Bethany Williams Shares How Allyship With Marginalised Communities Inspired Her New Collection

Bethany Williams’s All Our Stories at London Fashion Week #LFW #LFWClearpay

Bethany Williams’s new collection, All Our Stories, is inspired by the designer’s work with The Magpie Project, a grassroots organization that supports women and children under five who are at risk of homelessness. All Our Stories highlights the stories of five of these families and photographs them wearing Williams’s richly textured garments made from textile and publishing waste. Some standout pieces from the collection are two corsets in collaboration with Welsh designer Rosie Evans, who made the corset boning out of fruit packaging waste. Six looks from All Our Stories were chosen for Williams’s submission for the 2021 International Woolmark Prize finals, and the designer spoke to POPSUGAR about how allyship with marginalized communities is the driving force of her work.

“It’s kind of about childhood stories,” Williams told POPSUGAR about her collection for London Fashion Week Digital. “How they transcend into your adult life and the importance in sharing power and value and sharing people’s stories.”

After recently winning the 2021 BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Award, Williams is planning how to thoughtfully invest her brand’s prize money. “We’ll be able to do so much with the award and with our community-led projects and the social manufacturing initiatives that we work with. We have a mentoring program, so being able to actually put some funds into that and developing more of an educational aspect of what we do and support it is really important for us. I’ve been very lucky to have mentors, so it’s really important for me that we share our industry knowledge with the next generation. And especially at a time like coming out of the pandemic, it’s a really difficult time for students and graduates, so we want to be able to support where we can.”

Williams does incredible work with centering the stories of women and marginalized families. But after such a socially transformative year of the pandemic, we wondered what other ways she understood allyship as a fashion designer and as a white person.

“We’ve kind of set up to make our work as inclusive as possible and support as many people as possible through our practice,” Williams said of her work with her community projects including The Magpie Project and Making for Change Poplar Works. “For me, it’s an integral part of what everyone should be doing. I really believe in this kind of work and making sure that we’re being as respectful and as responsible as possible. Through collaboration, it shows you how important it is to have people from all different aspects of life within projects to enrich the work and highlight important voices, stories, and messaging. My kind of experience working within the social manufacturing perspective is very much about how beneficial making can be, and how powerful it can be, and empowering it can be.”

She shared that the exclusivity she experienced when first entering the fashion world is not a feeling she wanted to replicate. Not feeling welcomed by the industry encouraged Williams to create a more inclusive space within it and invite her community project into that space. “I think that is really important for the next generation,” she said. “If you don’t feel included, you can produce your own space, you know what I mean? And invite your community to that space and make incredible work.”

While the pandemic has forced us to have more gratitude for our communities, it’s also inspired us to reflect on the ways we work and how we manage our mental health. For Williams, the digitization of London Fashion Week was an incredible gift. She appreciates that it allows her brand to open up its audience and make its work more accessible. “I didn’t like the whole doing a show and you can only invite this amount of people,” she said. “We’d obviously invite all of our community projects to those kinds of things, but it still was that kind of exclusivity, who’s sitting on which row, and that kind of aspect of it, which I feel like when you put something online, anyone can watch it and be a part of it.”

Williams also saw the slower pace of life that followed COVID-19 as a silver lining and an opportunity to reset, take a break, and make sure the brand’s social supply chain was not put under too much pressure. “It’s been a really needed thing for us to have some more time to really develop our product, develop tailoring, and be able to hone in on the collection. And I think we’re really proud of what we’re releasing.”

“Before the pandemic, I was traveling at least once a month and having to go to things in the evening for work as well,” Williams said. “I was just feeling completely burned out all the time and not having any time for myself at all. This [pandemic] has allowed me to feel a bit more grounded in my space and find a bit more time for myself.”

Twenty percent of the profits from Williams’s All Our Stories collection will be donated to The Magpie Project via The Bethany Williams Benevolent Fund. Keep reading to see the full collection.

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