Bethany Williams is not a fashion designer, she is a trailblazer paving the way for a more compassionate, more inclusive future. She uses her immense talent to selflessly leverage her brand and partnerships in the service to our community’s most vulnerable and marginalized members. When we were introduced to the idea of collaborating with Bethany by our UCL Ph.D. student and researcher Diana Margot Rosenthal in early 2019, we must admit we did not know what to expect.
The Magpie Project charity, founded in 2017, is a coal-face, crisis-to-crisis, grassroots organization created to make sure that a spell in temporary accommodation does not cause permanent damage to children who experience it. We have supported over 400 mothers and 500 children in the past two years. Women and children who have become invisible to an unaware or uncaring society. At first glance, our world of living on £34 a week, and of infested and unfit accommodation seemed a million miles away from menswear.
In Britain, a child becomes homeless in every eight minutes. That means currently 135,000 children in Britain are homeless. In some London Boroughs, this figure rises to 1 in 12 children (Shelter England. 2019).
She brought collaborators and sponsors with her. Through multiple visits, Bethany brought Melissa Kitty Jarram, a South East London based illustrator and artist, to hear the otherwise untold truths of mums and their small children forced to live in temporary and unfit accommodation, unable to work, or study, or move, because they have been deemed to have “no recourse to public funds”. The artwork collaboration for this season has been created from a visit to our ‘Rhyme and Song’ session where Melissa illustrated the bond between mother and child.
*NRPF is a condition imposed due to a person’s immigration status, and prohibits seeking public funds such as welfare benefits and housing provided via the local authority, which is subject to discretion and a case-by-case basis of “intentional homelessness.” (Children’s Commissioner Report, 2019) Bethany understood immediately that
Bethany understood immediately that having no recourse to public funds forces mums in to rootlessness and destitution. This takes an enormous toll not only on their own and their baby’s physical wellbeing but also on their emotional and mental health. As anybody who has ever cared for a small baby knows – every part of your body and mind screams at you to create a safe, secure, clean and cosy place. When this natural instinct to protect and nurture is blocked by poverty and poor accommodation – the distress for mums and children who have already survived so much can be unbearable.
It is extraordinary that someone so young, so humble, and so unassuming as Bethany has single-handedly created a space that allows for the most unlikely bedfellows – high fashion and grassroots community projects – to come together and collaborate to create change. With her clarity of purpose, her clean, fresh, uncomplicated approach with, her simple and steadfast values, mean that her agenda is clear and those with power have been compelled to buy into.
The Magpie Project’s homeless are our children and not somebody else’s problem. they are our children, they are our future (adults). Everything we do, every decision we make, can create a future in which every one of them, and us, can thrive – together. This is not fashion, this is a blueprint for a better future – happening now.
Through spending real time with us, Bethany ensured that – from materials to models, communications to collaborators – every decision she makes is run through her own ethical framework and interlinking with the nurturing bond between mother and child.
Jane Williams – Founder of The Magpie Project
This collection celebrates motherhood, childhood, sisterhood, and the family we choose, highlighting the importance of this powerful bond. This show is dedicated to giving a community that is marginalized and silenced on a daily basis, a platform and voice to share their story.
Design inspiration for this journey surrounds elements of nurturing, comfort and shelter. These blocks were imperative areas of focus during the research and development process. From working closely with the children of Magpie, garment construction and craft techniques from children’s clothing has shaped this collection. The Women’s Institute community work closely with Magpie, and create a personal blanket for every baby born into the Magpie family. This inspiring act has lead to the use of recycled bedding and techniques such as quilting and patchworking as common threads throughout this collection.
These garments have been created alongside loyal and continuous social projects, suppliers, crafts-people and manufacturers from the production of previous collections. The knitwear for this collection has been hand knitted by Alice Evans and Bethany’s mother Karen Kewley using Wool and the Gang yarns. This season, a new Wool and the Gang x Magpie Project sock pattern has been designed and developed, which will be available for free on the Wool and the Gang website from tomorrow in two sizes so that anyone has access to download and knit socks to be donated to the Magpie mothers and children. Socks are one of the most un-donated clothing items and are in the most demand in the homeless community.
This show is proudly in partnership with Adidas Originals once again for the seasonal show at LFWM, as part of their ongoing support for Bethany who this year was named the best emerging menswear talents at The Fashion Awards. Both Adidas Originals and Bethany share similar values with a passion for design, sustainability and looking to the icons of the past to create the future.
For this seasons collaboration celebrates the anniversary of the iconic Adidas Superstar, which will be on foot at her show at LFWM. A select few of the shoes worn have been made in collaboration with the talented Helen Kirkum, upcycled using Superstars donated through the new Adidas Infinite play Initiative.