Who Made Your Pants?

Gorgeous Pants. By women, for women.

Pumpkintastic!

Hello there pants fans!

There’s a tang in the air and it definitely feels like autumn is here and winter is around the corner. We’re had our first frosts here in Southampton and there was a fun pumpkin festival locally this weekend where I bought bright orange pumpkin bread!  Hope you are all warm and well where you are.

The work we do here with our team is as much about teaching employability skills as it is about making and selling our gorgeous pants. They are the vehicle, if you like, through which we provide the training and support that we do. Over the next few weeks we are focusing on precision and paying attention to the sewing machines.

Some of our machines look a lot like a sewing machine you might have at home. Others look very different and these do the more complex work that we need. Many of them have four threads coming in from the top and a bobbin, too, and we tread a fine line between wanting the team to understand them and be able to fix them, and not letting non experts loose on expensive bits of kit and damaging both the machine and their own confidence. When we pull out a bit of time, such as now, to do deep training, we are able to spend time on these tricky technical things. We think that having our team understand how to fix and maintain the machines they use will increase their feeling of ‘ownership’ of their tools and this as their space, and that in turn will add to their feelings of responsibility and pride.

I was in London last Thursday for one of the most amazing events I’ve ever been part of. October 11th was the first ever ‘Day of the Girl’ and I was asked to go ‘speed mentoring’ young girls on the London Eye at the eye watering 7.30 AM. It was great fun to meet the girls and the other mentors (PR guru Lynne Franks was wearing our pants, BBC presenter and documentary maker Cherry Healey has said she’d like to help us) but sad to be reminded that girls around the world are still routinely excluded for education and therefore control of their own futures. I came back more determined than ever to do more and better for the women we seek to support.

Your purchase helps us do just that so a sincere thank you – by buying our pants you’re helping us make a real difference but also getting yourself something lovely I think that’s a win win – hope you do too.

Very best wishes

 

Becky and the Who Made Your Pants? Team

Advertisements

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Welcome back Samia!

Hey hey pants fans!

I totally failed to get a newsletter written last week – I came straight back from my holiday and into a couple of days work in London so item just ran away with me. So I have lots to tell you today!

I had a lovely time away but it is always great to come back. News that happens during absence seems to feel more momentous, and two bits of it were. In utterly, utterly joyous news, our gorgeous Samia is back from Afghanistan. She brought us all (all!) presents, including beautiful hand embroidered tops in perfectly chosen colours for me, Della and Zuhra. She also *drools* made a lovely coriander filled potato and cauliflower dish for us, which lasted all of about ten seconds.

As is often the way, though, as one door opens, another closes – or something – and our cheery chatty Rhama has had to leave us. We’ll miss her and hope that we can find a way to work with her again.

In the workshop, we’ve been both making up our gorgeous new black lace into our Aimee shorts, and training has been going well on the new Rosalind pants. Our volunteer Amy has told us that she thinks the quality of the pants made in training is higher than the high street. Who are we to disagree 🙂

In other parts of the building, we’re now partnering with a local college and have English lessons here one morning a week. These aren’t for our team, but are part of our softly softly strategy to get local women to know who we are – they learn fast, two have already asked for a job! Sacdiyo has joined the class, as well. The classes are noisy and fun, which is A Good Thing for learning to be.

Speaking of learning, we’ve had a number of discussions about upcoming exam changes and the difficulties with writing in English. Imagine doing a maths exam in a language that’s not your first language. You might get the maths wrong because of your English, which – though clearly unavoidable – must be really frustrating.

Anyhow. It’s good to be back – and not just because I love the hugs and kisses I get after I’ve been away 🙂 Thanks for your support of us and what we do – every pair of pants YOU buy helps build a better world for our team. We couldn’t do it without you.

Big love

Becky and the Who Made Your Pants? Team

News in brief…
Becky is brown but happy to be home, Della has a new gadget (iphone5), Amy has joined the gym and is going regularly, Zuhra and Sacdiyo have been teaching Samia to make our new pants, Batol is missing Yasmein, Nisha has some more theatre sewing work, and Jackie is enjoying working on her brother’s boat.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Bubble gum sauce and a pants world tour

Hey pants fans!

