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5 Ways To Wear It: The Monisola Shirt 

5 Ways To Wear It: The Monisola Shirt 

Who doesn’t love a shirt? From the office to the pub or out at lunch with your new partner’s parents, a shirt is a perfect way to feel smart and dressy and grown up, with none of the other immediate actions associated with adulthood necessary. 

A shirt is a shortcut, if you will, to being the kind of person you always wanted to be. The person who pre makes lunch, decides on their outfit the night before and is always on time. You might not have nailed the rest, but you can con the world into thinking you have with the right crisp, flattering, statement-making, button up. 

We’re going to show you how to style our shirt in five ways, but first, we’ll tell you a story of how our shirt arrived in the world. It’s a pretty simple but unusual one, and one that connects our workers to you, dear wearer, in a way that is as fair, fun and meaningful as we could make it.

A normal fast fashion supply chain has 100 steps, making opportunities for waste or exploitation all too easy, as each manager hammers prices down, sets targets and drives competition between makers at each stage. With only 7 steps from making our shirt to getting it to you, and fair pay all along the way, Birdsong does fashion differently. 

  1. The silhouette and details were designed in London by yours truly – Susanna, Co-Founder and Head of Design here at Birdsong.
  2. The fit was then patterncut, sampled and rigorously tested by our expert pattern cutter Moni (shout out to our shirt’s namesake).
  3. Printmaker Alice Acreman and I then sent our wiggly, abstract Alma print design off to India after months of playing around and sampling.
  4. From India, our 100% cotton khadi fabric was handspun, woven and eventually hand screen printed with the Alma patterned for us for a fair wage.
  5. The fabric was then cut and sewn, and buttons were added by Leila and Anjum at Heba Women’s Project back in the East End.
  6. After careful inspection, ironing and quality testing by the Birdsong team, the final product was taken to Mailout. Mailout is a charity that trains people with learning difficulties to package and send our orders out. 
  7. Our shirt then arrives at you, our wonderful supporter without whom Birdsong would not exist.

Here are five ways you can wear the Monisola Shirt and be a part of the story…

1.As a statement under overalls

If like our Brand Manager Sophie you’re intimidated by the crisp, formal glory of a shirt, the best way to mix it up is to pair it under some overalls. All the credibility that a nice shirt brings, with some instant, easy styling fun. Voila.

2. Tucked into your favourite cropped denim.

The next look is very Susanna. The fitted, formal look of a shirt is beautifully balanced out by some wide legged, raw edged jeans. Pair it with a jaunty loafer and a cute tote and you’re ready for running errands or a weekend stroll down the flower market, but also prepared for bumping into anyone potentially important, eg a client or your next date. With a shirt this nice you don’t even need to bother washing your hair.

3. Dressed up with fitted trousers and fancy shoes and 4. High waisted and belted

We wanted to create a classic shirt pattern in an easy to wear, bold print, with breathable, eco-friendly fabrics you’ll want to wear again and again. That’s why our next two suggested looks are mega simple – wear it with jeans and a belt, get in and switch it up with fancy shoes for your evening function. Iron it once, wear it a bunch of times.

5. Undone as an over layer

An overshirt is a thing of beauty. Something seemingly simple that you quite literally throw on to jazz up an outfit. It works because it’s cooler than your standard cardigan.

Support our makers with the Monisola shirt

Monisola Button Down Shirt in Alma Print

£125.00

A classic button down shirt complete with a petite collar, classic cuff placket, box pleat at back and curved hem. Made in a breathable cotton Khadi. Hand spun, woven and screen-printed in our exclusive Alma print. Finished with simple shell buttons.

Our expert seamstresses hand cut, sew and finish these garments for a living wage at their workshop on Brick Lane. Heba was established by a group of migrant women over 25 years ago, and are our primary makers of clothing. They continue to provide a safe space for migrant and refugee women today.

Our Khadi fabric is made mostly by women spinners and weavers at a fair wage facility in Gopuri, central India. Every aspect of this fabric has been created by hand, from the spinning of the fibres, the weaving and the screen printing. This creates more employment for communities who really need it and means that there are a few more irregularities and quirks to the cloth, but we think it adds to its charm.

Mariam is 5′ 7″ and wears a size 10. See our size chart here.

