Change In The Making
It all began at HM Prison Holloway in early 2016 – by the Summer the prison would close forever, to be sold off and converted into desirable North London abodes. We were visiting the prison’s fashion manufacturing unit to discuss the idea of making tote bags from donated fabrics.
After going through security checks we were lead through the long Victorian corridors of the prison - each one carefully opened and then locked behind us requiring a set of keys that one could only imagine existing in the movies. As the keys clinked in the rhythm of our steps it was hard not to let one’s mind wander back to the 1950’s with Ruth Ellis’ final walk to the noose or the Suffragette’s being force fed whilst imprisoned for their activist roles in the women’s suffrage movement one hundred years before. The walls echoed with names Davison, Markievicz, Despard, Richardson, Montefiore, Sheehy-Skeffington, Tyson , Smyth and Pankhurst: a roll call of honour in the movements centenary year – now considered hero’s in 2018, the year of the woman, as it is increasingly being heralded.
When we arrived at the Making For Change manufacturing unit I was struck by the light. Bright. White... a far cry from the dark dingy cells one imagines a prison to contain. It was easy to see why the unit was a haven for the women coming to learn and partake in meaningful daily employment. So very different from the sweat shop horrors of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh where five years ago (almost to the day), poor conditions and brutal work ethic contributed to the deaths of 1138 people when the buildings structure gave way... prompting the start of the global Fashion Revolution movement demanding greater transparency in the fashion supply chain.
The name of FARA's collection of bags made by the women in HMP Holloway could be nothing else but ‘TOTES FOR EVERYONE’. Inspiration drawn, not just from the women’s suffrage movement but from all women who stand up for the right to better futures for themselves and others like them. Made by women – for Women! Making these tote bags symbolises so much more than something ‘non plastic’ to carry shopping home in.
This is now the third collection of TOTES FOR EVERYONE. Since the start of their production by the manufacturing unit - the whole social enterprise has moved to HMP Downview and doubled in size. The fashion manufacture training is provided up London College of Fashion, UAL, driven by LCF’s head, Professor Frances Corner and her good fight against recidivism through education.
The totes are made from sustainably and locally source fabrics that have been donated by FARA's generous shop supporters, all doing their bit for charity and the environment. Finding a unique use for these fabrics adds to FARA’s Charity Shops commitment to make the most of every donation we are given.
The sale of the bags will raise funds to help marginalised young women in Romania who through the work of the FARA Hostels programme are being supported to gain skills to lift them out of their cycle of poverty and help them break the shackles of their upbringing in institutional care.
We continue to share the work of FARA Charity directly with the women who have been making the bags to ensure that as stakeholders in the TOTES FOR EVERYONE project, they know that the making of each bag is effecting a positive change for themselves and others too!
FARA is launching this latest tote collection online and in selected shops in Fashion Revolution week. Charity shops are part of the movements identified #Haulternative consumer choices - making #2hand a first choice is becoming more common with more people reporting in social media, on a daily basis, sharing their latest #FARAfinds and charity shop treasurers.
As producers FARA is so proud to say we know exactly #whomadeyourbags and to share that with you. Like Ewelina:
“I admit that I was pushed into working in the unit and had no real interest in sewing and never thought I’d be any good, but the teachers were really good at guiding me through that i began to really look forward to coming each day. After only a short time I couldn’t believe how much i had progressed and, through the guidance and support of the staff, I have decided to set up my own business using a website portal such as Esty upon release and am so excited that I am already working on my product range so i am in a position to start as soon as I am released.”
By buying a TOTES FOR EVERYONE bag you too can be a part of making this change ‘totes’ for everyone..