Just a short newsletter this week as I was away last week and haven’t quite caught up with the news. I could tell you about my holidays in York, about the glorious Minster, the cute wiggly Shambles, the lovely friendly people, the taxi driver who was very angry about Pussy Riot being imprisoned, the fantastic afternoon tea at Bettys (no apostrophe for trademark reasons) the Medieval Mystery Plays… but that’s probably not what you’re after.

So, what happened while I was away. Well… There was a day or two of heaving and huffing as Della and Amy tried to rearrange furniture to create a training area. Our space wasn’t obliging though, and they decided in the end that it’s just too small. Moving a wall might well be a option and fortunately, in this building, that’s relatively straightforward.

There are new pants on our Global Pants map – more pants have gone to France and Germany, and we’ve sent our first ever pants to Canada. We’re hoping to sell enough to fund a pants world tour one day, and spread the pants news globally – Della has suggested we get a sort of ice cream van for me to drive around it. Only if it has sprinkles and bubblegum flavour sauce!

We launched 13 new gift sets last week – now that we have a white we’ve been able to add new ones and they are lovely. Some were suggested by people on our facebook page, and we’re always keen to hear what you’d like from us – do let us know.

Our Year of Pants is still proving to be popular, which is great. I do love the idea of people getting crinkly wrapped packages from us every month for a whole year.

Our crowdfunding initiative is going well. We’re around three weeks away from it ending and we’re at 41% pledges – if you’ve not heard about it, we’re aiming to raise £6000 in pledges by mid September to fund a new machine (which can be used to make man pants as well as woman pants!) It’s live online here http://buzzbnk.org/wmyp Pledges go from £0 to £300 and every single one helps us grow.

Last but not least we are gearing up for our lovely team to come back next week. Ramadan is now over and we cannot wait to see them again. Exciting times.

News in brief…
Becky had a LOVELY holiday, Della is happy the football season has started again, Nisha is still away in Poland-land, Amy is on the lookout for some waterproof shoes for this winter and Jackie has reached new heights in her penguin game.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

Who Made Your Pants? responds to Mary Portas’ ‘Kinky Knickers’ launch

On the 9th February 2012, Mary Portas launched her ‘Kinky Knickers’ range at Liberty, London, and ‘turned the lights back on’ for Great British Manufacturing, after four months in development and training apprentices.

It’s fantastic to see someone with the media presence and impact of Mary Portas tackling an issue that so many of us have been involved with for years. UK Manufacture is a hugely important issue, for all kinds of reasons. It’s important to keep skills alive and to have jobs for the crop of talented and creative graduates coming through courses like Contour Design at Leicester De Montford every year. I’ve had a personal concern about labour rights and standards overseas, as well as unnecessary ‘clothes miles’ and waste in the lingerie industry and it was this led me to set up Who Made Your Pants? In 2008. Based in Southampton we create jobs for vulnerable women who need them by turning end of line fabrics into new knickers and training, and then jobs, whilst also challenging the bigger brands to be open about their supply chain. It’s been a tough four years but we are incredibly proud, not just to be supporting traditional industry in Britain, but to be able to provide women with valuable skills and rewarding work making gorgeous, comfortable, quality underwear.

And we are not alone. Despite headlines to the contrary, the lights haven’t quite gone out on British Industry. In fact it’s quite a thriving scene Mary is joining. There are scores of independent brands out there, struggling to compete with the multinationals yes, but together making a significant contribution to British manufacturing, British brands and the British economy. Brands like Ayten Gasson and Kiss Me Deadly have been steadily doing their thing for years, building a loyal following and producing gorgeous, wonderful things.

Saying that, it’s true that there’s almost no-one who can shine as big a light on the scene as Queen of Shops, Queen of Frocks, Retail Tsar Mary Portas. She is the ‘go to’ person for this stuff because she is good at it. And now Mary is bringing the story of UK made underwear to our TV screens. Speaking in the Guardian on Friday 24th February 2012, regarding the programme that will hit our screens soon, she said,

“Should we compete with the sweatshops who can make knickers more cheaply? No. That’s not what we should do morally as a nation…. But we can compete with the Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and Boots [market]. That’s where I believe we can genuinely compete.”

