Change the world one pair of pants at a time, buying them from a democratic welfare state like the UK.
It's possible to buy all the parts, including raw microfibre, made in the UK, but there isn't a cheap range of welfare state pants in the shops. This site might help.
The three titles above - shopping, jobs, and poverty bonds, are links to separate pages. This shopping page lists some sites where you can buy pants made in a democratic welfare state; the jobs page lists some ideas for reducing UK poverty apart from the welfare state, and the bonds page shows accounts of previous companies that sold poverty bonds.
Some of these sell their own packed and labelled upmarket styles wholesale as well. There might be the odd pants wholesaler with one or two UK-made styles, but it's rare.
a few names popped-up but there are probably better lists on the net, such as the first Kissmedeadly one. I have a vague notion of lacy femenine stuff being lingerie.
Expect a few non-replies, waiting times of a month or more from order and delivery of any materials to making, and expect the minimum order to apply to something that they are used to making. I got-by on "what's your minimum order for a design that you are used to making?" with shoes. Very careful reading of any information about what the company makes and does is good for both sides, along with a mention of paying before delivery and perhaps a willingness to visit the factory and see what they make, if it's cheap to reach. Some firms like HBfactory.co.uk have information on their web sites to help new wholesale buyers, as does the US site http://fashion-incubator.com/free-access-to-the-entrepreneurs-guide/ has a good textbook and web information about buying as as possibly does Letsmakithere
Governments and voters can reduce poverty in any country. This system for ending poverty is well-known, but sometimes forgotten or taken for granted - particularly point four which is undermined by lobbying from multinationals and their politicians, such as Nike who sponsor Centre for Sustainable Fashion, "secretariat" for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Ethics and Sustainability in Fashion at Westminster.
Cut poverty with National Insurance, public or private, but compulsory so that everyone has the same costs when competing for work. That's why it's called "national insurance" or "social insurance". This can pay for some healthcare and maybe pensions and a little unemployement pay. As a government sorts-out poverty, point two follows.
The same thing with a subsidy from taxes like VAT, so that everyone in a country gets the benefits, whether or not they do enough formal work with paid contributions. This helps everyone, because there's less pressure on young mothers to have lots of children in case most die and there is nobody to look after the parents in old age. The birth rate falls. The system is also cheap to run because there is no back-office working-out who has paid what contributions. ( By the way there is no agreed jargon for this stuff; "national insurance" and then "social insurance and allied services" including a "national health service" were the first titles in the UK, with the vague "welfare state" catching-on a bit later as a government PR phrase. National Insurance was the name for services like unemployment pay on the insurance system, and National Assistance was the name for some of the rest, while schools and hospitals were simply funded out of taxes like prisons and police - the "national" in "national health service" meant "not some dodgy council scheme at their institution" )
A tariff round countries that have similar systems could keep-out sweatshop goods. The tariff on clothes and machines imported to the EU is a bit like this.
The tariff could be a fixed perecentage set for years at a time, like the current EU tariffs, or it could change once a year if country's systems become more similar, giving an incentive for governments to do the right thing. Maybe a tariff could have a lower rate for fairtrade cotton than for other cotton, which would do a lot for Indian farmers. For lack of better jargon, that last bit is called a social clause in a tariff, or sanctions in an emergency. Social clauses were suggested to sweatshop governments in the early 70s and so unpopular with them that the system never caught-on. People who live in those countries have to suffer the consequences as do those who's products they compete-with.
There's an argument that buying goods from poor countries makes them richer and solves the problem. Unfortunately this didn't happen in Bangladesh, which got a special zero tariff on goods to the EU for that reason. That's what UK government means by a trade deal. By the time of the Rana Plaza collapse, it turned-out that textile workers' wages were falling while clothes orders were rising. Either the population kept rising faster and faster, or the money didn't trickle-down to the factory floor, or both.
