Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

WOW – what a great day. What GREAT women.

Hello again everyone

Look at this, it’s a Sunday evening and I’m writing a blog. I’ve had such an amazing time recently that I’ve just got to get it out of my head and onto , well, not exactly paper but you know what I mean

This is all about my day at the WOW Festival – if I try to cover anything else as well it will be pages! http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/women-of-the-world

Yesterday was a truly magnificent day, though long. The itinerary was…

6.15 Up to get the 7.40 train to London (the alarm was set for 6.30 but my darling cats woke me up at 6.15.. sweet, eh?)
7.40 – train, on which I read about Invisible Cows and telescopes
10-11 set up a stall in Royal Festival Hall
11 Head to Artists Entrance of Queen Elizabeth Hall
12-1.15 WOW Bites talks, 15 minute slot for me to talk
1.15 – 7pm SELL SELL SELL

I don’t quite have the words for how I feel about the day. I really had a lovely lovely day and a day like that has been a long time coming – it felt like my reward for the long slog (back to that on Tuesday). It was amazing. Astonishing. Hugely powerful, inspiring, supportive and validating. The longer I work in the women’s sector (that I had no real idea I had moved into when I started this whole thing) the more I love it, the more I want to be part of it, the more I get angry at the rubbish status quo that accepts objectification of women and abuse of them, and the more determined I get to yell and shout and do everything I can, with every sinew, to Make Things Better. Being surrounded by women yesterday, engaged, conscious women, was a delight and a treat. Selling £840 worth of pants was pretty good too, and running out of gift bags and tissue paper the same! I’m enormously proud that I, and we, are part of this and that we are making changes.

So, I got to London and to the RFH and at ten o’clock we got going with set up.. HUGE thanks to the awesome Laura and Clair who gave up most of their Saturday to help me set up, and sell – payment in Welsh Cakes is unusual but seemed to be appreciated! After a minor incident with a bashed hanging rail pole that needed pliers to fix, we were away and the stall looked lovely, pants and bunting hanging up and doing their job of attracting attention. At 11 I rushed over to the Artists entrance, in such a hurry as it turned out that I had to go back and get pants to show off..

But oh me oh my – Artists entrance! Green Room! Bidisha who’s column I do LOVE from the Guardian! Finn Mackay of Reclaim the Night*, Jess Search of BRITdoc, Harriet Boatemaa of the co-op that OWNS Divine Chocolate, Radharani Mitra, the women behind the condom normalisation programme in India, and Brigid McConville talking about maternal mortality and the bizarreness of hospital units being donated and built in areas with no electricity.. and left to rust… I was sharing a stage with women who I felt frankly, dwarfed by.

I did what I do and talked about me and pants and why I do it and I talked, more than I usually do, abut being raped. That’s not to say I described it but I actually said ‘I was raped’ instead of saying ‘I had counselling with Rape Crisis’. The talks were supposed to be inspiring and I really wanted women to see the proof that there really is life after rape and that it doesn’t have to be the end. The whole talk seemed very well received and even before I’d got back to our stall afterwards, people had been there and said they’d come to support because of my talk. So that was good.

The day was pretty non stop after that. We sold out of a few sizes and had some great offers – a woman who is a lawyer has offered remote legal support, a woman who set up a women’s network in the City has offered to introduce me to it and other groups that would like to hear me talk, and I was asked by a number of people for interviews and the like. I was personally chuffed to bits to put a face to the name Esme, to see the Olivia who loves our pants, to have a huge Tamsin Omond hug and to bump into Emma from Pink Stinks. Very happy fun times.

We were sell sell selling all day long and even when we were packing up the boxes to leave we sold more. And then a friend dropped by and bought me a restorative gin and tonic, before another friend arrived with a car to take me and all our kit the 82 miles back to Southampton.

If yesterday is characterised by anything for me, it’s that friendship and women are powerful forces. The whole event was about women and not just the things that so often get discussed – rape, violence, discrimination. It celebrated success and joy and delight and achievement and strength. Friendships bring those things and women have them by the bucket load.

Women of the world – WOW. What a GREAT day.

x

*If you think a march against male violence against women isn’t important or relevant, ask yourself if you’d happily walk home alone, anywhere, at anytime of day or night if you’re a woman. Or if you’d be happy to hear about your sister or partner or daughter or mother or niece doing so. If the answer is no, ask yourself this next – who do we, societally, expect to change their behaviour. The woman? Should she stay home to be safe? Impose a curfew on herself? Or should we expect people, men, to not attack women? With whom does the responsibility for violence lie?)

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Parties and purple pants

Well hello hello hello! It’s been aaaaaaaaaaaaaggggggggggggggesssssssssss.. How have you been? Have you missed me? I have missed you!