I spoke to Mary about just this subject, price and competition, in June 2011. Mary was the keynote speaker at the Co-operative Congress, and we, the audience, were asked to put forward questions for her. I asked ‘How can small producers with higher costs make it onto the high street? There are certain mark ups demanded by retailers which might be hard to achieve without compromising the business model’. And my question was selected and answered by Mary herself. ‘You have something they don’t have. Your story. Tell it loud and unashamedly’ she said directly to me. It was good advice. Independent brands in Britain indeed have our own unique and individual stories to tell. But we also have to tell our story collectively. We have strength in our numbers and we must support each other.

Mary’s skill in drawing attention to British industry in the lingerie category is an opportunity for those of us already in the industry to share the spotlight. We need to celebrate our combined efforts and show the public that they already have lots of opportunity to ‘Buy British’ every day. Whether high end or everyday, lace or cotton, ethical or just plain pretty there is a lot of choice being produced by people who would love to come out of the shadows and share their stories of UK manufacture with the public at large. We are many small voices but if we sing together we will be heard.

I really do hope that Mary Portas, champion of the independent and the underdog in retail, uses her formidable strength and enviable media presence to celebrate all UK manufacturers. I’m sure I speak for many of us when I say that if her TV crew want to visit other UK manufacturers they would be most welcome. I’m sure that all of us, who are keeping UK manufacturing alive, would appreciate a little of that light.

Responses to Kinky Knickers Launch

http://www.thefullfiguredchest.com/2012/02/why-we-should-support-indie-lingerie-brands-and-accept-no-imitators/

http://www.aytengasson.com/news/Lates_News/British_Designer_Supporting_UK_Manufacturing_43.html

http://franticaboutfrances.co.uk/2012/02/05/mary-portas-turning-the-lights-back-on-for-uk-manufacturing/

Use of training

http://www.lingerieinsight.com/article-1875-lawyers-help-recruit-mary-portas-apprentices/

Press re Kinky Knickers Launch, some with comments

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/24/mary-portas-big-plan-smalls

http://www.lingerieinsight.com/pics-1830-mary-portas-launches-kinky-knickers-at-liberty/

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , , , ,

Just another Manic Everyday

Howdy readers, how goes it with you today? All is bustling here, in anticipation of another funder visit today, and I’m just about to get my heels on.

My day started unusually in that I couldn’t cycle in today – boooo! An enthusiastic footballing child whacked a football at the clever bit of my bike the other day, the bit that holds the pedals and gears and all, and it seems something vital has clonked. So I’m going to have a lesson in bike maintenance from my dear brother this weekend, and work out what to do. Until then, it’s just me and my legs for transport.

So let’s see, what’s happened since last week. As ever quite a lot. The funding visit last week went well, I think/hope. We had a great lunch together with a huge bowl of Somali rice which I love. They’ve asked for more info, which can’t be a bad thing, so just got to sit tight now and wait and see. After they left, I had a huge adrenaline crash and just conked out – I had no idea I’d been so tense. There we go. Today’s funding visit is from The Hilden Charitable fund and I’m really looking forward to showing them around and talking to them about the other work they do.

In utterly brilliant news, the women last week broke through the 50 pairs of pants in a session barrier, and made 55. It was a great confidence booster. Our production forecasts were based on numbers we’d been given way back when and we are having to revise them – we had been forecasting 132 pairs to be made in three hours in January, February and March this year so we’re a bit behind – losing the three weeks in December really put us back as the women just aren’t experienced enough to hold their skills without regular practice. Then the spring that sprang caused more problems. Does anyone know the phrase, ‘for the want of a nail, a kingdom was lost? That’s something that goes through my mind a lot here, how something tiny can have a huge impact – no-one else here has a clue what I’m talking about!

