Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

Go pants team, go!

Great news! Not quite a year since I started working on this full time, I have just been told that we finally have the team all pretty much signed up. 25 women have committed to learning and being involved, we’ve very nearly every scrap of paper we need from them, and most of them have actually started English classes. Hooray!

We’ve been struggling with getting women involved, not becuase they aren’t interested, but because childcare is elusive, expensive and vital. And I wrote a while back about how I *thought* we had the team sorted. But the childcare issue means we have had lots of drop outs from women who would love to be involved, but who have no-one to look after their little ones. But a call this morning form the fabulous Allegra at CLEAR http://www.clearproject.org.uk/uk, who is doing a brilliant job of being both in CLEAR and Pants’ Treasurer, and it really does look like we’ve done it. And while we were talking on the phone, another woman came forward too, so we should have 26 – which is great, as I suspect there may still be one or two more drop outs.

Our hope initially was to work with 10 women, but advice from June, the sewing and production trainer, suggested we could support 25 workers. I’d personally like to help every single one of the 80 or so women who have shown an interest, but I know it’s better to do a small good job than a big bad one. So this is the start.

The Sector Skills Council for Fashion and Textiles (which is shamefully being threatened with closure) can provide us with up to £600 per woman for training, and this will go a long way to making sure we get really thorough training. Which will go a long way to making sure we make fab pants!

Life in the office is currently a little bit dull. Documentation and filing and writing blinking funding bids is not what I enjoy most, but it all needs to be done and so I am doing it. Lovely Tara from Wessex Partnerships has done absolutely amazing work on a bid I hopw to send off on Monday, and she’s trawling through the business plan too. In my last job, I often had to support people on their own business plans, so I *know* it’s important, but in my head, a little voice is screaming ‘it is just going to work, ok, we don’t need all this detail’. That voice is getting a stern telling off. We’ve had a few rejections recently, so news of the £450 from Southampton City Council Active COmmunities team (for posters in a variety of languages for emergency situations) was very happily received, not just for itself, but for the fact it was a yes after a number of no’s.

In other news, whomadeyourmusic, the brilliant album of donated tracks, seems to have taken on a life of it’s own. Nigel of electropuppy is a one man marketing machine (thank you Nigel) and if I have it right, the album is now available for download from here http://www.madbouncydogs.com/store/index.php?selected_artist=36 and has been released as a physical CD from here http://www.dpulse-america.com/, both at £6.50. Nigel called me last week and I got so excited by what he had to say I got a bit muddled, but if I remember correctly, if we sell 1000 copies, Universal are going to get involved with distribution into outlets they work with. Whoda’ thunk it, eh?

I’m just getting photos together of Tshirts and bagdes; they too will be available for sale soon, hopefully by Wednesday next week. I’ll let you all know as and when…

And in a final exciting tale, I’ve a second meeting with Ria, who is desgining the pants, this afternoon. She had masses of designs, and we whittled them down. I hope to have something approaching the final ones today, which I’m then going to show to people and get some feedback on. Progress, progress, progress!

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I know what your pants will look like, almost

Well, what a week it’s been!

On Saturday, the gig in support of whomadeyourpants? happened at the Half Moon in Putney. All the bands were amazing, and I’m hard pressed to say which I enjoyed most. For all I had to do nothing, I was really nervous before it started, but had a great time, and it was lovely to chat to people, notably an enthusiastic guy from New Zealand who bought a Tshirt, put it on straight away, and insisted on asking me who made MY pants. I had to say Marks and Spencer, but I hope that won’t be true for much longer. It was great to meet the bands in person and say thank you. scarlet/blonde and Nigel from madbouncydogs/electropuppy have been absolutely brilliant in setting it all up and I was really pleased to be able to say thanks with hugs to Dawn and Ditch – shame Nigel couldn’t make it, but there are hugs (and a pint) on tab waiting for him when we do finally meet. All in all we took about £680 quid from ticket sales and merchandise, which is a fine result. Suzerain, scarlet/blonde, The Blowups, VAHN, Nigel, all at the Half Moon, and everyone who came, danced and had fun – thank you.