Clear
  • Made in the UK
  • Sustainable Fabric
  • Vegan
  • Limited Edition
  • Makers
  • Our expert seamstresses hand cut, sew and finish these garments for a living wage at their workshop on Brick Lane. Heba was established by a group of migrant women over 25 years ago, and are our primary makers of clothing. They continue to provide a safe space for migrant and refugee women today.

  • Additional information
  • Size

    UK 10, UK 12, UK 14, UK 8

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  • Makers
  • Our expert seamstresses hand cut, sew and finish these garments for a living wage at their workshop on Brick Lane. Heba was established by a group of migrant women over 25 years ago, and are our primary makers of clothing. They continue to provide a safe space for migrant and refugee women today.

  • Additional information
  • Size

    UK 10, UK 12, UK 14, UK 8

  • Reviews (0)
  • Be the first to review “Monisola Button Down Shirt in Alma Print”

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Be the first to review “Monisola Button Down Shirt in Alma Print”

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Dress in Protest, Challenge Poverty

Dress in Protest, Challenge Poverty

Dear Birdsong Flock,

This week, in time for the UN Day for Poverty Eradication we are joining together with several organisations to mark the first ever London Challenge Poverty Week.

Poverty restricts people’s lives in hundreds of different ways –  Over a quarter of Londoners live in poverty and it’s women, children, minority groups and disabled people who are often affected the most. Four in ten children are growing up in poverty across the capital.

It’s not right that so many of our capital’s families are being caught in the current of poverty. Low incomes, high costs, lack of decent work, and lack of access to help and services the people need are affecting thousands of local households.

At Birdsong our founding mission has always been to create meaningful, decent, Living wage work for women in Tower Hamlets – London’s poorest borough.

Boosting incomes and reducing living costs will help to turn this tide. Benefits also can help to release people from the restrictions our economy places on them – but we are concerned that as it stands Universal Credit is having the opposite effect.

We need to put this situation right so that everyone has a decent standard of living that allows them to grow and progress in their lives.

For each item in our new collection you purchase, between £25 and £40 goes directly back to our makers, or £5 for each embroidered tee. Stand with us, dress in protest. Together let’s have the optimism to fight for a better future.

We can and should do better for Londoners.

Yours faithfully,

To find out more please visit www.4in10.org.uk/news-events

Show your support and join the conversation on #LDNChallengePoverty and #DressInProtest

Share this letter with people in your communities

Support living wages with our new collection

  • Bloomsbury Top in Ultra Violet Khadi

    £55.00
    Add to Bag
  • Merle Button Down Dress in Burnt Orange Khadi

    £125.00
    Add to Bag
  • Merle Button Down Dress in Ultra Violet Khadi

    £125.00
    Add to Bag
  • Muinat Black Bamboo Silk Kimono Dress With Contrast Stitching

    £125.00
    Add to Bag
  • Muinat Chalk Green Organic Denim Kimono Dress With Contrast Stitching

    £125.00
    Add to Bag
  • Optimist Embroidered Organic Cotton Tee

    £32.00
    Add to Bag
  • Sanford Chalk Green Organic Cotton Denim Jumpsuit

    £140.00
    Add to Bag
  • Sanford Jumpsuit in Black Bamboo Silk

    £145.00
    Add to Bag
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Sustainability 101: Bamboo is cool

Sustainability 101: Bamboo is cool

There’s no two ways about it. Fashion has had detrimental effects on humanity – from exploited women workers to materials and practices that harm our planet. But it’s also an important form of expression and a tool for change (think of the Black Panther’s berets). We don’t want to get rid of it, we want to make it better. Welcome to our Sustainability 101 series, where we’ll be sharing our expertise on different fabrics, and sharing our own practises towards a better world.

Bamboo is a natural fabric with hypoallergenic properties. It feels buttery soft on skin, and is a strong fibre, meaning your clothes will stick around and be longer lasting. Our bamboo jumpsuits and shirts will keep their shape for years, and are easy to care for with no need for fabric softener due to their silky softness. Bamboo is also super absorbent and antimicrobial, keeping you cool and sweat patch free in any sticky situations. But there’s also some clever sustainable benefits to our favourite new fabric.