On other brilliant news, we have two fab new volunteers. J rocked up one day last week and just knocked on the door and asked to come and help – initiative like that, was I going to say no? Right now, she can come in every day which is a huge bonus as it gives some real consistency to the admin support, and means that Della and I will be able to hand some stuff over – knowing that there is one person as a conduit for all things adminy will mean we don’t have to go chasing on people or worrying things get lost if someone is in just once a week- we just go to one person. And C came to us through our fab bookkeeper Helen and will be coming in regularly to make sure our finance system is kept up to date and everything is filed. It’s not often that I have what I think of as ‘good’ finance meetings – my head just doesn’t work for numbers over and above arithmetic, but the two wonderful women we have working on it are great. Helen has also, brilliantly, secured not only funding to pay for our finance system for a year through the Mark Thomas Mailing List (who I am delighted to day I will be meeting some of on Friday) but committed to sourcing extra paper and supplies to help make sure we can produce and print everything financey that is needed. It’s daft but we are really very poor so even things like printer paper are an expense we have to consider, not something we can just order willy nilly. We do now have two printers (woohoo!) courtesy of some money we have been awarded through our involvement in some local learning exchanges organised by these people http://www.letstry.org.uk We are already hosting crochet sessions, and plan to do some on IT, particularly things like facebook, as the women here want to be able to share photos with their families across the world. They, and we, are looking forward to these classes starting – just got to do a few tweaks to our systems and then get all the wires connected (not as easy as it sounds – network cables get physically flung through the space above the suspended ceilings, sometimes by me, sometimes by other volunteers. Nothing is fast here!)

Sales seem to be creeping up. We’re actively NOT marketing right now as we don’t want to get masses of orders and stress the women. We want them to be making consistent good quality, not loads of pants that we can’t sell. But every day the orders are trickling in, and it’s a good feeling. I have moments of remembering how I used to enjoy sales jobs. I was never one of ‘those’ sales people, I hope. I always liked to help people solve their problems, and that’s how I saw sales. I’m looking forward to solving some pants based emergencies!

We had a great Committee Meeting last Friday, the last one before our very first AGM, which is to be on the 21st May. It feels so grown up! I might make us a birthday cake. A potential new Committee Member came along, who has bags of commercial experience. I’m really hoping that everyone else took to her as much as I did as I think I need the support on the Committee – I bang on and on all over the place about how social enterprise has to be as much about the enterprise as the social – it HAS to make money else it can’t do the social good – I don;t think the women here woudl feel as empowered, which is what we want to achieve, on a handout as they would on wages drawn from their own labour. But right now, I’m the only one with straight, profit making, commercial experience, and it would be fab to have another voice of experience there. One of the things I think I need a bit of support on is how to cope with women who have unrealistic expectations. Two women in our training class have decided that they don’t want to come any more as we are not paying them. I’m not sure they understand that they are still having lessons, they are not able to work without the teacher, and so we can’t employ them yet. I’m worried that they don’t understand why we’re not paying them as I’d hate to think they felt exploited. But the reality is they are not yet doing the job, they are still learning. And that’s got to be understood, one way or another.

We hosted a lovely visit from The School for Social Entrepreneurs the other day, me and pants as a case study. It was fun to talk it through and show people around, and as a tip top tastic bonus, we sold four pairs of pants for cold hard cash too. Brilliant! I’ve also been invited to be part of a case study for Co-operatives South East AGM in June, and we’re going to be part of Total Coverage’s http://www.totalcoverage.co.uk Greener Together initiative, and an event in Co-operatives Fortnight in June/July which will be great fun. I’m very excited to be going to see Refugee Action in Brighton in May too. The seaside, lovely people, and cake!

It’s clearly election time – not only have the women been asking questions,but we’ve been talking to the local MPs too. We’d hoped that both John Denham and Alan Whitehead, the two incumbent MPs could come in, but things have changed as a particular meeting needs them both. I wonder how keen they will be after the 6th? I do really want to get them in, or at least Dr Whitehead for the constituency we are in, as I want the women to see that MPs are available for them to talk to – they are not just distant figures for someone else.