Nobody wants massive tariffs, but somebody has to buy the goods and services made in a welfare state rather than in an sweatshop country. An obscure option is a conditional tariff, usually called a tariff with a social clause, which promises a lower tariff if conditions are met. So the thing could be reviewed each year and the tariff between the EU and India could fall if Indians get taxed for healthcare, secondary schools, pensions, and whatever reduces Indian poverty.
The choice can be partly a private one. People can feel good about the products of a welfare state, just people feel good about certain brands or products that look good. It helps if someone explains the benefits of goods made in a welfare state, and that's the point of this web page. Governments might sponsor something similar if they want, just as the UK government potato levy funds the potato marketing baord, and there have been similar schemes for the Cheese Bureau -see below - explaining the health benefits of cheese, or the Empire Markeing Board, explaining the benefits of buying from countries without a welfare state. The problem with public support is that it can be chipped-away over the years. Companies which import sweatshop goods pay less. They can afford the type of advertising and distribution to which buyers become accustomed; the thought of buying online straight from a factory with a wonky web site doesn't come to mind. So some kind of public support for the idea of buying from a welfare state would do a lot to reduce poverty. Maybe a trade association called "Ethical Fashion Forum" supported by government favours and small grants, but often doing the opposite of what the current group have done.
The "Make Poverty History" campaign referred to a vague idea called "Trade Justice" that nobody could agree-on.
People who signed-up to make poverty history had no idea they were signing-up to reduce the welfare state in the UK with unfair competition (or if they did, it's hard to find a reference for that - they didn't say so).
Spicker.uk from Paul Spicker has free textbooks about the obscure subject of social policy - obscure because mainstream economics courses exclude it for some reason. Just by chance I know the reason. I studied economics at a department run by Professor Les Fishman, who's great achievement was to hold-down a US teaching job at the same time that the Todd and McArthy Committees would help hound-out non-republicans from teaching jobs. He held-down the job just long enough to emmigrate to the UK after admitting to a visitor that most teaching was out fo a textbook. The textbook - Samuelson - avoided all mention of a welfare state. It was published and used after a similar book in a slighlty different style was boycotted by private funders of US universities. Everyone knew that there were limits to what could be written in an economics textbook without another boycott. Paul Samuelson was a convenient textbook writer because he didn't believe there was a category of "government and compulsory insurance", as Companies House puts it in the list of categories. Samuelson wrote a journal article trying to define the public sector without any reference to insurance-like services, which you have to pay-into of claim-from over your life time. At the end of the journal article, he put-in a little remark about "swedish burocrats" who he knew were busy introducing a welfare state at the time.
JRF.org.uk/solve-uk-poverty from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation looks promising
An economy needs other trades apart from welfare-related ones. Pantstopoverty.org.uk/jobs.html is just a single page of ideas that was here and worth putting online. It has a slight hosiery and lingerie connection, just as the pantrepreneur project was supposed to improve the economy with pants.
Anyone reading this might wonder what about the people in India who work in organic cotton production in a clan area, or at the hi-tek Armstrong Mills. You could ask them. Some of them are on Linkedin if you search for Pants to Poverty. I think the answer is as above: India needs more social insurance. People in the UK and their government can try to build a clause into tariffs so that countries with a good social insurance system get good access to the market. That's a much better way to help, particularly for Bangladedish which has a special 0% tariff to trade with the EU, supposedly to increase development during a time when wages have fallen in bangladeshi garment factories.
Anyone reading this might wonder why some people who are government ministers or expert comentators have never heard of national insurance, while others have. It's like the question of why ex-pats from the UK seem so different when they come back, as though they lost all interest in things like the NHS at the lost property office at Heathrow. The split between different peoples' opinions goes back years and lifetimes. Even before the British Empire included India, people in the UK resented wealthy men from the Honourable East India Company coming back with rather right-wing ideas and rather a lot of money. During the empire - that's 1850s-1940s - there was a huge difference between how social insurance schemes were brought-in by government in the UK from 1911 onwards, and not brought-in in India. There were benefits as well from globalisation - Indian jute and cotton were cheaper than European fibres; European experts set-up branches of Dundee jute mills in Bengal. But unfair competition from Bangal reduced the wages of jute workers in Dundee, because social insurance schemes were not talked about in Bengal. Bengali's main chance of success lay in having large numbers of children, which reduced the wages further for the next generation.