I then had two days completely off work and cycled miles and miles with my friend Mark – over 60 miles in two days, it looks like. Beautiful weather, deer in Richmond Park and plenty stops for ice cream made it a really refreshing break before coming back in ready to rock on with work. Travelling must be a theme this week as on Wednesday the 27th, I drove 400 miles, to Macclesfield and back, with the excellent and wise June and Ria to meet a supplier. It took probably about ten hours driving all told, but the land up there was beautiful, we had plenty time to chat and get to know each other better in the car, and when we got there, we found some delicious fabrics. So, all being well, I now know what the first whomadeyourpants? pants will be made of. I’m meeting Ria tomorrow to look at designs, and then we’ll be able to work out accurate costings and, with luck, prices too. Hooray!

There have been some ongoing negotiations about our premises but even for someone like me who hates to count chickens, things are looking really promising. Currently, we are based at Fairways House in an office upstairs, but the plan has always been to move into a bigger complex of offices and spaces downstairs, next to a giant roller shutter door, which will be perfect for getting big rolls of fabric in and out. The current tenants of that space, sadly for them and their brilliant work, look to have to get smaller and take less space – but, for us, this means that we should have the space ready for when we start the actual sewing training in September. This fits with our plans to start selling on the first of December – so mark it in your diaries, pants for everyone’s Christmas present! In the meantime, I’m moving to the room next to the one I’m currently in next week (the neighbours want to expand and so it makes perfect sense), and so will be leaving the very first pants HQ. I’m quite sad about it, it’s been lovely to work here and it was the first place I really felt ‘ohmygod it’s really happening i’m in a proper office ohmygod’ type of thing, but a move feels like progress. To know that we’re in a temporary office because we’re waiting for the permanent one is a good feeling.

In a funny way, things are pretty quiet for me at the moment. The training is in hand, the business plan is being reviewed, the latest funding bid is being reviewed, the premises seem sorted, we can’t do much about starting sales and marketing til we have some samples, materials look sorted. I keep on finding filing cabinets and chairs that have been donated outside the office, so it’s a bit Christmassy every day! There are always a million and one details to complete – ethics and environment policies to write, more flipping funding bids to put together, a pile of stuff from the Health and Safety Executive to read – and there are some urgentish things too – find more women to replace the ones who dropped out because of childcare issues, finalise my job description and contract, find money to pay me (if you find any down the back of your sofa, may I direct you to our giant penny jar here ) but it all feels…under control. I’ve been told this feeling won’t last for long so I might as well make the most of it. We’ll see!

As well as the gig I mentioned above, Nigel has also, with the help of scarlet/blonde, Gothwin and others, put together a simply stunning album called whomadeyourmusic? Every artist (and there are some real crackers, old favourites of mine and new talent too) who donated a track has donated the royalty too, and if you want music for your ears before you can have pants for your rear, you can get it here here for just £6.50. Tracks have been donated by… in no particular order, just the order I remember them in…

New Model Army

Joolz

Howard Jones

Subgiant

ScarletBLONDE

Miserylab

New York Anxiety Attack

Kajagoogoo

Electromagnetic Impulses

Fisher

Victoria Conn

Katie Ellen

Sara Spade

…and I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of them. When I was listening to the big haired Howard Jones and Kajagoogoo as a wee kiddie, and the awesome NMA and Subgiant as an adult, I’d never expected to have them hear of me, or my work, let alone support it, so it feels a bit weird!

We’ve some Tshirts and badges with the whomadeyourpants? logo on too, T shirts in mens XL, and S, M, L for women – not that that’s mandatory, you can have whatever size you like. They’re 100% ethical, supplied by the fabulous http://www.footprinters.co.uk, another worker co-op, and are ready to go too, all fundraising to get money together to keep the project going before – I’m working out how to sell them best online and will be in touch about that shortly.

Til then, enjoy the lovely weather everyone! And thanks as ever to everyone who has helped us along so far. Pants are getting ever closer!

