch types, and so to develop skills, we need to move onto a new design. Conversely, until the skills develop, we can only make one design…

Emma came to visit us last week and brought with her a variety of patterns and examples and we have settled on what will be our next design. I’m not saying much yet as I want it to be a grand new thing, but I have been fortunate enough to have to wear test (I know, my job is tough at times…) an example and it’s lovely. It will introduce a new type of fabric, and will introduce new cutting techniques, new stitches and – in many ways – a level of flexible thinking that is critical to empowerment. Confidence is a fragile thing at times and while we know that our team are, and have been for a while, confident in their abilities with our lovely lace shorts, it’s quite a thing to move onto something different. We don’t want them to feel ‘can’t do’ so the transition into a new product will take a bit of support and management by us. Watch this space for more…

In other very happy news, Emma also approved a gorgeous white lace. We have rejected over 20 so far as not being good enough but we’ve wanted to offer a basic white short and so are really pleased. This will be at the same price as our basic black £12.50 and you can pre order them now, along with a White Working Week gift set including 5 pairs of white, and a Your Basic Week including three white, three black and one of our gorgeous shocking pink. Find them all here http://whomadeyourpants.co.uk/shop/pants.php

That’s all for this week. Hope you have a good, summery one!

Becky and the team

News in brief…

Della has definitely booked a holiday, Becky got a perfect view of the sun SECONDS after the Transit of Venus finished, Samia has mastered a new edging stitch on our baby overlocker machine, Sacdiya has been learning to pick and pack pants, our volunteer Amy has finished her Maths degree and is no longer a student, Hawa and Batol are learning a new stitching technique, and Yasmein and Zuhra are studying for exams.

Our open day is coming up! Read all about it here

https://beckypants.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/come-and-meet-the-people-who-made-your-pants/

and book here http://whomadeyourpants.co.uk/shop/misc_products.php?misc_id=21

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Ab Fab darling, Ab blinking Fab

Hello there pants people!

What a smashing and busy time it’s been! How are you all – well? Warm? Happy?

I last write on the 10th January so I’m within a month of my last post but not within a week. I plan to write more often as we move into this year, but at the moment we are still deep in the planning and sorting. There’s so much to tell!

We’ve had a wonderful visit from Emma, our lovely designer recently. She and I went out to dinner and talked and talked (well, I did) and we came up with lots of exciting plans. It seems that I jumped the gun a bit with our ivory and pink lace – it’s so different from all our other aces in width and stretch that it won’t be ready for Valentines day but we are building a realistic and achievable plan of what we can make and sell when and I’m looking forward to being able to share that with you.

I’ve been out of the office in London quite a bit recently and it’s been brilliant fun – tiring but fun. I actually met, albeit briefly, Lynne Franks! (google her if you don’t know and then feel your jaw drop. I never expected to live in THIS world!) There’s some hugely humbling news on the cards but I want to stay a bit quiet about that at the moment. I had a lovely lovely time talking to this years intake of UnLtd Level 2 award winners. Part of me is really jealous of them – they have whole year of support ahead. But the joy of UnLtd is that the connection doesn’t go away and I am still feeling part of their family. I was filmed for a little video piece which I hope we can share soon. My mum would be amazed, me in front of a camera, smiling! They did this thing where I had to stand sideways on so they can show a profile shot of me and then my stats. And I had to do funny things, imagining I was dragging photos on a giant ipad. Fun

I’m starting to talk to more people about wholesale stuff recently, people and shops are interested in having our products and I am interested in helping them do so! If you’ve a local shop you think would like to sell our pants, do let me know – the more the merrier and personal recommendations really are the best.

In the office and factory, things are good and busy busy. the Committee has, brilliantly, agreed a salary level for me and agreed that we can actually employ Della – albeing part time – and pay her through the business too. We’ve been paying me what we can, and Della has been paid as a self employed contractor so she’s had no security from us in a long while. This is a huge milestone and I am proud we’ve made it and ever grateful to Della for her faith and support all this while. VERY glad we can officially have her now! We’re both still earning way less than our payscales say we should but it’s a very good start.

