Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

Holy Press and Lingerie Awards Batman!

Posh frocks and shindigs

Lovely, lovely pants fans – how are you all? Things here at pants HQ are just fizzy at the moment and I just HAVE to share some news! Two is clearly our magic number at the moment – we are shortlisted for two awards and we are featured in two mazagines this month!

Where to start, where to start…

Awards!
I am thrilled and delighted to announce that we are finalists in the UK Lingerie Awards, in the Ethical Brand of the Year category. The UK Lingerie Awards take place on Wednesday, September 7th at One Mayfair, one of the hottest fashion venues in town – and I’ll be there, in a smashing outfit being put together by local upcycling duo June and Ria of Recycle and Sew. I’ve been told it will be a spectacular dinner where shortlisted finalists will be joined by hundreds of VIP guests from the intimate apparel industry, consumer press and celebrities invited by sponsors. My knees are already a’knocking! Judges included Rigby & Peller founder and Queen’s corsetiere June Kenton, Debenhams’ lingerie head of design and buying Sharon Webb, De Montfort University course leader Gillian Proctor, The Lingerie Collective founder Kelly Isaac, Intimate Apparel Consultancy founder Claire Franks, celebrity lingerie designer Nichole de Carle and Lingerie Insight editor Kat Slowe – gulp!

http://www.uklingerieawards.com/finalists/

Then, on the 14th September, I’ll be at the very gorgeous Savoy Hotel for the Specsavers Everywoman in Retail awards, where I am a finalist in the Innovator of the Year Award, alongside two women working for a company that dwarfs us, Asda – Miranda Elliott, Operating Model Workstream Leader, and Keren Long Bangladesh Sourcing General Manager, George Clothing. Again, gulp!

http://www.everywoman.com/retailawards/finalists

And magazines.. We were utterly chuffed to be featured in the ‘Ones to Watch’ section of ‘Lingerie Buyer’, the leading and longest established trade press for the Lingerie Industry. I can’t send a direct link as you have to sign up to read it but if you want to see, have a look here http://www.lingerie-buyer.co.uk scroll down to ‘latest issue’ and click on the magazine cover, and then you can sign up – it’s free. We’re on page 24 and we LOVE the photo of our gorgeous black lace pants. Sleek and simply gorgeous, it shows really well how brilliant the fit is.

More locally, we’re featured in Hampshire View which you can read here http://s.coop/50nm Click through to page 6/7 and there’s a photo of me surrounded in our finest pants under the brilliant heading The Pantrepreneur. The first person to reply below with the answer to the question, ‘which is the big part of our day’ – based on the article – wins a prize! Not sure what yet, we’ll have to check the prize cupboard. It will likely involve pants and Divine chocolate though!

Do all keep your fingers crossed for us – I’ll let you know if we win (and probably keep very quiet if we don’t!)

Becky
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Right here, right now, right here, right now..

Good morning all! How are you today? It’s sunny and bright out there and don’t I feel better for it.

Things here at pants HQ are still pressurised and we are very much doing what we call firefighting – just the urgent stuff, nothing else. Della has been reduced to packing my kit for events rather than, oh, managing staff or writing management plans and reports, as we’ve been massively short on woman power. But today feels a brighter day. We’ve a great atmosphere here today – lots of women in the production area,a good number of volunteers, and that elusive sunshine filtering in through the windows.

So, what’s happened since I last wrote? I’ve done a few tiny posts but my last proper entry was the 8th Feb – my desperate oh oh woe post. Thanks so much to everyone who got in touch afterwards – real support and help are invaluable. Thank you. Since then, plenty has happened. We’ve finalised our colour plans for the year and sorted out what colour bows, threads and gussets we need. I’ve started my mammoth events calendar. Through March I have eight separate things to be at, and am working some nights until eleven pm (sob) so there has been a scheduling task to make sure I take the time back and don’t conk out, but then also catch up with Della. If I’m out at events, then out taking time in lieu, I’m not here and it’s amazing how fast Della and I can get disconnected and lose track of what each other is doing.