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What a beautiful day (hey, hey)

Ah, Summer is in the air and festival season approaches! A very generous friend of mine has made it possible for me to go to Beautiful Days and Blissfields, so I shall be happy relaxing there in the sunshine (is that too much tempting fate) later on this year. This week is a bit of an odd one for me as I’m catching up after being ill, but let’s see what there is to tell you…

Things here are still swooshing along pretty rapidly, and it’s good to know that they weren’t held up too much by me being ill last week. I had a horrible stomach bug which is largely past, but was most unpleasant for a few days and I’m still a bit worn out. But the project now has momentum of it’ s own, so things were happening even though I was consigned to the sofa with a duvet and afternoon murder mysteries.

The English assessments have started, which is great news. All the prospective workers are being assessed to find out their level of English and therefore what sort of training they need. Last Wednesday, the English trainers, the sewing trainers and I all met to work out what English was required to learn the sewing – not very much apparently, as the wonderful June and Ria teach a lot by showing. We need to cover Health and Safety stuff properly, so we need the English for that, but it’s really exciting knowing we’ll be actually delivering training really soon.

The English looks to be delivered at two levels – higher and lower – and enough women to form the higher level class have been assessed, so that class is good to go and should start within a week I think. It’ll take three months, so (taking account of the fact that a lot of the women try to go to see family for a month in the summer) that class will be ready to start sewing training in September. The lower level English class will take a bit longer but should be ready to start sewing training in about November I think. June and Ria think it will take three months to learn how to make knickers, so we *should* be ready to sell in the first week of December. Hooray!

This morning I had a really good meeting with Tom from the Sector Skills Council(SSC) for Fashion and Textiles and Rob from Wessex Partnerships. It sounds like the SSC have a really good funding stream for training called Women and Work, and we are applying to them for funds for the sewing training, but we also talked about apprenticeships and NVQs for later on – there’s always been the idea that women would progress to become team leaders, or learn about finance, admin, marketing, sales, whatever they were interested in. Wessex Partnerships would be the training provider, the SSC would pump the money through, and we would end up with really skilled workers with qualifications that they can be proud of. I’m going to meet Rob again to sort out the details of this but Tom said that if we take people on in December we might even have them leaving the apprenticeship this time next year – exciting and almost tangible stuff.

Oooh, we’ve been the lucky recipients of more donated stuff – a squicky pink sofa, a computer desk and another, working, proper, office chair. And we were in the local paper last week – I’ve got to see about getting the photo online as it’s a ‘you need to buy this’ so I’m not sure about copyright. But I’d like to upload the article. Nice little piece about some funding we’ve received and a photo of one of the funders, and three of the women who will work here. Oh, and me!

In slightly rubbish news, four women have had to drop out of the project as there is no childcare – they can’t even get childcare for the training, let alone working, and there are some concerns about the informal childcare we’d hoped they would go for. We’d hoped they would feel ok to share with friends, but they rightly feel it’s a lot of responsibility, and some live too far from anyone for it to be viable. We do have a waiting list, so we can offer work to more people, but it’s a real, real shame that this is such a barrier.

The ScarletBLONDE gig (details at the bottom of the post) on the 23rd in support of pants is fast approaching, and I’m sorting out how to get there and trying to find out about ethical T shirt printing in short runs before then, would be lovely to have a few Tshirts to sell. I’ll probably go and help Kingston NO2ID on the way, they are running a stall that day, and it’s always good to meet people who are interested in the same stuff. Looking forward to the gig – if you haven’t bought your ticket yet, do – £5 in advance, more on the door. Should be fun!

I can see that I’ve already written loads so will sign off and get back to real work. Yet more funding applications to write, more calls to women to make, and I should probably have some lunch too. Thanks for reading folks – hope to see some of you on the 23rd!

Gig info….

23rd May, 8 til 11.55, Suzerain, scarlet/blonde and The Blow Ups will be at The Half Moon Putney.

A great night helping to raise money for the fantastic whomadeyourpants.