My timing is perfect – I’m finished just in time for tea break. Then it’s all hands on deck for the funders. Hope you are warm, well and enjoying the weather

More next week

Becky

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Today’s blog is brought to you by the Big Bopper, Chantilly Lace and the number 6

Hello again everyone, look at this, two posts in just over a week! I’ve set Wednesday mornings aside to do marketing/pr/media type stuff, and am aiming to get a blog entry done every week as part of that. I’m going to try to tell you what’s going on here, but I’ll also talk about issues that affect us and stuff like that. And as my internal soundtrack is currently playing Chantilly Lace by the Big Bopper, today’s blog entry is brought to you by same, a la Sesame Street. The number six is the number of my daffodils (cut, not in the garden..boo) that opened up the day AFTER St David’s Day.

After last week’s shared decision making, we now have two women learning how to be supervisors. They came in to the sewing lesson yesterday to shadow the supervisers, and are supervising their peers today. I was interested to remember, yesterday, that the two groups of women we are working with have not really mixed, aside from a few people who have been in the same English lessons. We want to get to a stage where everyone who works here knows everyone who works here, it will support the co-operative structure well. But we have capacity to support up to 100 women at a time (more if we can get people willing to be keyholders and supervise evening or weekend work, not something I am prepared to do as well as the day job, if I conk out from exhaustion again, we’re dooooooomed!) so that might get unwieldy.

Over the last week we’ve done quite a lot of what I think of as tidying and sorting – not just of stuff but of how we do stuff. We are embedding a lot of procedures, which should make it a lot easier for people to just slot into our volunteer admin roles. J, (not sure she’s ok with me telling you her name, I’ll check) one of our new volunteers, is proving herself to be a diligent and hard worker and has initiative aplenty. I’ve a strong suspicion that she won’t be with us long – she is here to get experience to get a real paid job, and as she picks things up fast, she will be ready to fly soon. We’re getting towards having a list of jobs for every day so people can come in and see immediately what needs to be done.

Also, excitingly (honest. I actually am excited by this) we have a finance system! Hooray! It’s called Kashflow and it will track and manage our finances, sales, purchase, customers. It will be great to have all that in one place and will make the life of our wonderful bookkeeper easier I hope. I’ve been enjoying playing with it and am looking forward to getting it and our other systems integrated a bit. It’s astonishing how time consuming things like manually producing delivery notes are, so to be able to get them automatically generated will be excellent.

One of the things I have always wanted pants to be about is creating a space that women can come to, when they are not working, to use computers, or get other lessons, or just hang out with a cup of tea when they need a break. We’ve a few computers here (made of string and leftovers) which the women use to check stuff out online and to look at stuff on youtube, so that’s started. We’ve also started a series of advice and information sessions on a Thursday, which cover things like ESOL (English as a Second or other Language) and assertive communication, ESOL and family discussions about money, personal safety, how to access health care in the UK and so on. Ex mayor and Councillor, Parvin Damani explained to me that there is a big cultural gulf between our ‘see GP-get referred-see consultant-have treatment model’ and the ‘see doctor who knows how to do most things’ model which many of our women will have grown up with, and so she will be coming in to talk to the women about how they can access healthcare here. We know that some of the women have said they don’t have the language to talk abotu some issues so we’ll support them on that too, which is very exciting.

I’ve completely digressed from what I wanted to say about yesterday. Yesterday, the wonderful Sharon Keenan http://www.orchardtherapies.co.uk/staff.html, who I have been having fantastic therapeutic massages from for eight years, came in and ran a session with a few women on how to stretch, rest, relax and massage themselves. It was a fantastic success – one of the women said, ‘everyone should come to this class, it is good to know how to do this for ourselves’. Sharon is coming back today to repeat the session with our Wednesday group and has, brilliantly offered to do the same once a month for a year, free and gratis. I also had a massage from Sharon last night, and we played on the swings in town for ten minutes first. Big love Sharon 🙂

Even though we’ve a few people off sick today, we’re hoping to have a big pile of pants finished by the end of the session, loads just need bows, which are all hand sewn. We’re hoping too that we’ll have a feel for when our Tuesday class is going to be ready to go it alone, without trainers. They are really excited about it and so are we.