Della and the workers love it when Emma come in, she is so full of knowledge and passion, and I know Della’s brain bursts a bit with all the new stuff but it’s great. Plus we got to finally open the biscuits Emma brought us from Italy! We may be losing one of our volunteers, at least part of the time, which is a shame but the way things are at times. Oh, and we plan to take on a sales person – just a little bit. Two half days a week. I’m out and about generating buzz and interest and then haven’t enough hours in the day to sort all the stuff out back in the office, which is Not Good Enough. So – if you’re a woman in Southampton (we’re covered on this legally, we would not be able to operate if we had mixed staff as women may not be allowed to attend), want 2 x half days a week work and have sh1t hot sales experience, drop me a line!

I’m going to end here for today and do my best to write another shorty this week. I’m working from home as I’m having some tests done on my skin and am a bit immobile. Nowt unexpected or to be fearful of, I hope – mad mad eczema has to be resolved – it just means I’m confined a bit. So I may ramble with the stircrazyness!

Hope you’re all very well

Becky
x

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Do you read the Guardian? We were in it!

Well hellooo everybody!

What a week it’s been! Since my last posts about the picnic, the fountains and the new collection, so much has happened – as always! I find myself saying to people, ‘it’s been such a busy few weeks’ and then I realise I say that every few weeks..

Well, anyway, The last week has been extra specially exciting as we have been in The Guardian! We were featured in the Guardian Society pages last Wednesday, July 28th, and things have been a little bit insane since. We’re getting lots of phone calls, orders and emails, and we’ve had to scramble new procedures into play to cope with it all. We have forms to help our newer volunteers answer the phone and we’re taking on new ones to help out.

The article is here if you haven’t seen it

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/jul/28/ethical-knickers-sweatshops-collective-women

and it;s been linked to and references in India, Australia and the States! Exciting times! We’ve even had a contact from a documentary company! No idea what’s going to happen there, but it’s great to have even been contacted.

The publicity on Wednesday and Thursday were brilliant and my twitter habit became all consuming as were getting tweeted and retweeted and mentioned and linked to – it was great. We ended up on the Guardian eco stream as well as the society and main news one, and through the wonder that is twitter, we’ve managed to find a photographer and a fab fab cupcake company to help out with our upcoming photo shoot! It’s planned for next Thursday, 12h August – my 34th birthday! We’re hoping for sunshine so we can have some lovely natural light and the fabulous Heidi from http://www.cherryonthecake.org.uk has promised us some gorgeous cupcakes to set off the shoot nicely. Very very exciting! We’re also launched pre orders with DISCOUNTS – check our facebook page, my twitter feed or archive blog posts for details (you have to work for it!)

Thins seem, all of a sudden, to be a bit settled in the office. Not that there aren’t day to day disasters and hicupps, but that we’ve a constant stream of volunteers, there’s nearly always someone around to answer the phone, and the place is generally busy and buzzing. We’ve also got a placement student, Amy, in this week. She’s studying at Leicester De Montford University with the wonderful David Morris, who gave me my very first proper advice and introduction to the wonderful world or knicker making. Amy is really keen and even took pants home last night to sew bows on by hand in front of the TV!

The pants are looking GORGEOUS and I’ve worn two pairs now, a red and a black. They feel amazing. The lace is really comfortable and the fit is brilliant. THANK YOU EMMA KIDD! There are two women who have walked into whomadeyourpants? Over the last year that I know now have made themselves indispensable. Step up Della Cunio and Emma Kidd.

Della is almost indescribable. I think of us as standing back to bak, me looking out and talking to all the outside people – finders, press, customers – and Della looks in, managing everything inside here. As a big part of that she supports me – my head can go so fast sometimes it’s like a zoetrope, and Della has shown me that it’s better for everyone if I go and talk it out with her. If you ever come to see us and I’m lying on a table talking to Della, it;s because my head is abut to burst.