See two of the hottest dark electro/indie/rock bands on the planet, Suzerain and Scarlet Blonde tear the stage apart, with The Blow-Ups kicking off preceedings with hot as hell female fronted rock fury.

So wear your pants on the outside and support this amazing night! Tickets are available here
http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/user/region=gb_london&query=detail&event=307063

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Musical pants? – Your suggestions please!

Dear Pants Fans, can you help? The fantastic Nigel of electropuppy infamy has been working away on getting artists to agree to donate tracks to a CD which we can sell to support whomadeyourpants?

80’s legends Howard Jones, Kajagoogoo and other artists including The Young Punx and Scarlet BLONDE have donated tracks, and so the album is taking shape. This has come at a really good time as pretty soon the project runs out of money to pay me (it has money for lots of other stuff, like sewing machines, English training, needles but it’s been given  specifically for those things so it’s not a good plan to borrow from one bit to pay another bit) and without me spinning all the plates in the middle, so to speak, we’ve just got a bit mess of smashed crockery and no pants.  Not a good plan.

So what we need now is a name. And some album art.

If you or anyone you know are interested in making (polite) suggestions for the former, or designing something for the latter, please reply in the comments below or email me.  The logo and font used on the website can be provided for people who want to make something in the same styles as the site.

You might  even get a free CD..go on.. support pants!

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And I’d like to thank…

The last week has disappeared out from under me and here we are, nearly Wednesday again, the official start of the weekend.I mean to write this last Friday but was frantically busy and then went out for a well earned night out seeing Subgiant at the Soul Cellar. Lots of dancing and jumping about which was just what I needed.

It seems that pants is on a bit of a roll at the moment. I’m nearly all moved into the new office, a few technological teething problems but I do seem prone to them. I was loaned a mobile internet doodah, which doesn’t work, and the printer can;t work with the new ‘puter without the drivers, which are online… but also on a CD which a kind friend has copied for me. But I have rows upon rows of lovely files all marked up and filing up with papers, a desk, stationary, in and out trays to help me be organised – bliss! That’s sounds a bit of a wierd sort of bliss I know, but it’s already making a difference. Today, for the first time, I sat at my desk and did a full afternoon of proper work – and it was wonderful.

One of the grants we’ve been awarded needs my attention this week. It was due to fund work which was scheduled to start now, but because of the delays last year, and other logistical things – like that there are still people in the rooms my landlords want to offer me – so that’s to be tackled tomorrow.  Good news though, I have finally got a nearly complete spreadsheet of all the women I am hoping to work with (info has been kept by me and various other people until now) and realised that about 20 women are in the process of having their Better Off At Work Calculations done. This is progress. Tomorrow I hope to work out some self employment and PAYE stuff with the help of the lovely Helen.

Speaking of the lovely Helen, there are so many people, that I am proud to call friends, without whom  this project would just not be happening and it feels like it’s about time to say thankyou. In no particular order…

Helen, for being my financial guru and being patient when I go blank

Jeff for having a go at pretty much anything

Gareth for mending web stuff in minutes and telling me he’s proud of me

Drew for the site and the dreams I’m entertaining of the next iteration

Gordon for hosting and answering questions when I’m panicking

Mr Stuff for being IT support

Russell for all the help, and the endless patience, and the listening ears.

Tom for design work.

Mark and Frank for the office and the help and advice

Roopa for being a ray of sunshine on a sparkly rainbow

Robert for being utterly sensible and for kicking me up the rear when I need it

Ian for the router

Clare W, Michelle M, Gadjie, Mark B, Gareth and The List for the very generous donations

Nigel Paice of electropuppy.com for the hope of the album and for not minding that I take ages to get back in touch

ScarletBlonde for the tour

Ethel for the offer of promotion

Sam at ethicsgirls for the reassurance, advice and light at the end of the tunnel

And I’m sure there are more but I’m already sounding worryingly like I’m at the Oscars. every single one of the people mentioned above has done something for nothing that they didn’t have to, and that I appreciate massively. You’re all stars.

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