The next generation might have got a change to study development studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, which supplied a lot of recruits to the colonial service and later to the aid agencies. Lecturers there continue the tradition. I asked one. She still thinks that it's up to the Bangladeshi government to introduce the start of a welfare state, as though that were easy when other countries don't, or in the interest of the kind of people who run government in poorer countries and do very well out of it.
Coming back up to date, if you want to buy organic cotton from Zameen.org, I haven't checked the price and minimum order but they look a good organisation to encourage. They have a blog https://zameenorganic.wordpress.com/ suggesting some companies that use their cotton, usually not making pants in a welfare state as far as I can see
Pantstopoverty.com : was a poverty-reduction scheme backed by UK taxpayers with free PR and promotion from government agencies
To reduce poverty as a government, the system that works is National Insurance, a welfare state, tariff protection, public support. To increase poverty: do the opposite. Pants to Poverty did the opposite for ten years or more, at some cost to UK taxpayers and huge cost to anyone trying to sell UK-made underwear.
Pants to Poverty were traders who got government favours and publicity, rather than a direct part of government. As traders, their choices were where to buy and how to try to sell. They chose to reverse each of the steps as much as any trader can.
The founder now presents Pants as an "experiment", on his linkedin profile, so there were experimental results and findings.
Pants & National Insurance then a welfare state stop poverty. Pants don't.
National insurance and the welfare state are important. National Insurance has been compulsory in parts of Germany since the 1850s; this is not something that needs further experiment but the Department for International Development and economists are not yet aware of the solution 150 years later, or else they are stupid and dodgy, at the expense of taxpayers in the UK and recipients of aid in countries where the Department for Internatioal Development works. Part of the problem could be the teaching of economics that influences centre-right politicians such as Hilary Blair or Patricia Hewett to undermine the welfare state and companies in their own constituencies. Without any sign of remorse or awareness of the problem.
Making pants on the back of the planet is expensive; it's easier to make them closer to customers
Production is easier if it is near customers so that un-expected orders of size and style and colour can be catered-for without a time-lag of months on the boat from a factory on the back of the planet. Even if the system runs to plan and everyone chooses the predicted size colour and style, these are months of borrowed money tied-up in pants at a price of say £4.50 a go, paid in advance, at whatever rate of interest is paid or the money could have got. The more of the process can be done close to the customers, the easier it is. For example there is a pants factory in Gwent. If a mail order pants business set-up in the same town, within bicycling distance, that would save a lot of transport costs and stockholding costs. It might make sense to make a few pairs of pants in the mail order office, and be able to dye them as well, just to save making a minimum order each time something runs low they run-out. The trials, the top-ups, and the unusual sizes are hardest to manage if they're not made in the office.
Do not grant taxpayers' money to people who want to put UK taxpayers out of work.
There are plenty of forms to promote equality and diversity among people who claim taxpayers' grants. There should be something similar to say "don't put us out of work with out money". It seems odd to say, but the founder of Pants to Poverty had a thing against UK manufacturing which he never chose to explain - just to state. It's still written non a page of the Ethical Fashion Forum web site.
So the grant was over £20,000 of taxpayers' money, a lot of low-paid graft from the founder staff and interns, and so many other favours from people all-over that could have gone to UK manufacturing. There were also losses of endangered-speces jobs in UK manufacturing: that is part of the equation that says whether Pants to Poverty was a disaster.
Pants warmed-up the market for fairtrade cotton even while google searches were falling. If Sainsbury's or Lidle experiment with a fairtrade cotton T shirt, and lots of people buy it, or even keep the fairtrade banana in stock, that could be a result of Pants' work including all the internships and low-paid speaking engagements and experiments in PR.
Pants was an odd organisation, a bit like the Trump presidential campaign or Kids Company; it used a lot of mis-information. One of their techniques was to present themselves as something they were not: a commercial firm that happened to help set-up a trade association and a charity. At the same time there was a prime minister who now wants to donate some of his surprising wealth to the cause of explaining why globalisation is good for us commoners, and a London Development Agency with offices for small arts-related grants that were run by temps because nobody else would put-up with the political interference.
The Pants to Poverty office in Bethnal Green Road was lent cheaply to them by a public-funded organisation, and shared with a trade association. This was run by and for an ad agency that specialised in giving the Pants appearance of public support, or "social proof" as the agency put it. It was a big supplier to government departments like Defra, when the minister was Hilary Benn MP, former minister for the Department for International Development, who were early funders of similar projects in India.
News editors helped by presenting Pants, the trade association, and some of its fictional other members as "the industry body for ethical fashion", often appearing together as guest speakers to swap ideas, and government departments helped by organising exhibitions. Later, another trade association of colleges for teenagers helped by using Pants as part of their A-level syllabus including work on underwear stalls. A good idea, but not a great education in accounting as the business had ceased to publish accounts by this point and teeneagers were lead to believe that they were helping a charity. The charity work existed before the pants company and was backed by philanthropists, according to Linkedin. It did not report detail to the public such as the teenagers who tried to help - only the legal minimum accounts or less and recieved very little money from the commercial business, just as the founder and staff probably recieved very little.
The trade association had a fictional market as well as fictional members and fictional rent. Google search terms reveal that more specific markets like fairtrade, vegan, made in UK, and organic exist but that "ethical fashion" is a made-up term that's searched-for alongside fair trade. Terms like vegan or made in the UK are much more popular than the people who appear on expert panels and present themselves as pundits for this trade association. Similar lobbyists tend to state that UK manufactueres no longer exist, or that they are worse than asian.
This is what the money where the £20,000 used for:
- Promoting goods from a country with next to no national insurance for healthcare, pensions, girl's secondary schools, or whatever else reduces poverty.
- Or welfare state - the firm says which states in India the cotton comes from, but gives no other detail. Just a picture of a man on crutches. People in formal regular work have a hospital insurance scheme in India, and the fairtrade farming scheme that supplied cotton for Pants to Poverty had a similar thing for self-employed farmers, but neither is likely to help ex-employees or ex farmers. I guess the man on crutches would rather have an NHS than one more wholesale lingerie order.
- Saying stuff that doesn't make sense about tariffs. Ethical Fashion Forum, the subsidised and rather fake trade association that shared an office, also promotes points 3-4 and discourage 1-2. Oddly enough the trade association has written the odd press release calling for tax breaks on "ethical fashion", so they seem to believe in the idea, but something stops them saying that there should be a tax on sweatshop goods to start with.
- Discouraging public support for products made in the UK and welfare states by saying things that don't make sense about it
On the other hand, the firm did use fairtrade organic cotton-wool which they think makes-up. They make other statements without evidence on public accounts, such as donating to a seed bank and providing training that might have been helpful.
Plenty of people think the same as Pants to Poverty directors. To exaggerate: -
- everyone in the UK is rich & everyone in India is poor.
- trade between the two always helps both: it said so in an early nineteenth century textbook
- India doesn't need to a welfare state any more than the UK needs to protect one; wealth just trickles-down so people can buy all they need with a rising tide of wealth. (They don't consider the need to have lots of children if you're very poor, or the history of wealth not trickling-down.)
- Indian cotton-wool wiped-out production of fabric from plant stalk fibres in Europe over a hundred years ago, so it makes sense to wipe-out the rest of textile manufacturing in europe too, including cotton alternatives like microfibre and endangered speces like UK underwear manufacturers. (Microfibre is made in Hull out of wood pulp on a large scale and can be spun into fabric in Nottingham; it's an established industry.)
- Britain mainly sells great intellectual property, and great services, such as banking, which are of so good that nobody else will ever compete. Meanwhile those who aren't getting richer can work for those like ourselves who are, by providing services such as being our servants. Don't tell the voters because some of us have constituencies in Leeds or Leicester where clothing and footwear jobs are running-down by the month, because the ordinary people don't understand these things. That's why we can use a phrase like "ethical fashion" without thinking it rude to other clothes manufacturers such as Remploy, who are not in the same category.
Fight Club comes to mind.
- British goods are sometimes made by people with some really really bad jobs. This point of view is often put in writing, in a format that seems to be photocopied from US corporate handouts full of factual mistakes.
Bad jobs like being a PR intern at Futerra, or the most insecure social work or college lectureship jobs teaching development studies, or working in a lot of restaurants. Or fake-secure jobs where dirty tricks are used to remove people. They forget to mention the health services, education, state pensions and the other benefits available to everyone in the UK - even interns, temp care asistants, fruit pickers, temp college lecturers, people who work for MPs, and machinists. Machinists might have a better time than some of the other groups. If Rana Plaza were hidden in the UK, someone would notice the cracks in the walls and do something about it; someone would treat the injured on the NHS and the disabled would get benefits. There's also a better protection from the police than in India and a much better voting system than in China. In theory there is even employment law in the UK as well and a load of rights outside of work.
What's odd is for these people to raid a ministry budget in order to preach these views, for example with the advert on the right that the Cabinet Office has now withdrawn from their twitter account: "Fashion is Great Britain: Fairtrade cotton pants to poverty underwear made in India: gov.uk/ukti" A few of these people write the economics textbooks, run the ministries and edit the news, but there can't be many of them because they didn't buy enough pants. The problem is that they seem to encourage each other in a kind of shared group-think. Colleges teach people with better-off parents, often from countries with no welfare state; they don't want to offend anybody by suggesting a tariff. Nike sponsors an office at London College of Fashion working with big fashion brands that like globalisation - one of their professors helped unpaid at Pants' charity - while Deloitte senior staff don't know or care about a welfare state but want a show of corporate social responsibility which might undermine it. News editors agree, as did government ministers in the 2000s and the regional government people who promoted London Fashion Week and Rich Mix Cultural Foundation, the Pants landlord.
Pants to Poverty Jobs
This line in UK Trade and Investment accounts is quite recent: "UK Trade and Investment Programme, 06/05/2014, Other Professional Services-Gateway, Export Vouchers (Autumn Statement), Trade Development - Service Delivery, PANTS TO POVERTY LTD, transaction number 38653, £3000, E1 6LA ,GRANT"
If you google the defunct pants companies and Tower Hamlets, where they an office subsidised out of taxes they seldom paid, you find pages about Tower Hamlets Poverty. The mask slips. Weavers' Ward, in which factory space was converted for agencies like Pants to Poverty, is a place where children grow-up and 49.6% did so in poverty according to one of the top sites on the linked search, using data from End Child Poverty. Manufacturing employment there is now lower than average for England, and that's associated with high housing and workshop prices, but it has fallen very quickly from 4.5% in the June 2005 census to 1.8% in 2013.Of the people who have a chance to claim job seekers' allowance, nearly three thousand say they're looking for basic sales jobs including shop work and as many again want office jobs. After them, as you'd expect, a proportion want to work with things or with people. The headings for working with things are in bold, below, and hidden in the "elementary trades" is a number of sewing machinists.
The companies based at Rich Mix Cultural Foundation had nothing to offer the under-employed of Tower Hamlets, despite all the favours and subsidies given to Pants by UK taxpayers via public sector organisations such as promoting the UK fashion college that won't even let them use its library, and diverting their Business Link funding to fund a session from this bunch. The building itself was knocked-down and built-up again with vast subsidy from London Development Agency money in the 2,000s including an initial £3m from London Development Agency and more from the Millenium Commission. The building's occupants continue to claim grants.