As a whole bunch of people have asked where I’ve been, I’m going to skip briefly over what’s happened with me, then tell you what’s been happening here, and then tell you all the exciting things that we’re in the middle of. It’s a very exciting time indeed.

After I went and spoke at a Managers meeting for the fab and wonderful http://www.lush.co.uk in Croydon, I was scheduled to have six days off. That ended up being four weeks as I just conked out. It was pointed out to me that I’d been running on adrenaline for over two years and my body just gave up on me. Being a member of our co-op, I had no choice but to listen to my Committee and I was told, in no uncertain terms, to take some time off and rest. It’s easier said than done sometimes but as it was, I managed it. I soaked my troubles away with Lush Ballistics and read and slept and am now back full of pants passion and fervour.

While I was away, things carried on swimmingly. Della really is quite brilliant at operationsy type work and everything just kept happening. Not only do we have boxes of perfect pants in every colour and size, (I’m going to keep on telling you we have loads of pants – every time I mention it is a hint for you to GO HERE http://www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk AND BUY SOME) but the offices have been moved around to make better us of the space and people have really taken hold of their work. Who would have thought that removing the control freak would allow everyone else the space to get on? Debs is coming on leaps and bounds with her finance capabilities (and confidence, which is IMHO even more important) and Pratima has come in to help too. We’ve new (wombled) filing cabinets, clothes rails, shelves and stacking trays and everything is getting a lot more organised. Dispatch is so much easier now we have pants a plenty to ship. Even my dear ole Mum has bought some, and she hadn’t told me!

Being away gave me the space and perspective to really see and appreciate how far things have come. I can no longer talk about how I am ‘starting’ a knicker business – it’s here, we’ve filed accounts, we’ve bills to pay and suppliers and rent and products and offices and paperwork (masses) and it’s really here. We’re a real hard core of dedicated workers and volunteers and it’s just a lovely place to be. I’m now based largely out of the office as I’m off at meetings, conferences, speaking engagements and the like, but I can’t stay away for long. I miss everyone! I do love the being out and about though – what I am really good at is talking, and talking about something I love. And I love pants! So getting out to shops, events and conferences is the best work I could be doing. Love it.

Next week, excitingly I have been given a complimentary place at the Media Trust event – we’ve been featured in their Annual Report, with a photo, talking about how great it’s been for me to work with Chris Smith of Swarm Communication. I met Chris, as you may remember, through an UnLtd and Media Trust Media Matching event and he’s been stonkingly brilliant. He has recently introduced me to Janet Awe of Awesome Communication (I love that name) who is sparky and brilliant and has bags of experience, so we hope to get a bunch more coverage soon. Aligned with that, and with my love of talking, we are having a partttttttttttayyyyy with the Southampton Lush store on the 27th and 28th November, and Lush TV are coming to film us! We’ll be making some pants in store and selling them – come along, meet some of the people who make them and have a go yourself!

So, pants, how can I not talk about our AMAZING, SMASHING, COMFORTABLE, EASY WASH, pants?! Our Aimee collection is really beautiful as you all know, and sales are gently ticking up wards – if you’ve helped with this, thank you – if not, you know what to do! We’ve nearly made up all the bright purple fabric, and will be moving onto a darker colour – this is a perfect example of our WIGIG, or When It’s Gone, It’s Gone way of working. We bought 600 metres of the bright purple, as that was all we could get, and then 900 metres of another purple, to make up 1500 metres. This should yield about 1000 pairs of purple pants in total. Simples! However, the bright purple is our biggest seller at the moment, so if you like them.. now’s the time girls!

We’re already sourcing new colours – our faves are basic black and then some cheerful brights as no-one, no-one can feel miserable in happy PINK pants and we’re not about boring beige or grumpy grey. I believe, hard, that one of our key messages to the world is that ethical can be FUN and PRETTY not worthy and dull. What colours would you like? I wonder if we can find an ethical dyer to do a colour match thing, you know, like when you get paint made up to match your, um, well I got mine made to match one of my feather boas. You know the thing I mean 🙂

Anyway, enough of that. Funding is still a big issue for us and we have a new volunteer helping specifically with that. She is halving my work by sifting all the possibilities and telling me which ones we are eligible for, and filling in bits of forms too. We also, hooray hooray, have been awarded just under £6k to fund us recruiting more women, hooray hooray hooray, thank YOU Faiths in Action! There are other new volunteers around but we are still looking for support around our website – if you know anyone who would like to help us with uploading content and testing, please let me know as right now, the burden is shouldered by just one person. We could also do with a free, full time IT/tech support person who knows Linux (ubuntu) as our excellent volunteers are really pushed at the moment. But such is the way of things – we’re good at making do and mending, it’s part of our ethos!

I think that pretty much covers everything that’s buzzing about at the moment. We’re still doing the boring stuff like making sure our policies and procedures are all up to date, and getting reporting structures and routines laid out embedded – but I strongly suspect you’d rather hear the fun stuff. Do tell if not!

Glad to be back folks – more again soon

xx

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Rolling, rolling rolling…

Hello again everyone. As ever, it’s been an age since I wrote last – I’ve blocked out Wednesday morning in my diary for things like writing this, but we always seem to have some sort of emergency befalling us. It’s amazing how much time tiny problems take to fix, let alone the big ones.

Let’s think where are we up to? As ever, money is tight – we are waiting on a grant payment, but it’s not here, and so we are having to plead with people to wait for us to pay bills for a bit. Our production rate has been hit by, variously, a collapsing ceiling, set backs due to the weather and having to stay closed, and two of our six machines conking out and the replacements being in containers on the way from Japan. Eek! They were both sorted last Tuesday, and the proof in the pudding is that by the end of today’s session, we should know if they are working well. The women are producing about 40 – 60 pairs of pants per session now, and we expect them to be up to over a hundred in a few weeks. The quality issues we had a while back are mostly gone, so we are getting far more perfect pants made than seconds now, which is a huge relief (even though I am buying quite a few of the seconds, I’d be happier to pay full whack for the perfect ones)!

There are a few more volunteers in place now, and so admin cover is much better. This has a huge knock on effect – if I’m answering the phone, opening the post, opening the blinds and writing letters, I’m not talking to funders, or making sales calls, or doing marketing. We have, regularly, Aimee, Debbie, Janet, Jo, Li and Maryam coming in and doing all the admin support, and Della is still volunteering full time. We’ve managed to find some funding to pay her to do some freelance training, which is great, and supports the volunteers specifically. Excitingly, we realised that we have just as much to offer the women who want to volunteer here as we do the women who learn to sew – most of them are looking to get back into work after as break, or change direction, and so are looking for office experience which will really help them get a job. It’s lovely to find things (I’m not going to call them win win) where we benefit and so do others.

Alongside all my usual work, I’ve been a busy bee, up to the House of Lords with Skillfast for an event on the Women and Work funding stream we have been supported by, and I spoke yesterday for the Women’s Resource Centre (WRC) on use of new and social media. I really enjoyed both of these events, and as ever, met some amazing women. At the Skillfast event, a woman spoke of her experience of how accessing training funds allowed her to get a job as a bus driver, which she loves, and how much difference this made to her life. It was very emotional and real, and a very good example of how providing an opportunity to learn allows people to unleash their talents. At the WRC event yesterday, I met their new Head of Communications, Sarah Brown, and others that I have spoken to only by phone or email. I spoke about using twitter and facebook and this blog, and how I really enjoyed being able to keep people up to date on what we do, and how supportive it is to get replies back supporting our work. I hope you appreciate how much it means when you comment or email – it’s honestly fab.

The women are still working hard, and learning, but we’ve realised that our initial training plans have been a bit skewiff and we are still training three months after we thought we’d finish. Our trainers are brilliant professionals, with the associated cost, and we just cannot afford to pay them and the workers. I’m not drawing a wage, and nor are any of the volunteers, but we have to pay our trainers. We explained this to the women (and I’m always terrified that they won’t understand and then be confused) and they came up with a brilliant plan. They said that we should train two women to be supervisors, to take over from the trainers. And they also said that they understood that new business had to start slowly and that perhaps they could take no pay until the end of May, to give us some breathing space. I’m a bit gobsmacked by this to be honest, I had no idea that they would be so supportive. I’m also utterly humbled that they are prepared to do this for the co-op. We talked a bit about what co-operating means, and I hope they understand how much their decision means to me, and to the future of this business, that they are prepared to be flexible. Supervisor training starts today!

In essence, things are just rolling along as chaotically and fast as always – it’s almost March! We’re all running about like headless chickens, trying to put procedures in place and work to them at the same time. Two of our women are about to have babies (one rang in, in what we think are the early stages of labour, to say she couldn’t come to work today, and said she hoped to be back within three weeks) and we’re all very excited for them. We had a fab shared lunch today, with some vibrant green chilli relish – it was so popular, that the recipe is being shared next week. I’m being featured in a whole bunch of International Women’s Day stuff, and we’ll have stalls at the upcoming Women’s Health and Well-being day http://www.southamptonwomensforum.btik.com/calendar/25275327565.ikml . I’ve also been asked to run a workshop at Solent University’s Social Enterprise conference in March. I’m lecturing at the University of Southampton next week, and we have a whole bunch of students coming to do placements here and see a real social enterprise in action. We’re having a web and technology strategy meeting this afternoon to try and establish how we can bring all our systems together and get things working well. It’s all go.

My personal feelings today are a bit mixed. I’m really sad that we had to tell the women we can’t pay them, and really pleased that they were supportive. I’m really pleased to be being asked to go out and speak, and really wanting to be in the office. I’m really glad we’re getting excellent quality pants through and really sad the women have struggled with so many problems to get them.

All in all, I know things will work, and I know this was never going to be easy. I still want to do this, and I’m thrilled so many people support it. I just can’t wait for it to get a bit easier.

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Pants are the future – especially if you help us sell some

An unusual message this time round pants fans – I’m wondering if I can enlist some help in spreading the pants gospel.

We’re trying to raise much needed funds by selling ‘pants futures’ – people pay now, we dispatch when they are made in December. We’re also selling gift vouchers for those who might not want to admit they don’t know their beloveds size…

We’re doing this not just to raise immediate cash but to show investors that people will buy from us – they are uneasy about investing/loaning to start ups with no trade history. The more interest we can show, the better. And this is where you come in.

It would be absolutely brilliant if you could forward to message below onto any individuals or groups that you think are interested in ethical trade and great underwear. A (kindly donated) PR campaign is being prepared too, but that’s going to take a wee while and we need to get the word out soon. We’ve taken orders for 35 pairs – our December sales target is 210. If we can hit that before December, we will look much stronger for investors.

If you can help, I’d be massively grateful. The message for forwarding is below.

***********************************************

Do you love good underwear, or know someone who does?
Do you want to know where your clothes come from and do something
positive with every pound you spend ? I
If so, have we got an offer for you – new pants for you, or the special someone in your life, and we’ll throw in a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, for free.

whomadeyourpants? pants are like no other. They’re gorgeous, they fit well, they feel good, and every pair sold helps the women who make them, women right here in the UK. We’ll tell you exactly who made them, and when, and even show you photos of where. Based in Southampton, we’re owned by our workers (No fat cats. No sirree) and provide training and jobs to women who want to work but have struggled to find jobs. Every penny profit we make will go back into providing them and more women like them with more training, more support and more advice. We’re aiming to show that ethical can be beautiful (think pink lace rather than beige hemp and you’re getting the idea), and affordable too. All through pants.

We’re launching our first collection, ‘Jasmine’, on the 1st December and are taking orders now for guaranteed December delivery, and for gift vouchers for Christmas presents too. These pants will be hot off the presses, the first ones of our first collection. By buying them you’ll be ensuring that we can keep supporting women, and that we can bring you collection after collection of gorgeous, ethical pants.

To find out more and to order now please check out

http://whomadeyourpants.co.uk/preorder.html.

For more information on whomadeyourpants? please check
http://www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk
https://beckypants.wordpress.com
http://www.facebook.com/whomadeyourpants
http://twitter.com/beckypants

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I’ve become a futures trader

The most I ever knew about futures trading was from Terry Pratchett books, where he wrote about how people got rich trading things that didn’t exist yet, and that special warehouses had to be built to house these non existent future products. I have to admit my mind boggled by that, but here I am now, a trainee futures trader.

The futures I’m trading are far, far more exciting though. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m trading pants futures. And if you join in, by buying some, you’ll be helping secure our first few months of trading.

A post or two back I mentioned that we were looking for revenue funding and that this is a bit hard to come by without an order book. It occurred to me that we could create an order book by asking people, individuals, not the companies that we hope to work with later on, to place orders, pay now, and then have delivery when the pants are, so to speak, hot off the press in December. It might even be sooner because the women are learning so fast. This way, we have a double whammy of happy joy – we get both orders to prove to potential investors that people will buy our stuff, and actual income with which we can pay the women’s wages to make the pants in the first month or two (if we sell enough futures!)

I tweeted this and put it on facebook and our mailing list too and immediately received some orders, which was great. It was also suggested by a chap I know that blokes might want to buy their beloved one some pants, but might be unsure of the size – and not want to ask – so the idea of gift vouchers was born too. And we’ve taken orders for both.

We’re still building the secure shop on the website, so we are invoicing for payment at the moment, but if you’d like to help out and buy some pants futures, it’s dead easy. Email me via hello@whomadeyourpants.co.uk with the word ‘order’ in the subject line, tell me what you want, provide an address for invoicing (this can be sent by email but we need a billing address) and delivery if different. We’re offering briefs, shorts and thongs in sizes 6 – 20, black, white and pink. They are all made in traditional lingerie fabrics, lovely soft, tactile things. They have a solid panel over the middle, front and back, and a sheer/detailed panel over the hips. £10 a pair, £2.50 delivery/p and p. Gift vouchers available too, £10 each, and to make it easy for the gift recipient, you can pay the postage up front, save them getting a £10 voucher and then having to to pit up to get their lovely pants delivered.

I’ll then send you an invoice and, as they say, Bob is your favourite parents sibling.

All goods will be dispatched in December or before, as soon as they are made up, and gift vouchers will be sent electronically unless otherwise requested. The pants will come in mailing boxes, lined with tissue paper.

How does that sound then? Join me in the most ethically sound futures trading ever to exist!

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