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10X10: Bethany Williams

19 September 2017
by Bethany Williams

Design Connections 10x10 will return this year on Tuesday 19 September, showcasing a selection of the best emerging design talent in the UK. We caught up with speaker Bethany Williams to find out more about her work.

Hello Bethany, please tell us about your work...
Through my practice I don’t just want to comment on a community, but work in their social spaces to try to create a change through furthering economic gain for charity. By using social capital, intellectual and labour intensive skills we aim to create a profit, which will be given to connected charities, continuing the cycle of exchange. Through collaborations with communities and charities, we hope to create a collection embedded with real people and hope to create a real effect in the social space we engage with.
Through design, I am committed to exploring social and environmental change within my work and working with marginalised parts of society to bring about positive change and social enterprise.

The Spring/Summer 2018 collection “Women of Change” focuses on women’s rehabilitation, working closely with female prisoners and the San Patrignano drug and alcohol dependency program. In an interesting twist on the ongoing discourse around gender when a man buys a piece from the "Women of Change" collection, the proceeds go to supporting some of society's most vulnerable women. All materials sourced and created are 100% organic or recycled, even down to the buttons which are handmade in the Lake District by Jean Wildish who plants her own trees for the production of wooden buttons, and handmade in the UK and Italy.

What are you working on at the moment?
I have just finished my second collection ‘Women of Change’ and currently working on the production of the store orders I have received. I have been working with female offenders in prison on the jersey pieces from this season’s collection as part of the “Making for Change” program, a social enterprise set up jointly by London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London and the Ministry of Justice, providing skill and meaningful employment for serving and recently released offenders to help reintegrate them into society. I’ve worked closely with the programme working with the women across textile development and educating on the design process and their role within the wider supply chain, teaching increasingly technical manufacturing techniques in order to prepare them as they will be fulfilling production for retail on this collection. 10% of profits will be donated to the “Making for Change” programme for machinery.
I have also been collaborating with San Patrignano in Rimini, Italy – an education and rehabilitation programme for people with drug and alcohol dependency that teaches traditional Italian craft and a sense of community. Producing high quality traditional crafts in furniture, weaving, leathers and many others. I have developed this further creating bespoke hand-woven textiles from the recycled packaging materials found within the San Patrignano workshops. The availability of these materials inspired this collection with the waste “Attenzione” tape from the electrical department and recycled wine bottle packaging being woven into practical and durable new textiles to create outerwear and inspiring a print story through the range. A second print story was created through a collage of the responses of the women who physically worked on the textiles’ responses to what change means to them personally. 10% of profits will be donated to San Patrignano.
I have also been working alongside art filmmaker Crack Stevens (real name Akinola Davies). The film proposes to be a poetic narrative focused on the women of San Patrignano and Making for Change, and their paths to rehabilitation. The theme will focus on the parallels between the second chance given to the discarded materials from which Bethany created the fabrics at San Patrignano, and the second chance for the women involved in the two rehabilitation programmes.

What impact do you hope to see through your work?
Through my practice I aim to help support communities, whether it be the food crisis within poorer communities as austerity continues to plunge people into poverty or working alongside female prison and drug rehabilitation programs, my primary concern in the manufacturing of the garments is sustainability both in terms of the means of production and as an economic model.

Tell us about something you’ve seen that’s inspired you recently? /Tell us about something you’ve worked on that’s made you feel proud.
I feel extremely proud that I have sold the collection to stores and will be able to donate 20% of the sales to the communities involved in the ‘Women of Change’ collection. I think because at the end of the day I’m donating back to the girls – the whole point of this is to be helping and to be a successful model and to make a profit. It’s great idea but if it’s not a successful model it’s not helping. This time I was so worried because with my MA it could be as crazy as I wanted but I need to sell this. It’s not just like it’s my collection and it’s all on me, if it fails I’m letting down the girls as well.

To hear more about Bethany's work, join us at 7pm on the 19 September on Facebook as we livestream the whole of Design Connections 10x10 from Second Home.