Tuesday, 29 September 2020

All Our Children. Bethany Williams

Written by Bethany Williams
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Bethany Williams
Instead of a catwalk to showcase her SS21 collection, Bethany Williams presented a film created with her friend and photographer Ruth Ossai. Shot in accordance with the Covid-19 government guidelines in front of Magpie’s Newham offices.
The lookbook photographs and film capture five families wearing the garments in the collection. The video is sound tracked with a poem specially written for this occasion by playwright and writer Eno Mfon. Powerful, moving and encouraging all of us to own up to our collective responsibility for the next generation, her words verbalise the mission of the collection and Bethany’s work at-large. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, And I say, we are that village and they are all our children.”

London-based designer Bethany Williams presents her latest collection celebrating the ethos of the Magpie Project, an organisation she has been volunteering for and collaborating with since 2019.

The Magpie Project, in Newham, works with children and mothers who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. These children, like some 100,000 in the UK, live in destitution because their parent’s immigration status denies them the safety net of our welfare system. The Magpie Project’s founder Jane Williams first became aware of the plight of these children in her community in 2017. She sought help from the local authority. She was told by councillors, service providers and commissioners that they had no duty to look after these vulnerable children because they were not in the right catchment area, they were not entitled to help, they were “not our children.” Jane couldn’t let this stand. She set up the Magpie Project to insist that – no matter what – every child has the right to support: they are all our children.

Bethany’s latest collection – aptly titled All Our Children – not only finds its inspiration in the stories and lives of the people she met and worked with there, but also the importance of family spirit in a child’s life. Through the process of designing the collection, Bethany included the families that are part of the Project via drawing workshops and playtime, and then teamed up with illustrator and artist Melissa Kitty Jarram on transforming children’s drawings into prints and patterns that became part of the final textiles. “This is a true co-production with the Magpie community and it’s really validating for these women who have previously been disbelieved and unheard, marginalised and ignored to be valued and listened to at the highest level,” explains Jane. As always, 20% of the proceeds from the collection will go back to the Magpie Project.

Through her continuous work with environmental health in mind, Bethany once again worked with dead stock, organic and recycled materials as well as with manufacturing units as part of social initiatives San Patrignano and Making for Change. Several pieces are patchworked out of dead stock jersey and nylon garments provided by Adidas Originals. For the first time, the collection includes tailoring which adds a new layer to the growing reach of Bethany’s garments. She also worked with Welsh designer Rosie Evans on two different corset designs for which Rosie created boning out of fruit packaging waste. While she started and continues to be labelled as mainly a menswear label, Bethany Williams aspires to reach as many people as possible. With garments fit on both male and female bodies, the goal is to give more people access to wearing them, herself included.

SS21 also marks the debut of Bethany Williams kids wear. Three looks made as miniature replicas of the adult ones encompass the narrative of the brand’s world being all-inclusive. Building on the idea of familial unity, Bethany has worked with ISKO VITAL™+ on creating matching adult and children’s protective face covers in organic materials printed with the collection’s graphics.


Bethany Williams