Bethany Williams is not a fashion designer, she is a trailblazer paving the way for a more compassionate, more inclusive future. She uses her immense talent to selflessly leverage her brand and partnerships in the service to our community’s most vulnerable and marginalised members.
When we were introduced to the idea of collaborating with Bethany by our UCL PhD student and researcher Diana Margot Rosenthal in early 2019, we must admit we did not know what to expect.
The Magpie Project charity, founded in 2017, is a coal-face, crisis-to-crisis, grass roots organisation created to make sure that a spell in temporary accommodation does not cause permanent damage to children who experience it. We have supported over 400 mothers and 500 children in the past two years. Women and children who have become invisible to an unaware or uncaring society. At first glance, our world of living on £34 a week, and of infested and unfit accommodation seemed a million miles away from menswear.
In Britain a child becomes homeless in every eight minutes. That means currently 135,000 children in Britain are homeless. In some London Boroughs this figure rises to 1 in 12 children (Shelter England. 2019).
She brought collaborators and sponsors with her. Through multiple visits, Bethany brought Melissa Kitty Jarram, a South East London based illustrator and artist, to hear the otherwise untold truths of mums and their small children forced to live in temporary and unfit accommodation, unable to work, or study, or move, because they have been deemed to have “no recourse to public funds”. The artwork collaboration for this season has been created from a visit to our ‘Rhyme and Song’ session where Melissa illustrated the bond between mother and child.
*NRPF is a condition imposed due to a person’s immigration status, and prohibits seeking public funds such as welfare benefits and housing provided via the local authority, which is subject to discretion and a case-by-case basis of “intentional homelessness.” (Children’sCommissioner Report, 2019) Bethany understood immediately that Bethany understood immediately that having no recourse to public funds forces mums in to rootlessness and destitution.
This takes an enormous toll not only on their own and their baby’s physical wellbeing but also on their emotional and mental health. As anybody who has ever cared for a small baby knows – every part of your body and mind screams at you to create a safe, secure, clean and cosy place. When this natural instinct to protect and nurture is blocked by poverty and poor accommodation – the distress for mums and children who have already survived so much can be unbearable.
It is extraordinary that someone so young, so humble, and so unassuming as Bethany has single-handedly created a space that allows for the most unlikely bedfellows – high fashion and grass roots community projects – to come together and collaborate to create change. With her clarity of purpose, her clean, fresh, uncomplicated approach with, her simple and steadfast values, mean that her agenda is clear and those with power have been compelled to buy into.
The Magpie Project’s homeless are our children and not somebody else’s problem. they are our children, they are our future (adults). Everything we do, every decision we make, can create a future in which every one of them, and us, can thrive – together. This is not fashion, this is a blueprint for a better future – happening now.
Through spending real time with us, Bethany ensured that – from materials to models, communications to collaborators – every decision she makes is run through her own ethical framework and interlinking with the nurturing bond between mother and child.
BACKSTAGE IMAGES CREDIT JADE BERRY