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“‘Our collaboration with Bethany Williams London has been the most beautiful, generous and creative thing that we could have ever dreamt of. It has got the voice of our mums and minis in to places we would never dream of – the catwalks of London Fashion Week, the pages of Vogue, the Design Museum, and now the permanent collection of the Young V&A. Graphics were created in collaboration with artist Melissa Kitty Jarram in the depth of lockdown through zoom meetings where mums and minis drew each other. You can see their likenesses in the fabrics” – Jane Williams, CEO and Founder of The Magpie Project
This weekend the newly re-named Young V&A (previously the Museum of Childhood) opened its doors to the public, boasting refreshed collections and displays. The Young V&A is a free national museum located in Bethnal Green with displays, collections, and interactive spaces, co-designed with children and young people, that explore the creativity and experiences of children. This revamped Young V&A titles itself a ‘doing museum’ with sensory playscapes, imagination playground construction zone, performance and story stage and design studio for all ages to get stuck in and enjoy!
The Young V&A showcases 2,000 objects relating to art, design, and performance including two sets of mother and child outfits and lunchbox inspired handbag designed and created by Bethany Williams. Bethany Williams is a fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, creating cutting-edge fashion with ethnical manufacturing and social responsibility. She gives textiles a second chance through refashioning whilst working with social projects and communities to create her garments, as well as giving a percentage of her profits to charity.
For her ‘All Our Children’ Spring/Summer 2021 collection of outfits for mothers and children in collaboration with us at the Magpie Project, Bethany took inspiration from the V&A children’s archives, in particular the skeleton suit and a Boy’s first suit, some of the first garments designed for play. This inspiration is evident in her creation of a tailored skeleton suit and the flounced dresses and pantalettes shown below.
A predominant theme across the Young V&A, Bethany Williams and The Magpie Project is an emphasis on play, creativity, co-creation and design between children and adults. #Allourchildren are all our responsibility; and deserving of environments that foster safety, love, joy and creativity. We hope you visit the Young V&A and enjoy viewing and interacting with our collaboration with Bethany Williams.
This collection of illustrated stories captures intergenerational narratives and amplifies the voices of children. From it, Bethany Williams, London-based sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, has created her first large scale public art work.
The works are a continuation of Williams’ ongoing project with two East London grassroots organisations: The Magpie Project, a charity that supports families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; and London College of Fashion’s Making for Change, a fashion training and manufacturing programme operating from two fully equipped sites, established in 2014 at HMP Downview with a sister site based at Poplar Works.
Titled ‘All Our Stories’, the illustrations have been generated through an ongoing series of collaborative storytelling workshops with the children and mothers from the Magie Project and Making for Change communities. For the visuals, Williams teamed up with illustrator and artist Melissa Kitty Jarram to transform these stories into a series of illustrations that in turn have been transposed into flags.
Each storytelling workshop culminated in a variety of creative outcomes, as each of the different communities interpreted the brief in their own way. The stories shared below recollect childhood memories in many forms; folklore tales shared from generation to generation, bedtime chronicles and fairytales whilst others contain childhood stories and nostalgic recollections of real life memories. Recognising community childhood stories and narratives – whether they have a strong written tradition or not is important in terms of assigning value and sharing power.
Bethany Williams is the second artist to take on this textile commission for Coal Drops Yard. A key and unusual feature of this project is that the decommissioning process is at the forefront of the considerations. This is only the first life of this fabric: once the installation comes down the material will be turned into two collections, one available to buy from Kiosk N1C in Coal Drops Yard and one in collaboration with one of Williams’ key retailers.
Proceeds from the sales will then be donated back to the Magpie Project and Making for Change.
The flags themselves are created from an organic Hemp Slub and which is 100% recyclable. The material choice references the age-old practice of flag-making, considers the future of Hemp’s role in the textile industry, and reflects Coal Drops Yard as a destination for fashion.
ALL OUR STORIES
Dino, a Magpie Project community story
A knight finds an egg and keeps the egg. The egg hatches and becomes a dinosaur. The knight has to save a princess who lives in a tower. The knight rides the dinosaur everywhere and it climbs a tree. He finds the princess but doesn’t know how to get up the tower. But, the dinosaur can burp ladders! And he can fly if he farts. To find the princess he has to burp and fart. Each fart and burp (and picking of his nose!) helps him to save the princess. The knight and the dinosaur managed to save the princess, who liked farting, burping and picking her nose too. So they all farted and burped and picked their noses together!