Our new press assistant April is doing really well, she’s keen and competent and comes to me with lists of questions and also suggested solutions – bliss! We’re putting some press out, hopefully today, as a call for BUMS – we need bum models! We’ve had some good press too – I was very proud to be featured in the South Wales Echo, a newspaper from my childhood! Have a look at these links if you’ve not seen them yet.

http://www.ogunte.com/innovation/featured-women-socinn/324-becky-john-who-made-your-pants
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2011/03/01/becky-unveils-her-patriotic-pants-91466-28252876/

We’ve also had out first photos from our new photography assistant. Looking good. I’m excited about getting photos of our new gift sets soon too. They make me so happy! Another volunteer, Aga, has been rifling through the boxes of ribbons we’ve been sent from Lush – they are extras from their gift department and we’re going to turn them into gift wrap for our sets. I want to play…!

We’re starting to get more applications for voluntary work in response to the calls I’ve been putting out. I’ve had a great meeting with Southampton Voluntary Services (long may they continue – I’m personally terrified for them that they will be cut. How the hell are we supposed to have this ‘Big Society’ run by volunteers if there is no support and training for volunteers? My mind boggles…) We’re getting clearer about what we need – we need a minimum of 6 hours a week and a commitment of at least ten weeks. It takes four week for someone to learn where things are and how to do things and it can be a huge drain on Della’s time if she has to constantly support people. We’ve agreed that, in future, we’ll be happy to open up more volunteer roles to people who need us, but right now, we need people who can help us. The reality is, BIg Society watchers, that it is A Very Hard thing to find experienced, competent people who will do the work, unpaid for enough hours to *run* an organisation or activity – they tend to, erm, have jobs, and be busy. Mr Cameron, take note!

What else? Oh! we’ve launched some super smashing splendid pants for St Davids Day and ran a competition about it too – see previous posts – and we’ll announce the winner soon. They are gorgeous and the lace is great quality – it feels nice and strong and supportive without being too weighty. I’m quite demanding about the lace that we take on – it;s easy to get carried away with all the pretty colours but we need it to have certain stretch qualities and it;s best if it’s a certain width as it means less tweaking of patterns.

I’ve been to my very first RSA event and had a lovely time. I’m looking forward to getting more plugged in to their networks and events programmes. The library blew me away – I’m a complete bibliophile and had purposely taken no bag so I could not take loads of books home. I limited myself to two and am going through them with delight.

What else.. I’ve been filmed by Midshires Co-op for a film on ‘why co-ops’, applied for bursaries to hold two co-ops events, been to PURE London, a huge fashion trade show – I love the shuttle buses between the two venue. Old Routemasters! Have had a meeting with another local place about a refugee/co-ops event in summer, appointed a new Committee member, been approached by a newswire, done a volunteering fair at the University of Southampton, started the process of moving our website to a new hosting and development solution (thank you to J who hosted, developed and supported for soooo long) written a reference, caught up with local happenings at the City Council,met Ethiopian and Eritrean women, spoken for the University Feminist Society, arranged to be at the University for two International Womens Day events, written template lists of what I need for different sorts of events, played with bows for colour matching. Busy busy. And we now employ ten women part time, and are training one more. I LOVE that.

If you want to come and see me, I’ll be at a bunch of events in March. Highlights are…

3rd March
Evening sales stall at Fashion on the Age of Austerity at V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green.

7th March 2011 TBC
Evening sales stall and Speaking at a Student Union IWD event Uni Southampton

8th March International Women’s Day
Sales stall, Uni of Southampton, 10-4 with University Feminist Society, selling pants on campus and promoting us.

http://www.teapigs.co.uk will be running a discount code promo and competition to their 16000 strong mailing list 7th March ref IWD.

10-13 March WOW festival
Speaking 12-1 on the 12 March, selling stall all day Saturday

17th, 18th March Responsible Business Event.
We’ll have a stall exhibiting both days and I will be speaking at a seminar for 20 mins on Friday 18th.

Maybe see you there? If not, happy March!

Love

Becky
x

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I’d better just get out of these wet things…

I’ve just had the most fantastic day and wanted to tell you all about it. And I need to remember that my job is about more than stress and work, it’s about brilliant women, empowerment and FUN so I hope writing this and posting it will help me do just that.

Today was our whomadeyourpants? picnic on Southampton Common. It started as a part of some funded work we do to encourage the women we work with to go to places they might not otherwise, but it’s ended up as being so much more than that. It bought together trainees, volunteers, me and Della, and some truly fab children. I’m writing this, still soaked to the skin, after a number of raucous dips in the paddling pools and screaming joyous drenchings under the sprinklers in the pools. It’s a good thing I wore my usual uniform of ‘clothes I can fall off my bike in’ else I’d have ruined something decent. Nothing would have stopped me going in.

My day started with our fab volunteer Deb and a trip to a well known partnership grocery store to buy provisions. I had absolutely no idea how many people were coming as while people had said they would, it was a bit grey and people do often say they will come and then change their minds. So we bought more than our modest little trolley could carry and I had to play grocery tetris to fit it all in. I biked to the common and met Deb and her precious, delicious, grand daughter there and between us we moved the stacks of stuff to a blanket near the play area and pools. It was, by this time, drizzling, and there was a cohort of wasps making welcoming gestures. Perfect. Debs headed off to collect grand daughter number 2 and I was left guarding the stocks.

The plan was that some trainees and volunteers would meet me at the common, and some would meet Della at the office, to walk up together. As I sat, alone on my blanket, rain bouncing off the bags of summer food around me, I spent quite some contemplating what on earth I was doing. The rain passed though and a hasty phone call between Della and I agreed that yes, we would go for it. Even when everyone had arrived, I have to admit I was making the best of it as the rain reappeared and everyone started covering their plates up to keep the food dry. Oh, the stereotypicalness of it all!

Thankfully, the rain passed again and it stayed greyish, but warm, so we had the great benefit of not needing acres of sunscreen and protection from melting. whomadeyourpants? baby number 3 came to meet us, four weeks old and gorgeous, with his 7 year old brother and bigger sister (and Mum, of course), one woman brought her two six year old twins, and Debs brought her two grand daughters. I have to admit, as soon as the children arrived, I was in my element. And when Della suggested we (they?) go to the paddling pools.. well.. I actually ran.

The twins, the 7 year old and his big sister and I made a beeline for the pools and I was delighted that there were none of these silly signs saying grown ups couldn’t play. We had so much fun. especially when boy child and one of the twins shed layers and started properly playing. I made no such change, just waded in as I was and got soaked. Repeatedly. There are two fountains spraying water around and the children were a bit wary of them so I was brave and went though them to make them laugh, which worked ahttps://beckypants.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php treat. One of the fountains was like a big ball with holes in, at a level that children could sit on. So about 7 children would sit on it, block up all the holes, and then jump off at once, catching wanderers past a right ding in the ear with mains pressure jets of water. Much, much screaming, yelling and fun. Can you tell I enjoyed myself?

When we eventually got out of the water, I wrung out my clothes as best I could and we made our way back to the food. It was lovely. Some people stayed for the whole time, others made flying visits, but it was great for everyone to meet some volunteers come in on days when there is no sewing, so never get to meet the rest of the team.

There was plenty more playing after more food, climbing frames, slides (actually, the slides were earlier, I was far to soggy to slide. I’d have squeaked) swings, and singing. The 7 year old boy child and his big sister did some lovely singing in the round as they were attempting to tip me upside down in one of those big flat round bowl swings. I think I was as disappointed as them when we realised the grown ups were packing up. It was a truly brilliant day, lovely for the trainees to bring their kids, big and small, lovely to get everyone together and lovely to have time to spend time with the lovely, amazing and frankly awe inspiring women I consider myself privileged to work with. Absolutely brilliant.

I believe there might be photos from today.. I’ll post if I can find them. And I’m sure there’s more news in general from the last few weeks – of course there is. We’re just about to start production of the new collection, so hands on your wallets folks, we’ll be getting photos taken and up onto site soon, and asking you to support us soooooon. We’re aware that the quality of the last collection was..patchy so will be offering a discount to anyone who bought from the Jasmine collection and said we could mail them as a thank you and ‘see how great our pants are now’ incentive.

As a last bit of news, er, I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say yet, but I’m buying the Guardian tomorrow and planning to read the Society pages first. You might want to, as well.

More soon folks 🙂

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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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