Bamboo is the fastest growing grass, and it can grow up to a metre a day, making it a brilliantly sustainable resource. Growing the plant also helps soil quality, prevents soil erosion, and is done totally free from pesticides. On top of that, bamboo can store 4 x times the amount of C02 than other trees its size, and produces 35% more oxygen. Sounds too good to be true, right?

The part to watch out for when sussing out the sustainability of bamboo is the processing. Like most bamboo, ours is treated in order to make bamboo viscose yarn. Our supplier uses a sustainable, closed loop system to ensure none of the chemicals used in this process are dumped into waterways, and the chemicals are instead fully recycled to make paper and soap. The yarns used in our clothing are certified by OEKO-TEX 100 as being free from harmful chemicals.

This makes our bamboo more sustainable than typical high street versions, which can still be harmful to people and the environment because of their chemical processing that ends up in rivers and drinking water. Some high street brands even use as little as 5% bamboo in their “bamboo” rayon clothing, with the rest being a slurry of chemicals. Not good. Our suppliers only use the highest quality, closed loop bamboo yarn, and are also working on getting their dyes certified, though assure us that they’re already safe.

Shop Bamboo

  • Muinat Black Bamboo Silk Kimono Dress With Contrast Stitching

    £125.00
    Add to Bag
  • Richmond Black Bamboo Silk Shirt With Contrast Stitching

    £140.00
    Add to Bag
  • Sanford Jumpsuit in Black Bamboo Silk

    £145.00
    Add to Bag
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Mental Health Awareness Day

Hi, how’re you feeling? It’s world Mental Health Awareness Day

1 in 4 of us will experience mental health problems in any one year. This is especially prevalent in poorer and older communities, such as in Tower Hamlets where we manufacture our clothing, or at the day centres where we do our knitting. With this in mind we’re asking you to get behind Mental Health Awareness Day and campaign for better mental health, so we can continue to provide meaningful, fair work for low income and older women at risk.

A few ways you can support:

  • Get our Charly Cox She Must Be Mad t-shirt, with £1 going to fund research with charity MQ, and another £5 going to meaningful work in Tower Hamlets for low income and disabled residents.
  • What’s your advice for looking after your mental health? Share it in your order notes and win a free copy of Charly’s book with your tee.
  • Share your mental health stories and tips on #SheMustBeMad or read our founder’s story below.
  • Birdsong x Charly Cox ‘She Must Be Mad’ Embroidered Tee

    £32.00
    Add to Bag
  • Optimist Embroidered Organic Cotton Tee

    £32.00
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  • Still I Rise Embroidered Organic Cotton Sweatshirt

    £65.00
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I’ve always been anxious. I was an anxious kid. One of my first memories is rolling around in hysterics on a leafy pavement, scooping up crisp packets and stuffing them into my jacket on the way to nursery. I remember tears rolling down my cheeks, out of breath as my mum spat on a tissue and rubbed it on my grubby face to get rid of the mud. In my tiny strange child brain, the world was less frightening and disordered if I could keep the pavements clean. I think most children absorbed little Lisa Simpson messages about littering or the environment, but this neurotic four year old took it to the extreme.

Many fears and anxieties manifested themselves over the years; a morbid phobia of blood, boats and snakes, and rituals and comfort objects that I would scream and cry the house down without. I didn’t sleep much – a late night reading of anything snake or evil related would set me off (hi Harry Potter and Nagini) and I was Very On Edge for a child. This extreme sensitivity then manifested itself in a deep, dark funk once I hit the age of 11. A three week period, North Tyneside’s grey temperate, PE lessons and bullying probably didn’t help.

From then on, all through my teens and until about the age of 24, I struggled with my mental health. As a teenager I discovered that smoking weed and drinking large, bulbous bottles of Lambrini helped calm my nerves and made me feel momentarily invincible. That was punctuated by 3 weeks of not getting invited to the party again, lying in bed and kinnnnda wanting to die the whole time. At 14 I was referred to a child counselling specialist. I’d been missing a lot of school and felt like I couldn’t be around more than one person at a time, or stop crying, or get out of bed much. And sort of wrote a few suicide notes and tried overdosing. That old chestnut.

The one thing that wasn’t suffering was my appetite – I was eating a Chicago Deep Dish pizza after my dinner every single night and snacking out big time. I didn’t leave the house much, so it made sense that my only enjoyment came from food. I was still a kid and had inherited a freakishly fast metabolism, so my counsellor came to the conclusion that I had an eating disorder. I didn’t, but kind of played along with it to get out of going every week. They dosed me up on child sized Prozac proscription and I yo yoed back on forth on it until I was about 17. I had maybe 3 or 4 major mental health crisis after that time, where I couldn’t eat, sleep, get out of bed or stop thinking about jumping in the sea.

A lot of things happened in between feeling in control of my mental health and not. A lot of these were semi external factors: abusive relationships, heartbreak, the death of a close friend, being really broke, and the stress of overworking. Things didn’t necessarily get easier (hello, adulthood) but I did find better ways to batter down the hatches and cope, and my wellbeing has been better following the tips below.

Exhibit A of my anxious childhood.

Self esteem is like scaffolding, or a golden suit.

I still have occasional days when I wake up and feel like shit. Joke, I hate mornings so it’s most days. But building up my self esteem over the years, by pushing myself out of my comfort zone and constantly reminding myself to be my own cheerleader, has helped massively. I have a Golden Suit I can wear despite feeling like an ogre’s toenail. My golden suit is the fake-it-to-make-it attitude I put on every morning until the habit becomes reality. I have learnt to mostly love myself through the tender habit of trying.

When I’m feeling low, I remind myself of the scaffolding I have in place if everything went to shit: really fucking good friends and colleagues, and supportive family, the amazing business I’ve helped to build, a genuinely golden hearted partner. Glossier skin care. Coffee. That cardamom buns exist in the world. These don’t have to be big, but I also try to have a physical manifestation of them in a box under my bed too. It’s my Break In Case of Sads Box and it contains cards and letters and photos to remind me of people or things I’m proud of.

Medication is fine if you need it.

Sometimes I freak out about having been on antidepressants for half of my life. Then I remind myself that no matter how much yoga or swimming or running I do, no matter how much sleep I get or kale I eat, my medicine makes me a better, easier to be alive human. I liken it to feeling like you’re whizzing through life on rollerblades after spending years wading through treacle in an old metal diving suit. When I take beta blockers for public speaking induced panic attacks, I feel 1 pint and a yoga class kind of invincible, but without the sweat or inappropriate day drinking. I’ve tried a bunch of medications and was lucky to have found the right ones at the ripe old age of 24. That was three years ago now, and apart from a slight case of Emotional Constipation (I can rarely cry which is weird), I’m the best I’ve ever been. Discuss with your doctor, let it work or perserve as best you can with terrible side effects for six weeks, switch it up if it’s not making you any better.

Therapy is good. NHS waiting lists are bad.

A therapist once told me that your mental health is the most important investment you can make in yourself. She was like, if you had a chronic back problem, you wouldn’t just try one thing and call it a day. You’d go back to the doctor and exhaust every option until it was sorted, and therapy should be like that. I’ve had a bunch of talking therapies, counselling, crisis team outreach calls and CBT on the NHS, and a one off paid hypnosis session that left me so relaxed I felt like I’d been stroking the world’s softest cat for an hour. Some of them worked, and some of them didn’t, but I’m glad I was open to trying. CBT was the most effective for me, but if you’re stuck on a huge waiting list I’ve found using apps like Calm, or reading other people’s experiences really help in the meantime.

So there you have it. There’s still bad days and good days, but the biggest single factor in me feeling better (aside from Citalopram god bless it) is the cultural change around mental health and feeling less of a stigma or like a failure for experiencing it. That’s why being open and receptive to those with mental issues around us is so absolutely important for us all.

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The Q4 Action Plan

The Q4 Action Plan

Every month the Birdsong team will aim to bring you the best in what to read up on, go to and wear. This month I’ve brought you all  the  must  go  to  events in my diary,  along with my favourite  facts  about our  new dreamy  bamboo collection,  and a campaign we can’t wait to get behind. Let us know what you’d like to see more of, and enjoy this quarter’s Action Plan as we get into Autumn.

New Collection

Classic silhouettes, super-soft natural fabrics and clothing that’s comfortable, flattering and versatile…that’s  basically  our new collection summed up. You won’t believe the silky feel of our bamboo shirts, finished off with delicate top stitching and buttons made from nuts.

Fabrics

Made in 100% silky soft, bamboo viscose. 120 gsm weight for a beautiful drape. Bamboo is grown without chemicals, making it certified free from harmful substances. This bamboo was made in a closed loop system where all water is recycled. The corozo nut buttons are derived from eco-friendly, Ecuadorian Tagua Palm, and crafted in the UK.

  • Clapton Taupe Organic Denim Worker Jacket

    £130.00
    Add to Bag
  • Clapton Taupe Organic Denim Worker Trousers

    £130.00
    Add to Bag
  • Muinat Black Bamboo Silk Kimono Dress With Contrast Stitching

    £125.00
    Add to Bag
  • Muinat Chalk Green Organic Denim Kimono Dress With Contrast Stitching

    £125.00
    Add to Bag

Campaigns to get behind

Take action for #StepUpMigrantWomen

This brilliant campaign aims to challenge these barriers and put in place safe reporting mechanisms to enable migrant women victims of crime to report and seek support without fear of deportation.

Birdsong supports and endorses safe spaces for migrant women. Join us to support this brilliant campaign and Step Up for All Women, regardless of immigration status and sign their open letter here.

Dress in Protest

We have exciting news to announce soon with Oh Comely magazine. Pick up their next issue on 11th October for more.

Things to do in Q4

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies)

Join friends of the Birdsong flock Liv Little and Charlie Craggs in conversation with pink protest founder Scarlett Curtis and Guilty Feminist host Deborah Francis-White.

4th October, 7.30pm. Rio Cinema, Dalston, London.

Birdsong Knitwear launch at Maiyet

Maiyet,   the  sustainable  luxury  fashion  brand,  known  for partnering with global artisans, is set to open its first concept store in the heart of Mayfair within The Conduit the highly-anticipated new home for social impact. The store,  which  will be known as “The Maiyet Collective” opens this   Autumn  bringing together a collection of the most exciting positive impact brands in the world right now in an immersive retail space dedicated to story-telling and community.

5th October, further info available on Maiyet newsletter

Fat Is A Feminist Issue

Forty years ago saw the publication of Susie Orbach’s seminal  work  that revolutionised  the  way  we  understand diet culture and the assault on women’s bodies.  Join the author in  conversation  with  leading  psychotherapist Jane Haberlin.

10th October, 7pm. Freud Museum London

Nimco Ali in Manchester

Join award winning British Somali feminist, writer and social activist Nimco Ali in learning about her campaign to globally end female genital mutilation (FGM).

19th October, 6.30pm. Portico Library, Manchester.

Burgerz by Travis Alabanza

After someone threw a burger at them and called them faggot, legendary performance artist Travis Alabanza became obsessed with burgers. This show is the climax of their obsession – exploring how trans bodies survive.

23rd October – 3rd November. Hackney Showroom, London. Accompanied by a series of national talks in Birmingham, Coventry, Oxford and Manchester.

Our co-founder Sophie will be speaking at ‘What’s Going On? A discourse in fashion, design and sustainability’ as part of London College of Fashions 6th Global Fashion Conference.

1st November. London College of Fashion.

Birdsong X Beyond Retro

We wholeheartedly thank everyone who visited our pop up space with sustainable legends Beyond Retro. We had  a  great time  seeing  in  our  fifth  year  with  remarkable  women,  from customers, to designers  Clio Peppiatt  and Mary Benson, to our panelists including  Scarlet  Curtis,  Charlie  Craggs  and  Charly Cox and comedians Athena Kegblenu, Shon Faye and Samantha Baines.  We’ll be  announcing our  holiday shop coming this winter  in  the  same  spot.  Stay  posted  for  more  exciting partnerships to be confirmed.

November – December, 92-100 Stoke Newington Road, London.

Stay Optimistic

Inspired and informed by the Antonio Gramsci quote, ‘Pessimism of intellect, optimism of will’, our organic cotton tee, embroidered by migrant women, encourages just that. Read a million ways to stay optimistic over on Man Repeller.

  • Optimist Embroidered Organic Cotton Tee

    £32.00
    Add to Bag

We’ve been nominated…

Thanks for reading.

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Positive Activism: Spotlight on Leah Abraham

Positive Activism: Spotlight on Leah Abraham

For our fourth birthday pop up shop with Beyond Retro, we’re hosting a series of events including our Positive Activism Panel Discussion on Thursday 6th September. Money from each £5 ticket goes to funding a new screen printer for local women we work with, and each guest gets a £5 voucher back to spend with us. Don’t miss out! Tickets on sale here.

From period poverty, to representation of women of colour, protecting trans lives and opening up the conversation around mental health, meet the women at the forefront of today’s breed of creative, positive activism. Today we’re shining the spotlight on speaker Leah Abraham.

I’m Leah. I’m a model (at Nii agency), writer and an activist in training. I am currently working on nur-ture ME –  a platform to provide the groundwork for nurturing sensitive women of colour.

I have always been emotionally attuned to the world, I experience things mostly through emotions. So often, London can feel cold, apathetic, and incredibly overstimulating. I found the need to retreat back, inwards. Find comfort, affirmation and create healing spaces elsewhere.

With nur-ture ME, the intention is to provide an interactive URL retreat for sensitive sensibilities.The platform aims to also hold up the process of self-work through multiple forms. She is still a baby in development, she just started wriggling.

I’m looking forward to speaking about nur-ture ME, with an interactive audience. My goal is to create a sturdy network of women with softer feelings, who have connected with their inner world. I think it’s vital to embrace empathy and feelings as a creative; to sit, with them, plough through, process and work with them. I like to it call our emotional complex world “pulp”, the intricate feelings/sensibilities that we live, breathe, eat, and sleep with). It’s rad to be given this platform by Birdsong, especially such an early stage of the creative cycle. Humbling.

The main thing I care about and am invested in, is the complexities of sensitive black womanhood & her creativity. Grasping your experiences, translating your emotional vulnerabilities into artform, means you can better understand the complexities. Its especially important for women of colour.

Society deems that black/brown women are strong, angry, resilient and hardened. We don’t have sensibilities, and we don’t/can’t cry. I hope that nur-ture ME can ripple into raising awareness for women from older generations like my mother’s. For Caribbean/African women, coming to terms with their mental health is taboo. But the first steps begin at acceptance. Nur-ture ME is about looking forward, using our vulnerabilities to reap deeper understanding, create authentically, connect and nurture each other in a sisterly manner.

I cry all the time, I see it as a release/reset. Being able to move forward.

I think buying vintage is at the forefront of better fashion. Repairing clothes when they need fixing. Also I’m pretty into the concept that you have one astoundingly fly dress, and not 15. I love charity shops, Beyond Retro is one of my favourite vintage shops though.

I try not to wear to many different things. If I’m in the weekday, I’m pretty down to run around in Yoga pants. No shame. I like to re-use outfits, even out of the to-wash pile (maybe a little gross, really depends on the situation haha). I’m not one for the full black, more so full denim.

Follow @leelee.abraham on Instagram, or check out Nurture ME on nurturemepleasejournal.tumblr.com

Get tickets to our panel discussion on Thursday 6th September here.

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Meet The Flock: Mursal Hedayat

Meet The Flock: Mursal Hedayat

Mursal Hedayat is a friend of Birdsong’s and the namesake of the Mursal Button Down Dress. Having done the same post grad, we met Mursal before she became the founder of Chatterbox. Mursal’s total charm to be around translated on set in our December 2016 shoot, so we asked her back for this season, knowing she’d be the perfect face of our summer 2018 campaign.

Having arrived to the UK as a refugee from Afghanistan with her family at the age of three, the current crisis has always been an issue close to her heart, and in her community. It was during this time that her mother, “a kick-ass civil engineer, with experience spanning the globe, who spoke four languages including English fluently” struggled to find work. From frustration that her mother couldn’t find suitable employment that made use of her intellect and talents, and the fact that Britain’s own native speakers have a shocking language deficit, Chatterbox was born.

“The work itself is a big pleasure for me. Chatterbox was a good opportunity to reconnect myself with my previous career – the opportunity to work in higher education with universities is something I am really happy with.”

– Soraya, a Chatterbox language tutor

With around 120,000 refugees residing in the UK, 24,000 of which are university educated and chronically underemployed,  Mursal’s platform uses technology to connect her tutors to living wage, fulfilling work sharing their language skills online. These skills are sold as classes, and interesting cultural exchanges and other tangible benefits arise. Students see the human faces of the refugee crises, and share professional insights and connections with their tutors. Lena, a volunteer with Chatterbox shared a story of a former lawyer who’s back gaining experience in a legal office as a result of their tutoring network.

Persian tutor and refugee Soraya, a writer and women’s rights activist with a BA in Persian Literature, says: “The work itself is a big pleasure for me. Chatterbox was a good opportunity to reconnect myself with my previous career – the opportunity to work in higher education with universities is something I am really happy with. The main thing [I get out of it] is working with intercultural exchange with the students – sharing knowledge and experience. I enjoy learning about their culture and knowing that they are curious to learn about me.”

Mursal’s social enterprise has now won international awards, see her image projected in Times Square and speaking on stage alongside David Miliband. But where next does she see Chatterbox going? With tutors based in Canada, Turkey and Greece, Chatterbox “are growing our team with new developers, designers, and language lovers – get in touch if we sound like your cup of tea!”

Buy online classes, learn a new language and support refugees today at www.wearechatterbox.org

Shop Mursal's Picks

  • ‘No Borders’ Embroidered Organic Cotton Tee

    £32.00
    Add to Bag
  • Khandiz Side Pocket Kimono in Alma Print

    £115.00
    Add to Bag
  • Melissa Straight Legged Trousers in Alma Print

    £125.00
    Add to Bag
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Birdsong’s Summer Concept Store is back from Friday 22nd June

Birdsong’s cult, feminist, concept store is back. Expect collaborations, events and exclusive drops from the forefront of sustainable style, along with Birdsong’s trademark sisterly atmosphere.

Whether you’re a sustainable die hard or new to the game, we’ll be stocking pieces for everyone. Shop clothing, accessories, pottery, prints, zines, artworks and more.

Here at Birdsong we’ve spent the past 18 months holding eagerly anticipated concept stores across London and Berlin. Our latest offering sees stock from cult designers Tatty Devine, Mary Benson, Clio Peppiatt and more. Previous stores were featured in Style Bubble, Evening Standard, Grazia, Time Out, Dazed, i-D, Refinery29, The Debrief, and Metro.

Brands featured: Tatty Devine / Clio Peppiatt / Mary Benson / Auria / Such A Fan! / Suhaiyla Shakuwra Jewellery / Earl of East London / Aerende / Liha Beauty / Jaggery London / Know The Origin / Clio Isadora / Black Power Tarot / Polyester Zine + more TBC

The shop will be closed on Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th June.

See below for our full schedule of events.

Friday 22nd – Public Launch from 6pm until 9.30pm

Come and say hi on our opening night. Get your portrait taken in store and see some of our super limited edition new collection pieces before anyone else does. Expect exclusive discounts, and free Bacardi rum cocktails, Canopy Beers and Divine Chocolate.

Sunday 24th – Origin Stories: How We Started from 5-6pm

Come for a talk and hangout with the founders of Birdsong, with our origin story and a short Worker to Wearer film series screening.

Wednesday 27th – Building Bridges Not Borders from 7-8.30pm

A panel exploring what a word without borders would look like featuring speakers doing incredible work with refugees.

Saturday 31st June – Closing Party from 6pm until 9.30pm

Do you dare wait for last minute discounts? See what we’ve sold out of and celebrate an end to a brilliant week of supporting independent, ethical, women, and POC, owned businesses.

Sunday 1st July – Birdsong X Burning House Books presents: Feminist Book Club, from 3-5pm

Birdsong are working together with Burning House Books present a Feminist Book Club in their concept store.

Come for a discussion of Maggie Nelson’s short, semi-autobiographical novel The Argonauts, described by The Guardian as “A study of the small, miraculous domestic dramas by an electrifying writer, eager to challenge society’s norms.”

Expect refreshments, excellent company, and Birdsong’s trademark sisterly atmosphere.

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White Feminism – a guest blog by Zainab Mahmood

White Feminism

– a guest blog by Zainab Mahmood

In a world where supermodels win ‘Inspiring Woman’ awards and white, middle class actresses are classed as feminist icons, it’s difficult to break the privileged, white washed feminist bubble. As a daughter of Muslim immigrants from Pakistan, I’m conscious of the need for different communities to acknowledge and engage with the struggles unique to their cultures.

The default told experience – including women’s – has long been the white one. Whether consciously or not, as women of colour we often whitewash our own narratives. After all, we seldom see ourselves represented in mainstream novels, television, film or other media.  Our storytelling is confined to interrogations with our parents and broken dual, even triple, language chats with our grandparents. Building my knowledge and awareness has mainly taken getting lost in an abyss of podcasts, TED talks, blog articles, book recommendations and links sent by friends who are not only women of colour, but have a particular interest in the languages and literatures of their own cultures, as well as others.

Not that fighting for equal pay, for the chance to speak without interruption and to walk and dress confidently without receiving vitriol should be invalidated, but we should also remember the women who quite literally put their lives at risk in efforts to be who they really are. Perhaps they choose an educational or career path different to the one set out for them, love someone their parents don’t approve of or simply speak their mind. These seemingly minor acts of rebellion are for some women the cause of their excommunication, homelessness, abuse and worst-case scenario, death.

It took me stumbling upon Tehmina Durrani’s autobiographical My Feudal Lord on my aunt’s book shelf at age 18 to engage with anything concerning Pakistan outside the context of my own family and their experiences. The women of my family could probably never bring themselves to describe their experiences of emotional and physical abuse to me in the way that Durrani so painfully and graphically translates it.

Due to the role of politics in her life, she depicts an aspect of Pakistan’s patriarchal structures so much more complex than what I had understood from my family’s stories. Some member of Durrani’s family always disapproves of whatever she does, starkly illustrating one ideal model of womanhood; subservient to her husband and children, and always carrying the weight of her father’s reputation.

Gifted to me by a friend who studied South Asian literature, I recently read Meena Kandasamy’s When I Hit You. A beautifully outpoured stream of consciousness relaying her experience with domestic abuse. Though at times uncomfortable to read, the descriptions of her parents rationalising her husband’s behaviour and urging her to keep working at the relationship are particularly poignant. They shed light on a culture of shame, acceptance and submission commonly found in India, the rest of the Indian Subcontinent, as well as the Arab world. Containing many similar tropes to My Feudal Lord, the narrative style of When I Hit You made apparent the culture of women being silenced by their loved ones, forced to deal with their trauma alone.

Also given to me by a friend, Nawal El-Saadawi’s Woman at Point Zero is the only piece of literature I’ve read that truly focuses on the value of the woman, physically and otherwise. The protagonist Firdaus shares an ever-changing relationship with sex following her experiences of sexual abuse and female genital mutilation in Egypt. She strikingly relates how it feels to be a woman alone in a society full of dominant, animalistic men who dichotomise their supposed Islamic piety. Within a short novella, El-Saadawi plays with ideas of pleasure, sexuality, value and power unparalleled to anything else I’ve read.

It may take time and effort, but the digital age has afforded us the tools to build an awareness of marginalised cultures and religions. That is, the kind of awareness required for a feminism that truly benefits us all, a feminism in which the only default narrative is the human one, made up of a simultaneously individual and collective cultural memory.

Illustration by Eleanor Crewes. Eleanor is a North London based Illustrator, recent BA Illustration graduate from UAL and author of graphic novel The Times I Knew I Was Gay.

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Worker To Wearer Part 4. Cutting and Sewing with Fateha

Worker To Wearer

Part 4. Cutting and Sewing with Fateha

Most brands don’t know who makes their clothing.

Birdsong is rallying the rest of the fashion world. We’re calling for a better industry, from worker to wearer.

In the run up to Fashion Revolution Week from 23rd – 29th April, we’ll be sharing how we made our spring collection. The five short films put a face to the women who design, source, fit, sew, and sell our clothes, entirely in London.

#WorkerToWearer

For our final video instalment, we meet Fateha, a skilled seamstress at Stitches in Time women’s charity. Stitches supports women experiencing long-term unemployment, who have low confidence, or have experienced domestic violence to learn sewing skills.Unlike typical fashion brands, 50% of which don’t know who cuts or sews their items, we visit our makers in Limehouse to support Stitches with every collection.

Watch the whole of our Worker To Wearer series here on Youtube.