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Bethany Williams established her brand in 2017 after graduating in fine art and and later, in menswear from London College of Fashion (LCF). Believing that social and environmental issues go hand in hand, she works with charities in her design, production and presentation stages and working along with social projects on manufacturing, manufacturing everything from recycled and organic materials and made in the UK. Williams provides an alternative system for fashion production, as she believes fashion’s reflection upon the world can create positive change.
By exploring the connection between these issues, Bethany finds innovative design solutions to sustainability. Through collaboration with communities and charities Bethany creates collections embedded with real stories and hopes to have a positive impact in the social space we occupy.
Williams is currently lecturing at LCF and running interactive workshops at London College of Fashion, CSM, The Royal College of Art, The V&A, The Tate Britain, The Centre of Sustainable Fashion, Winchester College of Art, IUAV University, The University of Bristol, The University of Venice and The Design Museum.
Williams’ starting point was to imagine fashion as inclusive and supportive of under-represented people––be that homeless, jobless or those in prison––which has won her the Queen Elizabeth II Award at London Fashion Week and numerous other fashion accolades.
How did you go about setting up your business?
I’ve always been interested in fashion and art but as a student I found it very difficult to combine both lines. I chose a degree in Fine Art but always felt I had to justify the use of garments within my practice. I wanted to combine all my interests and I know this is what I want to do with my life. But this education also introduced me to the way art practices provide alternative systems for today’s social structures especially, it's attempts to run against globalisation’s homogenising tendencies. This led me to the idea of altering the production and selling process. I hope the buyer will question the existing process of commerce and see the aadvantage of an alternative system.
Your brand is very unique in it's approach to social and environmental impact. Can you talk a bit about this?
I work and collaborate with a charity each season and sustainability is integral to this process. Through this collaboration with communities and charities I hope to create collections embedded with real people and hope to cause a real effect in the social space we engage with. This will be accomplished through a cycle of exchange, generating profit, which will be given to connected charities, continuing the cycle of exchange.
The unique selling points of the brand are engagement with charity––the closed ended system through exchange––and providing an alternative system for fashion production and eventually selling. As we believe fashion’s reflection upon the world can create real positive change.
Additionally, we try to encourage British craftsmanship by working with local craftsmen and women factories and suppliers to create traditional hand crafted techniques within print, woven, knitted and embroidered textiles. Similarly, all garments are recycled or organic, consisting of organic or recycled components, i.e. materials, zips, threads etc.
How have you worked with LCF and UAL in the past?
During my time at London College of Fashion I had been working alongside Carole Morrison and The Widening Participation Programme, helping run workshops, lectures and creating digital presentations for students to explore and expand their ideas of fashion design, styling, sustainability, collaboration and garments.
What are your hopes for the future?
I would like to set up my own ethical production in the UK, which employs and engages with the communities that I collaborate with each collection/season. I would train the communities and employ the participants to produce orders for myself and other companies. Additionally, I would set up an education centre so traditional craftsmen/women can teach their craft, to ensure it is not lost.
What does the move to Poplar Works mean for you?
I feel completely honoured to be a part of the programme and very thankful. I really feel like this is a great opportunity for my business and I’m very excited to move into the Poplar area.
For some businesses, the move to Poplar Works will mean being to expand production or their team. What are the specific ways it will benefit you?
Working with LCF’s Making for Change and being close to the new manufacturing site will help grow my business and with production. My community engagement projects would develop and having a studio to be able to open to the general public would be fantastic. Having a specific space for me and my team would help develop my business further. Also I have found the business mentoring of the CFE programme extremely helpful and would really appreciate this support moving forward.
I believe the programme will help my brand grow sustainably, generating global awareness of the message and story of the alternative system to fashion production that I am trying to create.
Additionally, this opportunity will provide an incredible body of industry knowledge that will help my projects progress in the right direction and reach more people in need of a helping hand.
How will you help grow the creative community at Poplar Works?
By hosting talks and also inviting like minded students/designers/community to discuss issues surrounding sustainability and issues that occur within our industry and try to solve problems together. I want to create a space to talk freely and share information in regards to our work and solutions we have found. I’d also invite other practitioners to showcase and share their work and skillset and run workshops..
LCF at Poplar Works is also committed to giving back to the local community through the creative talent housed there. Can you talk a bit about your plans for giving back?
I would like to engage with the local community and other resident businesses by hosting talks and inviting the community and resident businesses to have a monthly meeting to discuss sustainable practices and how we can work collectively more forward together. I will also offer skills and workshops - weaving, upcycling, repairs, mending.