Tower Hamlets London Unemployed 2,980 31.4% 58,310 29.5% Sales Occupations Elementary 1,450 15.3% 24,225 12.2% Administration and Service Occupations 1,125 11.8% 21,360 10.8% Administrative Occupations 555 5.8% 15,675 7.9% Elementary Trades, Plant and Storage Related Occupations 445 4.7% 0 8,735 4.4% Caring Personal Service Occupations 370 3.9% 0 7,620 3.9% Customer Service Occupations 295 3.1% 6,695 3.4% Transport and Mobile Machine Drivers and Operatives 255 2.7% 2,345 1.2% Textiles, Printing and Other Skilled Trades 250 2.6% 6,020 3.0% Culture, media and Sports Occupations 210 2.2% 4,570 2.3% Secretarial and related Occupations
quoted indirectly from Source: Office for National Statistics (ONS): NOMIS claimant count by sought occupation, August 2013
Other data quoted indirectly from Skillfast notes rapid decline in employment and low pay for sewing machinists during the time Pants operated
Feedback from East End Manufacturing - a new clothing company reporting to shareholders - was that sewing machinists were initially hard to find for a new company using advertising alone, but that the problem was soon solved as word went round. Training exists. (The difficulty when the firm closed again was that customers didn't give enough notice of decisions to buy or take business away, and didn't value UK production as a long-term sales point; they were more interested in short lead times.)
For example, it would have been nice to have appropriate adult education available to people who were new to the trade, like web design or clothes manufacturing, as it wasn't available commercially. That's the kind of thing that London Development Agency of Business Link could have organised for next to nothing; there were already adult education classes in London but there weren't the right ones for business. London Development Agency had a budget in the high millions. Decent training could have helped Pants to Poverty among others, who appeared to use an agency for Wordpress and Shopify updates instead of learning to do it themselves. Decent training could have helped Pants to Poverty get some of their stock made in the UK, maybe working-out a way to use organic fairtrade fibre and helping people in India more efficiently. UK Trade and Investment, which partly subsidises London Fashion Week, could have helped promote UK-made products to people in the UK if it had wanted to. It could have promoted Remploy. It didn't. Pants retweeted a Cabinet Office image that said "Fashion is Great. British Fashion: made in India".
Local production would help pants' aim of transparency, which they urged others to follow. Pants had a commercial interest to get clothing made-up as they went along with minimal transport costs; it would save them a huge amount of money spent on forward-ordering of stock. If they hadn't let-down the under-employed of the UK, they could have got a far simpler supply-chain and borrowed far less money; they wouldn't have had to let-down creditors and customers and got visits from Tower Hamlets Trading Standards department.
Pants to Poverty Charity & company numbers 1136335 and 06445650
The /bond.html page has more.
An amount might have been paid torwards a seed bank or education, beyond what the fair trade premium on the price of cotton fibre already paid Chetna Organic and its suppliers to do. Or not. Dispite the stated aim of the charity "relief of poverty and the improvement of the conditions of life in socially and economically disadvantaged communities"
The accounts aren't written to provide evidence or detail, dispite attracting donations from a sponsored trip up snowden or being used as teaching material for teenage business students and getting government favorus like the advert above. Dispite the stated aim of the chairty to "advnace the education of the public in subjects relating to sustainable development ... promote stidy and research in such subjects provided that the useful results ... are disseminated to the public at large". Maybe these points were cut-and-pasted from an environmental charity because they don't quite fit with attempts to reduce poverty in India - it looks as though some of the usual words were just used in whatever order seemed to make-up some sentences.
Poverty Bond pitch & accounts are on their own page
Insead the companies subsidised companies begged and borrowed tens of thousands of pounds to pay for advance orders from Armstrong Mills. This is a hi-tec firm on the other side of the world that benefits from operating outside a welfare state: a glut of poverty labour and low regulation.
At first glance, a factory in a sweatshop economy could be cheaper than a UK factory and look like a good employer, compared to the others in the area, but there are extra costs.
If pants ran-out of a size and style, Pants to Poverty had to wait for the next batch to come. If they didn't want to run-out, they had to sit on cartons of stock or order rushed minimum orders by air mail. Pants to Poverty, like Ethical Fashion Forum in the same office, had a reason not to get undies made in Tower Hamlets or Leicester or in any kind of welfare state. Both firms were part of a lobby group for imports, subsidised by things like Development Awareness Grants and Dfid grants to a trade association in Bangladesh that passed the money back to Ethical Fashion Forum. In 2005 several public sector organisations held exhibitions of goods sold by Ethical Fashion Forum members like Pants to Poverty, even though Ethical Fashion Forum's web site cautions against buying British goods on ethical grounds. The Crafts Council, The British Fashion Council and the V&A Museum all helped - in fact Google still shows a definition from the V&A if you search for "ethical fashion".
Ethical Fashion Definition on Google Trends
Google Trends gives another view. You can see that the term "ethical fashion" was invented about 2005 - about the time of government exhibitions of goods with the sname name following the G8 summit and a policy of trade replacing aid.
Some searches show a USA search term, un-connected to the UK at first, but similar searches show a London search term. From memory of past searches, "ethical fashion show Berlin" and "ethical fashion show Paris" were event dates that matched peak searches. This particular screenshot shows a lot of US interest, but a more detailed graph of UK searches in 2004-8 shows them nearly all in London and associated with the term "ethical fashion forum", where Pants was based.
I believe the phrase was pushed by a government PR agency called Futerra, after first being used by the a UN trade associaiton called the International Trade Commission on a project in Kenya. Futerra adopted the term and promoted it through something called the Ethical Fashion Forum that they set-up. Just as J. Walter Thompson invented "the Ploughman's Lunch" and "The Cheese Bureau" in the 1950s, sponsoring lavish ads about the health benefits of cheese for a group of government cheese promotion agencies in Canada the UK and Australia. "Ethical Fashion Forum", which is something like the Cheese Bureau, is controlled by a director of Futerra and as many members as can be found, starting with clients invented by Futerra such as a fictional dress importer called "Juste". It's hard to see where ministerial decisions create something, and where a group of people at Ethical Fashion Forum who know the system and exchange favours carry it on, but this group certainly got a vast amount of press coverage for the departmental line, and certainly excluded other points of view (although anyone can pay them money as a member). They also had relatively little to say - forced to pretend to be a trade association but to please their advertising agency backers.
Poverty Claims & Development Studies students
"Pants to Poverty says it supports 5,000 farmers", according to The Guardian's final damning article. "Working directly with 5,000 farmers in 1,000 villages", the firm's director adds in interviews, or "6,000 farmers" in one description. In one video he impresses a list of things that he can do in three years and the impressive number of people already "lifted out of poverty" and children "into school", all done by using products from a country without free healthcare or secondary schools, and avoiding products from a country that does have free healthcare and secondary schools.
The claims were clearer than the firm Juste, run by trumpeted as a co-founder of Ethical Fashion Forum and run by award-winning archetect Tamsin Lejeune. The company never traded. It was a college project.Tamsin Lejeune is not a qualified architect. Videos of Ethical Fashion Forum events often show someone from Futerra Communications in the background.
It's easy to get confused between what a basics fairtrade T shirt or banana in Aldi or Sainsburys does for farmers, possibly 5,000 of them in 1,000 villages, that these more expensive T shirts don't do. Samples of the special 3D accounts don't tell me. If I buy a faitrade banana at a newsagent, the newsagent doesn't say "I support 5,000 banana farmers in 1000 villages", and ask if I want to do an internship, nor insult other newsagents who sell wicked colonialist apples with a load of half-truths and PR done by interns, along with claims that British apples don't exist any more or that terrible things happen to UK apple farmers in hidden sweatshop orchards. There might be a UK-grown apple on the same shelf, with much better claim to reduce poverty because, obviously, it includes the price of a welfare state. That's why badly-run countries need a special certification scheme called fairtrade which isn't available to farmers in Europe. The facts are clear and there is no need for confusion; confusion is a deliberate attempt to decieve.
