Becky John | whomadeyourpants?
Meet Becky John, founder of whomadeyourpants? She loves gorgeous pants. With a background in corporate and commercial world, business development in the public sector and human rights campaigning (Amnesty International), Becky wants people to be as aware of where their clothes come from as they now are about how chickens are raised... oh yes, and that world is yours to play in. Especially if you are a woman.
"Since 2009, we've been making fantastic ethical pants from perfectly good materials discarded by the industry at the end of season, and we're already having an impact".
What's the story of whomadeyourpants?
Whomadeyourpants? is about two things. It's about pants, gorgeous, not guilty, ethical pants. And it's about women. Amazing women who want work but who don't get many chances.
Here at whomadeyourpants? We think that every day should be a good pants day, and that there should be a little bit of something lovely under everyone's clothes, just for them. Underwear can make us feel beautiful, confident - even taller if you get the right bra size. We also think that it's not really on for anyone to be made to work in bad conditions just for a cheap pair of pants. How could that be right? Who could feel lovely in something made in a bad place.
So, we put these two things together and work with women here in the UK, women who have had very little opportunity, and we help them learn to make gorgeous pants, which you and we can wear, safe in the knowledge that they had a very happy start in life. We provide up front training in English if required, and then in sewing - every women who is accepted onto our course will go through an NVQ Level 2 in Manufacture of Sewn Products, and will be encouraged to train to be a team leader too. We hope that all jobs within the business can be filled by the women as they gain skills - if someone is interested in marketing, or finance, we'll arrange training.
All profits we make go back into the business - our costs aren't just about rent and fabric and wages, but about training and support and advice. We really do believe that pants can change the world - do you?
Tell us something positive about who you are and your impact as a female social innovator?
What drives me is 2.5 years counselling with Rape Crisis, that turned my life around and made me think that I was worth much more than I had ever known. I hadn’t realised how constrained I was in the world until then… There are so many women thinking they are not allowed to do what they want, or even think what they want, I see my role is to encourage them to get up and find their own interest and pursue it. It’s not shut off from anyone. No-one would look at a brand new new-born baby and say that that baby was no good or not allowed to have joy, pleasure, fun, achievement - we're all those babies, just bigger.
The world is yours to play in. Go and get in.
Whomadeyourpants? is a worker co-operative, we're kind of all about the workers. We were formed specifically to empower women, and we do this in lots of ways.
What change do you bring about and how are you doing it?
With the rest of whomadeyourpants? I'm creating real jobs with real skill development, paying real wages and providing space for women to learn about who they are in a safe, supportive women-only environment. Upfront training in English is followed by sewing training and then progression through an NVQ is next on our list.
We make fantastic ethical pants from perfectly good materials discarded by the industry at the end of season, and we're already having an impact. Just recently, two of our workers have opened their own bank accounts. The feeling I had when I was told one had come in and asked: "Can you change the account you are paying my money to, from my husbands account to mine?" - amazing stuff...
Another woman has told her husband she does not want to move away as she is looking forward to getting a better job with us, she understands that we're aiming to promote from within. it took me a year to realise that i had set up a women's organisation and i am making an impact on women's lives now - I've been told by a Southampton City Council Communities team staff member that the women we work with would NEVER have got jobs if it wasn't for this project. That's an amazing thing to look and say: Wow, we did that!
What networks work best for you?
Twitter and UnLtd are two that consistently support and surprise me - I've been literally accommodated by someone who follows me on twitter - as in given a bed for the night when I needed it - and UnLtd provide an amazing level of support and encouragement, even now I am an alumnus, just by staying in touch and being there. I've just been accepted as a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts and I am looking forward to getting involved in that network too.