In other areas, I’m plugging away at some media stuff with fantastic advisers I was introduced to via UnLtd and the Media Trust. I’m also writing funding bids and hoping hard that someone does a man from Del Monte and says yes. March is very much about funding, finishing training, bedding in supervisers, volunteers, procedures and routines and (possibly) expansion. Next Monday is International Women’s Day, so we’re going to have a ginormous cake and hope that our volunteers and workers can come together and celebrate.

And now, in almost perfect Becky punctuality, it is 11AM, I’ve finished writing on time, and it’s time to stop for tea break. I’ll be back next week, hope you all have a fab time in this glorious spring sunshine.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , ,

Pants are starting to happen to meeeeeeee (sorry Lemonheads)

Goodness me, doesn’t time just fly!

It’s been weeks since I last wrote, and things have been lively to say the least. I took a week off when I realised I’d been working myself silly, something I promised myself this business would never be about, and now I’m back, things look much clearer and very exciting. And coming in to work this morning it found we have out very own marked parking space was a happy thing to start the day with!

So, where to start I can’t write that without hearing Mary Poppins say ‘let’s start at the very beginning’, but I tend to start at the end as that’s the easiest thing to remember. The business plan, which has been hanging over me for ages, is very nearly finished and I hope to send it off in support of some longish term funding applications next week. Rob and Tara at Wessex Partnership have been hugely helpful in pulling it all together and making me tip out what’s in my head onto paper. Happily, we have been awarded £500 from Southampton City Council to pay them for part of the work we hope to do with them. I’ve worked out how much we need for three years and a friendly helpful accountant is forecasting our cashflow and stuff for three years too. So far, the figures look really positive. Hope so!

The higher level English class has finished! I can’t believe it. So now, no matter what happens, we have done some good, for which I am very, very pleased. The sewing training is scheduled to start on the 7th September, and we are scheduled to have the premises ready by the 19th August, in plenty of time. I think that the day I sit at my desk in an office next to the machine room, opposite the staff room, I’ll not be able to stop smiling. And not just because the 14 chairs I currently pick my way through will be in the staff room and not my office! Timelines so far suggest the cutting table to be built (in situ) and me to move 13-14th August, sewing machines to be delivered and set up 17th August, wiring to be done 18th, 19th August. I shall celebrate on the 19th!

Fabrics have been delivered, and I have found some darling little bows and things. June and Ria are busy making up some samples – so there will be pants very soon! We have had a fantastic opportunity given to us by Skillfast – they’ve offered us space on their stand at MODA in the NEC 9-11 August, which I gladly accepted! The samples will be hung up on a little washing line, like our website, we’ll have a pop up banner and flyers. The flyers are just gorgeous, really bright and fun. I’m quite nervous, not least because I am going there straight from my leave, without going home, and will then have to trek back via London with a suitcase and banner and all sorts. I’m sure there will be plenty comedy moments, especially if I don’t change out of my heels first!

We’ve been at another event recently too, in the Co-ops area at the Mela in Southampton. We sold a few T shirts and have a simply fabulous cake made which we auctioned off. A lovely women called Marilyn got in touch and asked if she could make us a cake, and she did – it had our logo on and looked brilliant. She has also offered to make us a brilliant fun cake for our launch in December – I’ve seen one she has done, with loads of little pants covered bottoms on it. It’ll raise a smile for sure!

The website is being rejigged, and a shop is being built. There’s an amazing team of people involved, and I’m delighted that the project management of that is out of my hands for now as I am not technically minded, and it’s best left to those who are I think.

I can’t for the life of me think what else is going on, but things are as busy and productive as ever. I’ve not even let a home based heating systems disaster (radiator leak bad, insurance money good, and I get to have nice sanded varnished floors. When I have sanded and varnished them) get in the way. It’s strange to think that within a few weeks I won’t be in this temporary office but will be in a proper real permanent office, and we’ll have a physical address and a post box and machines and things. There will be photos when we do, lots and lots of photos. Oh, and I’ll have broadband again! Hooray!

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

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!

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , ,

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

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , ,

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

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , ,