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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.

  • Muinat Chalk Green Organic Denim Kimono Dress With Contrast Stitching

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

    £125.00
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  • Sanford Chalk Green Organic Cotton Denim Jumpsuit

    £140.00
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  • Richmond Black Bamboo Silk Shirt With Contrast Stitching

    £140.00
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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.

  • Pre-Order: Optimist Embroidered Organic Cotton Tee

    £32.00
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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
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  • Khandiz Side Pocket Kimono in Alma Print

    £115.00
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  • Melissa Straight Legged Trousers in Alma Print

    £125.00
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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.

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Fashion Revolution Week For Beginners

Fashion Revolution Week for Beginners Guide

For hardened revolutionaries coming later in the week

Some of you might know that this week is Fashion Revolution Week, and others may well not. Today is the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, where 1200 garment workers, mostly young women, died in a factory collapse despite warning management that the building was unsafe. They were threatened with losing their jobs if they didn’t go inside, and proceeded to lose their lives later that today after following orders.

These facts are devastating and uncomfortable. They make engaging in the topic of ethical fashion tough. By saying ethical, you are acknowledging that most clothing is not. Thinking about the environmental and social impacts of fashion is something that takes up headspace and money, and emotional toil. While many can’t afford the luxury of thinking and spending in alignment with our values, if you’re reading this blog you’re at least exercising a curiosity. Some of us can afford it, though it takes a sea change in attitudes to equate buying cheaply with buying well. Poorly made garments are a false economy – the better they are made, the less clothes are worn out and need replacing.

A lot of people can get defensive about their buying choices, and by no means is the movement towards garment worker liberation about shaming people with tight budgets buying their kids school trousers on your local high street with a megaphone. Or placing the blame solely on consumers on an industry that’s taught us to endlessly yearn, consume and repeat, ripping the poorest people off with the worst quality goods. And yet, this week is optimistically named for a reason. Fashion Revolution is both a “never must this happen again”, and a yearning for a utopian vision of what fashion can be. What we can do if we have the energy, is get clued up, and demand more from brands, or support those going out of their way to pay workers fairly.

As a mark of respect today, make a pact to be more curious about who makes your clothes. Strive to buy more second hand, and buy good quality, ethically made, and to love and to last if you need new. It was never the easy way to start a fashion brand, but it was the reason why did. We were founded on these premises. Ask big brands #WhoMadeMyClothes and read our blog below on what other steps you can take to get educated about the fashion industry.  To start, we’ve compiled a list for Fashion Revolutionaries at any stage of their journey.

To Watch (in order of emotional spice level- from wholesome watch, to grab the tissues and ice cream)

Our Worker to Wearer series via YouTube

River Blue  – Nominated for a host of awards and featuring the mother of the Fashion Revolution campaign, Orsola De Castro, this new documentary sheds light on our shameful mistreatment 0f rivers in the same of fashion. Watch the trailer, go to a free screening or rent for less than a fiver for a whole lot of learning.

The True Cost – a riveting expose of the fashion industry from top to tale that’ll change the way you see clothes forever. The Cowspiracy of fashion docs. Highly recommended. Self care plan recommended for afterwards. Free to watch on Netflix. 

To Read (again in order)

How To Be  Craftivist – The Art of Gentle Activism

Written by  Birdsong friend and renowned campaign Sarah Corbett, learn to think about the way that things are made in the world, and how to change it for the better with the art of craft.

http://workerdiaries.org

A first hand report, available as interactive articles or a podcast, or what it’s like to be a garment worker from the people living it.

Stitched Up: The Anti Capitalist Book Of Fashion by Tansy Hoskins

Winner of the ICA book prize a few years back, dip into this historical compendium of the fashion industry, and learn about the handful of people and companies at the top. An eye opening read.

To Die For by Lucy Siegle

Written by seasoned ethical expert and Observer columnist Lucy Siegle. No UK journalist has gone quite as in depth and scoured factories and conditions as far or wide in fashion supply chains as this contemporary analysis.

To Do

There are a huge amount of events happening globally this week to commemorate the Rana Plaza Collapse. Wherever you are, check the calendar, hold your own zine swap or tea party and get organising.

https://www.fashionrevolution.org/events/

ThreadWorks Launch Party

Celebrate the launch of Threadworks and brand new fashion and textile studio in Clerkenwell, London. They’ll will be having a guerrilla Fashion Revolution embroidery workshop and hosting a panel discussion featuring Lydia Higginson – Founder of Threadworks and Made My Wardrobe, our very own head of design Susanna Wen and more sustainable fashion legends.

To Shop

Our favourite brand of charity shops, Traid, are opening late for night time shopping in their stores across London for this week only. Check out branches here.

London Sustainable Fashion Rooms – East London, 23rd – 29th

From niche to norm: Ethical fashion and footwear take centre-stage during Fashion Revolution Week in this week-long community hub and pop-up boutique curated by Po-Zu. Shop London’s most exciting and affordable ethical fashion designers & join workshops and inspiring panel discussions with industry leaders.

Ethical Brands for Fashion Revolution – London, Saturday 28th

On Saturday 28th April, independent ethical clothing brands from around the UK will come together at London’s Brand Museum to support the Fashion Revolution message and show consumers that there is a viable, ethical alternative to high street, fast fashion brands.  All brands featured, including Birdsong can tell customers #whomademyclothes – the hashtag of the campaign.

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We hope these offer as a starting point. Feel free to comment with more pointers, tweet or Instagram tagging brands and asking them #WhoMadeMyClothes, and follow us on Instagram for more event tip offs, easily digested memes and facts.

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Worker To Wearer Part 3. Fitting with Moni

Worker To Wearer Part 3. Fitting with Moni

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

This week we’re in Birdsong Head Office in Euston, with freelance pattern cutter Moni. We talk through our design manifesto and fit all our products on the team for vigorous testing before they go into production.

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

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Worker To Wearer 2: Sourcing

Worker to Wearer
2. Sourcing

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

This week we’re in Wembley, learning about the sheer waste involved in fashion production and how we created our Spring Collection with reclaimed, donated designer fabrics.

We’d love to have your support in revolutionising fashion, for women, workers and wearers everywhere. Let us know if we can count on you to share our videos, spread the word, and ask brands #WhoMadeMyClothes.

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Worker To Wearer 1: Design

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

Join Susanna, our Head of Design & Production in our first chapter, where she’ll be talking us through the first part of the design process, in Hackney.

We’d love to have your support in revolutionising fashion, for women, workers and wearers everywhere. Let us know if we can count on you to share our videos, spread the word, and ask brands #WhoMadeMyClothes.