Posted on

Thank you for 2018

Thank you for 2018

To everyone who shopped online or in person with us so far this year, thanks for making 2018 a brilliant one. We’re so grateful to our customers, our talented, remarkable makers and all the speakers, sponsors and collaborators who came together to make our 7th pop up shop a success.

Thank you for supporting small, independent, ethical business and our vision of a fairer future for fashion. Together with your help, this year we paid for 10,000 hours of Living Wage Work for local women living in London.

Thank you to Jubel beers, Karma Cola, Abel & Cole and Divine Chocolate for making our pop up a delicious success, to Beyond Retro for hosting us, and to THINX for coming over from NY to sell with us.

Photography by Sam Jackson & Jazi Charbit

Posted on

We’re growing

We’re growing

You might have noticed Birdsong looks a little different these days – more like something you could have in your wardrobe for life, a bit more grown up… dare we say, refined? And more change is on the way.

We’d love for our customers and supporters to get involved and be part of Birdsong’s future. If you have any feedback, comments or ideas about how we can improve, please get in touch on [email protected]

Over the last few months we’ve been working with online, ethical investment platform Ethex. They are helping us raise equity investment, so that we can realise our dream of becoming the UK’s leading ethical fashion brand. We want to be the best brand we can be for everyone involved, our customers and our expert makers from women’s orgs. We want to ethically clothe and employ far more remarkable women in the process. We hope that our fundraise will help us achieve this mission.

Financial regulations around these type of equity offers are strict and are only available to people who are classified as High Net Worth or Sophisticated Investors. So, if you’d like to get involved then we’d first need to check your eligibility by completing this short online survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/3JHFF56

If you meet the criteria, then the Ethex team will be in touch and send you the link to our exciting profile page and offer documents.

Please be aware that with investments of this type your capital is at risk.

Thank you for all your support so far, and we’re excited to become an even better Birdsong in 2019.

Posted on

Birdsong Good Gifting Guide 2018

Birdsong Good Gifting Guide 2018

We think that the best gifts are those that are not just great for the receiver, but do good for the maker and give back to society as a whole. This winter we’ve created a run down of our favourite brands and products that we’ll be gifting our loved ones this year. We bring you some old trusted friends and some brilliant new ones. Many are social enterprises and others are challenging the status quo in their industries. All are remarkable, refreshing and available to buy (minus Soap Co) from our Dalston pop up shop.

Lots of love, the Birdsong Team x

The Soap Co

We recently went to visit the Soap Co Headquarters in East London as we’d heard so much about this brilliant social enterprise we had to check it out for ourselves. All of their luxurious products are handcrafted by people who are blind, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged.

The umbrella charity Clarity has been employing, training and supporting people with disabilities since 1854. Since meeting the amazing people behind the company and using their products (which are second to none- they’ve won multiple awards for sustainability and design) – this is a business we can get behind.

Juta Shoes

Juta have been supporting women through craft for over 4 years now. They offer women who face barriers to employment flexible and well paid work handcrafting their beautiful espadrilles and slippers.

Expect not to take them off – they’re extraordinarily comfortable and you can make your own custom pair as they do workshops too. All the leather used are offcuts from local factories and vegan options are available. See them at our winter pop up.

Earl of East

Earl of East make the most divine scented soy candles that are hand poured in London. The Soy is non-GMO and the mid-sized one will burn for 40 hours. You can find these and their sage bundles and incense at our shop.

Oh Comely Magazine

Oh Comely is a magazine exploring curiosity, honesty and playfulness. Each issue they pick a theme and see where it leads them. Delve into it’s pages and find thoughtful writing, photography and illustrations by contributors who look at life a little differently.

Find it online, in all of the coolest independent book shops and in the Birdsong Popup. We’ll be holding workshops with them too in store – get your tickets here.

Craftivist Collective

Activism for the introvert, the Craftivist Collective is the brainchild of activist and writer Sarah Corbett. Discouraged and fatigued by conventional activism, Sarah Corbett has created a more gentle and thoughtful alternative, combining craft and contemplation to help you make the change you want to see in the world.

Find her book ‘How To Be a Craftivist”, starter kits, cards and notebooks online and in our Winter popup to help start your journey into making a real difference the the causes you believe in (and learn a new hobby).

Ladybeard Magazine

Ladybeard is a feminist publication with the aim of revolutionising the content of traditional glossy magazines. It takes the form of one, but turns the usual format on it’s head. Instead of confining gender, sexuality, dress size, pigmentation and aspirations- Ladybeard wants to liberate you from these notions.
The magazine offers a refreshing and revitalising perspective that is inclusive to all. It also looks great on a coffee table as has been impeccably designed.

Join our collaborative panel on Sex, Health & Money: Moving Beyond Taboos on 7th December.

Clio Peppiatt

We first met Clio Peppiatt back in 2015 as part of ‘Female Matters’, a group exhibition curated to raise awareness of FGM. Since then we’ve become big fans and good friends, working together on several collaborative pieces and running a workshop with our hand painters.

Clio is one of the friendliest people in fashion and not only that – her clothes are a riot. Exploring themes of playful subversive femininity- you will not find anything similar anywhere else. Expect t-shirts with a flaming ‘fast woman’ slogan and a group of quaint little rats having a ‘rat party’ emblazoned on a jumper.

Find our underwear collaboration and a selection of Clio Peppiatt pieces in our winter popup shop.

THINX

It is no exaggeration to say that Thinx have transformed the lives of the team in the Birdsong Office. Thinx are a period pant company from New York. Their washable reusable underwear are a more sustainable option than your regulars and feel and look better too.

Available in all styles, colours and absorbancies, come and see them at our winter shop where they’ll be popping up from the 6th-9th December

Gabrielle Marsh

Gabriella Marsh is an illustrator, animator and designer from London and is currently doing a masters in experimental animation. Her beautiful illustrations adorn plates, notebooks and prints alike, making for a perfect gift and she also works on commissions. We’ve been lucky enough to have stocked her charming observational pieces before and we’re so glad to welcome her back to our winter store.

Tatty Devine

Tatty Devine have garnered a mass of adoring fans all over the globe since they began in 1999 with their original conversational art jewellery. 20 years later their jewellery is still handmade in house by a small skilled team of makers. They love to collaborate with artists, designers, charitable institutions and their favourite cultural spaces and we can’t get enough of their fun, don’t- take-life-so-seriously attitude and laser-cut acrylic pieces.

Mary Benson

Mary creates fun positive accessories and colourful prints with a nod to vintage references, all made in the UK.

One of our favourites this season is her collaboration with the amazing Gemma Cairney of upcycled vintage berets with statements to brighten your day.

Nelly Rose

Artist and designer Nelly uses her label as a vehicle for global activism. Working with artisan communities around the world, Nelly melds contemporary art and her signature graphic prints with the preservation of traditional textile techniques.

Find her embroidered chokers which were made in Palestine by women’s group; Women in Hebron and her full range of hand and symbol acrylic earrings in our winter pop up.

Birdsong X Amy Isles Freeman

  • Birdsong x Amy Isles Freeman Embroidered Bamboo Knickers

    £25.00
    Add to Bag
  • Birdsong x Amy Isles Freeman Embroidered Organic Cotton Sweatshirt

    £82.00
    Add to Bag
  • Birdsong x Amy Isles Freeman Embroidered Organic Cotton Tee

    £38.00
    Add to Bag

This winter we have collaborated with artist and wonder Amy Isles Freeman to bring you three limited edition pieces. Through colour and pattern Freeman explores female sexuality, joy and freedom. Her highly in demand hand-painted wooden bowls are stocked in Liberty London, and now our pop up store.

Find our Organic Sweatshirt, Organic Tee and Closed-loop Bamboo Knickers embroidered with an original Amy Isles Freeman motif created exclusively for Birdsong.

Posted on

Remarkable Women: Amy Isles Freeman

Remarkable Women: Amy Isles Freeman X Birdsong

We’ve long been fans of artist and bowl maker Amy Isles Freeman. Her love of feminine figures, and the intentional, slow process of her beautifully crafted creations fit in perfectly with the Birdsong ethos. Longing to own some of her fine pieces for our own, we commissioned her to work on a collaborative line.

The three garment collection is in super limited editions, and embroidered onto the softest, finest quality garments we could source. We caught up with Amy to chat inspiration behind her work, which is stocked in Selfridges and in our own pop up store for the festive period.

Photography by Anya Rice.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Amy Isles Freeman, I am 26 years old, I grew up in Oxford, studied in Cornwall, and now live in Brighton. I am bisexual, polyamorous, use she/her pronouns and I thank my lucky stars that I am able to be an artist for a living.

My work explores female sexuality, joy and freedom, and this theme began in art school, when I dove into the world of feminist art. I loved the communicative emotion, but whilst the anger in the work resonated with me, it didn’t come naturally in my own expressions.

Then, in 2013, I visited an exhibition of Dorothy Iannone’s work, and that changed everything for me. Colourful, cheeky and hilarious, I walked around the empty show with my laughter bouncing off the walls. She used the best communication tool to carry her message – humour.

From then on, I felt the freedom to make work that would illicit at least a smile, if not a chuckle. Making work that celebrates women, that does not alienate or engender guilt, I found that I was opening up conversations. I do not, for one minute, think that anger has no place in feminist art, it really does, but this is the road that is paved with the most sincerity for me.

My work now encompasses my hand turned, hand painted bowls, as well as my hand painted clothing and works on paper. I love the progression of the theme, and the fluidity of being in charge of my own practise.

How and why did you get into your craft?

When I finished my degree in drawing at Falmouth Art School in 2014, I felt fed up with flat work. Entangled in a group of young makers, jealousy burnt my fingers as I watched them make objects, things that existed. I itched for a practical skill, so my then-boyfriend handed me a chisel and a piece of wood, and showed me how to use his lathe.

I knew that in order to make a mark in the craft world, I had to bring my colourful and fine art ideas in with me, so I painted my wooden creations, very simply at first. This developed into intricate designs, and that’s when the pieces became really interesting for me to make, and when other people really began to take notice of what I was making.

  • Birdsong x Amy Isles Freeman Embroidered Bamboo Knickers

    £25.00
    Add to Bag
  • Birdsong x Amy Isles Freeman Embroidered Organic Cotton Sweatshirt

    £82.00
    Add to Bag
  • Birdsong x Amy Isles Freeman Embroidered Organic Cotton Tee

    £38.00
    Add to Bag

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

The way the business started was exciting. I had been making very simple wooden pieces, and a family friend commissioned me to make a larger bowl for her daughter’s birthday. I posted a work in progress shot on Instagram, and Katie Tregidden reposted it to her blog Confessions of a Design Geek. I saw this in the morning, just as I went to my cleaning job. As I left work I got a call from London Design Fair, telling me that they had seen Katie’s post and asking if I would like a stand.

I remember them asking me ‘So, what have you been up to?’ and the response ‘Cleaning a miniature poodle’s period stains from a hardwood floor’ nearly fell out of my mouth. Imposter syndrome doesn’t cover how I felt as I embellished my ideas and plans over the phone, palms sweaty with nerves and Mr Sheen.

This was in February 2016, and I showed my work at LDF in September of that year. Thanks to that repost, my business was born.

What drew you to work with Birdsong?

I met some of the wonderful women of Birdsong last year on a panel discussion, and learning about their business was inspiring. The ethos and ingenuity, balancing the social responsibility with commercial viability – what they are doing should be setting the precedent for all businesses to follow. It is shaking up a system, through the prism of feminist ideals, and producing a sustainable future. What is there not to love?

What’s your favourite piece from the collection?

My favourite piece of our collection are the knickers. I have always wanted my images of lady love to be on people’s bodies, to be worn with pride and what better place for these images to be!

What would your ideal world/future look like?

I have had to teach myself to live in the present. I hope that people can prioritise kindness, as that will change the future.

Favourite thing about your studio?

My favourite thing about my studio is my studio mate, Marcelina Amelia. She is one of the kindest and most supportive women, and she makes me laugh. I am lucky to have some of the best creative women around me, and they make me see that things are possible.

Posted on

We’re sorry. No Black Friday sales.

Heba women's project, makers of ethical clothing. - Birdsong

Sorry. We never do a Black Friday sale.

We want to make clothes that last a lifetime.

We want to make statements that last longer than the time it takes to read a slogan.

And we want to provide decent, living wages all year round.

So for that, we work on getting the best deal for you and our makers 365 days a year.

Thank you so much for your support over the past four years.

x

Heba women's project, makers of ethical clothing. - Birdsong
  • Arion Hand Knit Sweater in Laurel Green

    £250.00
    Add to Bag
Posted on

We’re back. Birdsong X Beyond Retro, joined by THINX.

We’re back. Birdsong X Beyond Retro, joined by THINX.

Great  news – our cult pop up shop is back for the holidays, in partnership with legendary vintage brand Beyond Retro. Patented period pant brand THINX will also be joining us for the 6th-9th December.

Join us at Beyond Retro Dalston, 92 – 100 Stoke Newington Road, N16 7XB from 10.30am on Thursday 29th November – Sunday 9th December with events on most nights. Closed all day Monday and Tuesday.

Fans will be able to come hang out, meet the team and shop original clothing, ceramics and prints made for fair wages in London. We’ll be setting up shop and stocking our favourites from Tatty Devine, fashion week designers Clio Peppiatt and Mary Benson, prints, illustrations, independent magazines, and handmade bowls alongside a brand new Birdsong collaboration collection from artist Amy Isles Freeman.

Come and experience the shop written about in i-D, Refinery29, Time Out, Dazed and more. Get free goodies with your visit, from our sponsors at vegan, gluten free beer company Jubel, soft drinks from Karma Cola and fair trade chocolate by Divine.

“Your fave feminist pop up shop” – Dazed

“Leave looking fantastic, absolutely guilt-free” – Refinery29

“Birdsong: The Badass Feminist Shop With A Conscience And A Vision” – Grazia

All tickets sales from events (aside from Bloody Good Fundraiser) will go towards training for some of Birdsong’s lowest income women’s groups. In return on the night, customers also be given a £5 Birdsong voucher, a drink and other freebies.

Tickets and events

Thursday 29/11/18 – Press & Birdsong Flock Opening Night. RSVP to [email protected] for free drinks, discounts and a first peak at the shop.

Friday 30/11/18 – Another Comedy Night that Passes The Bechdel Test. A night of comedy from women at the forefront of feminist stand-up including sets by Kemah Bob & Sara Pascoe. Buy tickets here.

Saturday & Sunday 1-2/12/18 – Crafting weekender in collaboration with Oh Comely magazine, featuring workshops from Katie Jones, Gabriella Marsh and Rosy Nicholas. Buy tickets here.  

Thursday 6/12/18 – Bloody Good Period Party Fundraiser. Sip on a a bloody good cocktail and raise money for period poverty affecting refugees. With talks and stalls from experts at patented period pant brand THINX, Gabby of Bloody Good Period, author/illustrator of Period Natalie Byrne and more. Make a donation here.

Friday 7/12/18 – Sex, Health & Money: Moving Beyond Taboos panel. Chaired by Ladybeard editor and head of social at Refinery29 Sadhbh O’Sullivan, with panelists including activist and model Munroe Bergdorf, journalist Harriet Williamson and playwright Joana Nastari. Buy tickets here.

Posted on

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

  • 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”

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

  • 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”

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

Posted on

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
  • Sanford Chalk Green Organic Cotton Denim Jumpsuit

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

    £145.00
    Add to Bag
Posted on

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
Posted on

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.
  • Still I Rise Embroidered Organic Cotton Sweatshirt

    £65.00
    Add to Bag

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.