Chaos, a Magpie Project community story
A wealthy merchant moved into a new province and built a big palace with a beautiful door, heavily adorned with gems and stones. The King’s guards found the lavish door and told the King about it. At night, all the villagers went to see the door glistening in the dark. The King grew jealous and, afraid that the Queen might think the merchant’s door was better, he too put up a beautiful, bejeweled door. But no one came to see it. The King sent the guards to steal the merchant’s door. The guards stole the door with all its gems. And so the merchant made a new door better than the first one.
This happened a few more times. Then the King summoned the merchant. The King said “I am the King of this region and it is a disgrace to me that your door is more beautiful than mine”. The merchant said “I didn’t mean to hurt you. Where I come from we had riches but then lost them. We worked hard and rebuilt our homes. I decorate my door so that people who are too embarrassed to ask for help can just take the gems.” The King felt ashamed and decided to put out a bag of gems for people to take them whenever they needed.
The moral of this story is that when you give, you don’t have to tell the person that you have helped them.
The Sun and Wind story, Bethany William’s childhood story
Once the Wind and the Sun came to have a quarrel. Both of them claimed to be stronger. At last they agreed to have a trial of strength. “Here comes a traveller. Let us see who can strip him of his clock,” said the Sun. The Wind agreed and chose to have the first turn. He blew in the hardest possible way. As a result, the traveller wrapped his cloak even more tightly around him. Then it was the turn of the brightly shining Sun. At first he shone very gently. So, the traveller loosened his cloak from his neck. The Sun went on shining brighter and brighter. The traveller felt hot. Before long he took off his cloak and put it in his bag. The Wind had to accept his defeat.
The moral of this story is that gentleness and kind persuasion win, where force and bluster fail.
A flag with two tales – Monkey, a Magpie Project community story There was a cap seller in the village. One day he had sold lots of caps and was tired, so he sat under a tree. The tree was full of lots of monkeys who saw the seller sleeping. One monkey came down to take a cap from the seller’s bag and climbed back up the tree. The seller woke up and was shocked to see the bag was empty. “Hey monkey, give me my cap back!” Then he thought of an idea to get them back. He took off his own cap and threw it up. The monkey copied. The seller threw it on the ground. The monkey copied. The seller picked all the caps and put them in his bag!
Tiger, a Magpie Project community story There once was a girl who, as she sat on the hillside watching the village cows, was bored. To amuse herself she took a great breath and sang out, “Tiger! Tiger! The Tiger is chasing the cow!” The villagers came running to help the girl drive the tiger away. But when they arrived, they found no tiger. The girl laughed at the sight of their angry faces. “Don’t cry ‘Tiger’, girl,” said the villagers, “when there’s no tiger!” They went grumbling back to the village. Later, the girl sang out again, “Tiger! Tiger! The Tiger is chasing the cows!” To her naughty delight, she watched the villagers run to help her drive the Tiger away. When the villagers saw no tiger they sternly said, “Save your frightened song for when there is really something wrong! Don’t cry ‘Tiger’ when there is NO tiger!” But the girl just grinned and watched them go grumbling back to the village.
Later, she saw a REAL tiger prowling about the cows. Alarmed, she leapt to her feet and sang out as loudly as he could, “Tiger! Tiger!” But the villagers thought she was trying to fool them again, and so they didn’t come. At sunset, everyone wondered why the girl hadn’t returned to the village with their cows. They went up the field to find the girl. They found her weeping. “There really was a Tiger here! The cows have scattered! I cried out, “Tiger!” Why didn’t you come?” An old woman tried to comfort the girl as they walked back to the village. “Nobody believes a liar… even when she is telling the truth.
Saturday 12th of June at 12pm sustainable fashion designer, humanitarian and artist, Bethany Williams, launched her latest collection, All Our Stories.
“She still wears stories passed down to her by her mother. Words that no longer fit the same way because life has stretched and changed its shape, but the moral of the story remains. Like the smile on her face. Her joy is new, even though the ending is not. She has not forgotten the promise she made, never to waste these old, tattered tales but to tell them to her children – again and again. To get to the end and watch them smile. They are their stories now. They are All Our Stories.” – Eno Mfon, Spoken Word Poet
All Our Stories is inspired by Bethany’s continued work with East London grassroots organisation, The Magpie Project, a charity that supports women and children under five who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The Magpie project works to make sure that a spell in insecure or temporary accommodation does not result in permanent damage to the life chances of the children who experience it.
Artist Melissa Kitty Jarram – inspired by the folklore passed from generation to generation and childhood stories that continue to inform us in our adult lives – ran a storytelling workshops with the Magpie families and illustrated the magical narratives they shared. She then used waste book covers in her illustrations to tell a new story.
The collection focuses on five main storylines shared by the families of the Magpie Project, “AOS”, “Blessing”, “Dinosaurs” and “The Girl Who Cried Tiger”, as well as Bethany’s own, “The Sun and The Wind” childhood story.
“What we noticed through the story-telling workshops, was that the moral in each story always came back to kindness, care, and respect for one another and how these traits, whilst important in childhood, have just as much meaning in adult life.” Bethany Williams
Working closely with Jane Williams, the founder of the Magpie Project, Bethany Williams will continue the theme of the collection in a commitment to running creative workshops with the Magpie Projectcommunity that will capture, share and amplify their myriad stories. It is the collective’s belief that disseminating these stories empowers and encourages community togetherness and voice at many levels.
The silhouettes of the collection are inspired by the V&A Museum of Childhood garment archive. This collection sees Bethany’s first detailed exploration into tailoring with a suit inspired by a historical children’s skeleton suit from the 1800’s. The skeleton suit was the first children’s garment designed for play. The new shapes stand alongside our existing forms representing our continued development. The collection also features two corsets created with Welsh designer Rosie Evans using offcuts from the collection production. In these corsets, Rosie has replaced traditional boning with a material made out of fruit packaging waste.
At a time when the V&A Museum of Childhood has fully decanted for refurbishment, All Our Stories has filled the empty space with new stories and community faces for our campaign imagery.
As with all her work, the collection is created via Bethany’s social manufacturing partners who are built into the framework of social enterprise. Bethany continues to work with community driven, UK based social manufacturing partner, Making for Change Poplar Works. For the first time, Williams is using donations of Merino Wool deadstock from Lanificio Ermenegildo Zegna, which has been printed with eco-friendly inks via Orto Print in Peckham.
Through the collaboration with Mending For Good, knitwear has been a key area of development for this collection where Williams proudly introduces a new social manufacturing partnership called Manusa. Manusa is, a social cooperative that involves people from various backgrounds, specializing in hand-techniques including delicate crochet, embroidery and hand-knitting. Designed in collaboration with Alice Morell Evans, the knitwear uses Sesia Wool industry waste sample swatches, crocheted together with Seisia organic bio wool. Each year, the sample swatches created each season become surplus at the end of each cycle of production. To utilise this waste, Bethany and Founder of Mending For Good, Barbara Guarducci, developed a sorting technique with Sesia for their team to separate the swatches.
Barbara Guarducci said “Mending for Good was born to provide design-driven technical solutions for the excess stock and left-overs of the fashion industry. Everyday tons of so far “considered” waste are still produced, that is why we love to collaborate with visionary designers such as Bethany Williams that sees waste as the raw material from which a beautiful story can start.”
The book cover waste, provided by Hachette, is used for Bethany’s iconic Book Bags, and integrated into the collection garments through their woven textile collaboration with San Patrignano, an education and rehabilitation programme that teaches traditional Italian craft and a sense of community.
Six looks from All Our Stories make up Bethany Williams’ submission for the 2021 International Woolmark Prize finals.
20% of the profits from this collection will be donated to The Magpie Project via The Bethany Williams Benevolent Fund, a fund set up by The Magpie Project and Bethany Williams in 2020.
Read what British Vogue has to say about the latest Bethany Williams Collection here
We were over the moon to be asked by the prestigious and prize-winning menswear designer Bethany Williams to collaborate on her latest Autumn Winter collection.
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 marginalised members. When we were introduced to the idea of collaborating with Bethany by our UCL PhD student and researcher Diana Margot Rosenthal in early 2019, we must admit we did not know what to expect.
Being a coal-face, crisis-to-crisis, grass roots organisation 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)
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 grass roots 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.
This collection celebrates Mother hood, childhood, sisterhood, and the family we choose, highlighting the importance of this powerful bond. This show is dedicated to giving a community that is marginalised 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 patch working 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 on going 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 collaborationcelebrates 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, up cycled using Superstars donated through the new Adidas Infinite play Initiative.
All of the detail about the infinite play initiative can be found here: