… but some things are worth shouting about.
Who made your pants?
If you’ve talked to me about ethical shopping before, you probably know the kind of questions I’m interested in … where were they made? Under what conditions?
There was a report put out on the 1st of June by Anti-Slavery international suggesting that well-known British High Street stores (including Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Mothercare) have (presumably unwittingly) used suppliers in India who are operating slave-labour-esque conditions … and this is hardly the first we (the western world) have heard of these things. I am kind of sad that I was not surprised by the recent report. I don’t believe that UK chains are deliberately being this exploitative, but I certainly believe that the factories are likely to be able to hide all evidence of malpractice while the inspectors are around.
I remember going to a seminar about the problematic ethics of high-street clothing when I went to Soul Survivor in 2003. Nearly 10 years on, and I am finally, finally getting significantly closer to a wardrobe I can be proud of. My ultimate aim is to have a wardrobe made up mostly of clothing bought new with what I consider to be ethical origins (e.g. Fairtrade, or made in the UK), and with some second-hand clothing (second-hand is great, but I also very much want to support ethical / local manufacturing).
Who Made Your Pants is an awesome company. Based in Southampton, they buy end-of-season fabric being sold on by big underwear companies (which would otherwise go to waste) and make stretch lace knickers. As well as the recycling aspect – and in my opinion much more importantly – they’re a worker’s cooperative, and employ vulnerable women (primarily refugees), giving them a safe place to work, learn and gain skills to make them more employable.
So I was really pleased when I realised at the end of May that I had space in my budget to buy a pair! Just one as you can’t return them (fair enough, hygiene and all that), so I needed to buy a pair to start with to be sure that the size was right.
I am really pleased with these. They cost £12.50, which is their very lowest price to try and make purchasing good pants accessible to everyone. They fit well, and sit on the hip which works for my figure; they’ve been through the washing machine and come out fine. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t say that they’re oh-my-goodness-the-best-most-comfortable-pants-ever, but they are good. And when “good fit” comes with a side helping of “creating jobs for vulnerable women (and recycling materials)”? I think that makes it pretty perfect.
I think this is brilliant – putting individual stories behind the statement “we primarily work with refugees”. With lots of funny/human bits in like “her favourite food is spaghetti” and “makes an amazing pineapple cake” which remind you that refugees and people in difficult circumstances are people (a lovely foil to the incessant stories in British media that tend to imply otherwise!)
So basically: I think this company is amazing. I’m really pleased to have finally been able to purchase from them. And now that I know my size, I’m going to save up and buy some more – possibly the Working Week (5x black, £53.50) or if I can manage it perhaps the Live For the Weekend (5x black, 1x Pirate Pink and 1x strawberry, £92.50). Hm. Maybe if I ask for gift vouchers for my birthday …
So, you’re thinking, who did make my pants? The answer is: Samia, Hawa, Abby, Nisha, Asma and Zuhra – some of whose stories are in the leaflet pictured above . Each pair of knickers comes with a label showing when they were made, and you can enter the date on their website to see which employees were involved in making that pair. How cool is that?