And Emma Kidd. Our Associate Product Designer and Development. Without her fab new patterns, I suspect we’d be really struggling. These new pants are so pretty, and so easy to make look brilliant. They are no walk in the park to make, there is effort and challenge, but the end result is stunning. I can’t wait for you to have them and agree with me!

I’ve got to rush off now – I’ve had eczema on my face for months and I’ve managed to get a cancellation appointment at the Doctor so I need to be there in 20 minutes.

Have a good week folks – thanks for your continued support, emails and calls. I’m constantly chuffed that my bonkers idea for pants has caught your imagination.

Becky

🙂

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Who wants some NEW PANTS?!

Hello everybody!

Just a very quick note to say we are in the middle of a huge pile of fabric and thread as we are excitingly in the middle of making up our NEW COLLECTION! We’ve not got a name for it yet, we’re taking suggestions from everyone here and going to have a vote, like a good co-op. But it’s GORGEOUS. We’re making fab fab fab stretch lace shorts, like the ones sold in most of the shops on the high street. They are comfortable, they wash and wash and wash, and the are altogether brilliant.

Have a look at some very bad photos – I’m an enthusiast for pants but no photographer!

The very first mock up (ie, the first rough pattern pieces cut, before any fitting or tweaking had been done http://twitgoo.com/1790z9 – isn’t it lovely? We’ll be doing this in black and purple too.

Purple bows for black pants, red for red, pink bows for purple pants http://twitgoo.com/19xoqp
Our first black lace – not many leftovers from trade as black sells so we’ll be getting different designs http://twitgoo.com/19xopz
A close up of the black stuff http://twitgoo.com/19xoqb
900m of this pretty floral purple http://twitgoo.com/19xop5
We’re getting 600m of this gorgeous two tone purple http://twitgoo.com/19xoo9

More soon but I just had to share!

Becky

(and if anyone can tell me how to make links clickable in wordpress, please do!)

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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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We have designs!

Hello everyone!

It’s been another frantic week or so here at pants HQ, but there is some great news. After extensive market research, we have settled on final designs for the pants we are going to make. Of the 150 Ria drew, one style was tops and  they are beautiful and were the overall favourite when shown to various groups of people.

Next step is to get a mock up made so we know they look as good as we think they do, then confirm the order for materials, get some samples made and send them off to potential distributors. Hooray!

So I’m now sourcing labels and elastics and trims and bows and things, and trying to find ethical suppliers. It;s pretty tough – even ethical companies seem to struggle with these bits, so we may have to compromise, but if it’s compromise or produce nothing, we’ll compromise. When we are selling, the website will tell you all about where we got each component, so we’ll be as open and clear as we can anyway.

As well as that, I’m preparing to go and see John Denham on Friday, to lobby against the proposed closure of the Sector Skills Council for Fashion and Textiles. They have been so amazingly helpful, not just in providing funds for accredited training, but by putting us in touch with people and knowing what works and what doesn’t. It would be a crying shame if they were to close, so I shall put my best persuasive voice on and try hard.

It’s been a bit of a week for press type stuff too. We were featured in http://www.newsector.co.uk on the 9th February, so a copy arrived for us to keep this week, which is lovely. And I was interviewed yesterday for a piece in the Solent Mind newsletter, as they were massively helpful in setting up initial contacts with the community we’re now working with.

The website is getting some overdue love and attention too, now, and we’re aiming for an update, a shop, some clever pages and photos, over the next few months. We’re aiming to start trading on the 1st December (English training underway now, sewing training to start 1st September, we should be producing good quality knickers by mid November with luck)

I’m dashing off now as we have been donated a flat screen monitor and I’m off to collect it. As part of our business planning, the lovely Tara from Wessex Partnerships helped me work out that as well as the £44k we’ve received in money, we’ve received about £50k in donations and benefits in kind – mostly stuff like people’s time, but also our very comfy sofa!

News to follow shortly on where you can but T shirts!

Oooh, and before I forget, we are now the proud owners of two trademarks! Our logo, and our name in the font as on the website. Hooray!

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