Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Becky, founder of the company Who Made Your Pants? at their factory in Southampton. We chatted about sustainability, women and all things pants. I walked away feeling extremely inspired, so please read on, I'm sure that after reading this interview you will feel inspired also!
Where did the idea of Who Made Your Pants come from?
I really, really, really like pants . . . a lot! I've always had a thing about underwear. I've also always been involved with Amnesty and human rights activism and I did some work with Amnesty locally about sweatshops and about what happens in sweatshops. I also learned about a horrific situation in central America, the word that’s used is femicide which is the killings of women. In some years thousands of women are killed, it seems state sanctioned, it seems that it’s just accepted. There are motels where various dreadful things happen to women and what often happens is that these women are walking back from the sweatshops through these bits of under developed land which is really dangerous and they are taken and used for somebody else’s nefarious purposes, which is horrific.
But the inspiration really came from this lovely underwear set I have, it’s beautiful, orange, yellow and pink and it looks like a sunrise, you can’t feel miserable wearing it. I remember looking at it during the time I was doing this work with Amnesty and thinking, I don’t know who made my pants.
I didn't want to give up my lovely underwear and I think personally telling people to give up the things they want is no way to make people change their behaviour. So I wanted to make the beautiful things in a way that’s really positive. People can have the beautiful things and feel really good about it.
While all of that was happening, through some work I was doing with a local Amnesty group, I knew that there was a big refugee population in Southampton, and I knew that within that group, it was going to be the women that were the most marginalised. Because of the way the law works around refugees and asylum, it’s often the husband that comes to the new country first and after two years he might be able to apply for leave to remain, then after another two years he might be able to apply for his wife and family to join him. So the husband will have had to certify that he’s earning enough money to keep the family and in that case something will be stamped in the woman’s visa that says no recourse to public funds which means she can’t have any benefits in her own name, so that means she is completely reliant on her husband.
Very often in countries women are drawn from they won’t speak any English so they can’t actually go out by themselves. If they've got no friends they can’t go out at all. So the husbands at work all day earning money, kids are in school learning English and mums at home developing depression.
Here at Who Made Your Pants? we have a small team of six women, and in the beginning we started out with English lessons and really basic employability skills. I've tried to build a brand and a feeling which is us together making a difference for women. It’s definitely not us and then the team is separate, they’re making their own future. My team's jobs are hard and the standard of quality has to be high be, but it’s amazing when after weeks of someone was saying this is really difficult, they say oh, but it’s easy! You can see people’s confidence growing and growing and that’s fab! Everybody stops at 12:30 every day for lunch, we all eat together and it’s very much a chance for us to be women and talk about all kinds of things.
Every item you purchase comes with a tag to tell you exactly who made your pants!
When researching into sustainable lingerie brands, I found that the majority were not affordable or accessible to the mass population. WMYP were one of the most affordable I have found, had this always been an important aspect of the business to you?
Absolutely, back in the very beginning I was clear that I wanted to bring high street styling to the ethical market and ethical values to the high street. A lot of ethical fashion I think just looks odd, and most people who are mainstream shoppers think ethical fashion is hemp, beige, woven things. I think you need to be able to give people really sensible, useful, beautiful alternatives to the things they would normally buy, at a price they would normally pay, so you have two comparable products, but one of them has an excellent story.
You have to do it that way because I don’t position us as lingerie and I don’t position us as sexy, we are absolutely about underwear for you to wear and feel fabulous in, not for your partners to look at you in. I think that’s one of the other things about lingerie, it’s often always about being sexy. Here at Who Made Your Pants?, we never use the word sexy, we are gorgeous underwear not sexy lingerie and for me, that positioning is really important. I personally love my underwear and I want to put it on everyday and think, this is really making me happy, this is a beautiful, cheerful thing that has been made in a positive way!
Above, a few of my favourites from the website!
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Thank you for reading!