Pants didn't just use interns like this one from a SOAS development studies course and others recruited through Enternships or a charity next door. They invited A-level students to take part in a kind of Apprentice programme of trying to run a pants business:
Some of the students were confused and wrote that it was a charity on a facebook page, or that "the farmers make the pants" on a video.They were under pressure to sell underwear (to friends and family but that wasn't stated) and get facebook likes. "we found that 30% of sales in the [sales] were coming from "other" which was unidentified and where all the profit was (and in fact break even....)" came from, said a potential investor. There was a prize trip, carefully photographed, with a blog. Presumably the winners paid to visit India or worked for next to nothing to sell pants at festivals, so this constant pressure to enthuse is spared to those who buy a basic fairtrade T shirt or a fairtrade banana at a newsagent.
"The company is ground breaking in its business model, marketing, and financing, and has successfully raised several rounds of funding for growth through crowd funding, the Pants Bond, and Pants for Life.", according to Ethical Fashion Forum, but company 06445650 has no account of that money or unused gift cards paid-back. An office junior "Assisted Nexia Smith & Williamson audit team for audit of 2008, 2009 & 2010 accounts" according to linkedin, and an accountant, Nishan Dias, joined as director later-on, so, if the accounts gave a true and fair view, there would be no great cost in getting an external accountant to take the risk of signing the accounts to say so. There was probably a signed copy of the accounts in a desk drawer. Ramsden and Dias chose not to give an external opinion to bond-buyers via Companies House, after taking donated legal advice and help from Coutts Bank in preparing their bond.
"The company incurred trading losses", say the directors' accounts; "
incometurnover was insufficient to cover ... expenditure.". They didn't write "income"; they wrote "turnover" instead, as though there was no way to trade below a certain turnover as other people do.
"The company ... will not need any additional funding. " "However this is dependant on the company's customers paying for stock. Should this not occur ... confident that funding is available from a wide range of individuals". "During the year, the company obtained £27,500 of 'crowd funding'... unsecured .... at 10% ... due to be repaid on 30th of June 2010. As the funding was not repaid ... the holders of the funding had the right to convert ... to equity equivalent to 27.5% of the enlarged share capital. " "Stock and other loans - £57,752....bear interest of between ~24% & ~35%. The loans were repayable in the year. In the event the interest has been waived."
Linkedin confirms the directors' statement that they needed a minimum turnover. Thirty-three CVs contain "at pants to poverty" on the last search, with other linkedin members posting CVs from Indian factories, and in the UK from consultancies, ad agencies, photographic agencies, and design agencies. There is a list of job titles on the /bond.htnl page. Some of the jobs were short-term or unpaid, but admin costs were more than the cost of sales. Their system was to concentrate on sales and hype, designed to divert people from other spending options including British underwear, Primark underwear, no underwear, old underwear, advertised brands like Calvin Klein, or even Sainsbury's Basics fairtrade T shirts. Company 06445650 ran from 2007-2015 and has an unsatisified county judgement against it- number A6QG6852 - for £902 since 28th of July 2014. A likely creditor would be the invoice finance firm that still has a charge over the old company.
Waste in the supply chain
"With no external funding, our tiny underwear brand has mobilised a global network", Ramsden said. "We are part of the first generation of businesses that realise that the worlds resources are finite", and he was right about resources. He used a lot of external funding and resources like goodwill, and he used them till they ran-out. The cynical label is "grant artist".
Charity funders Tudor Trust and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation have funded a few schemes based at the same Rich Mix building, using words like "ethical fashion", but have tired of it. Their trustees question whether they are doing more harm than good. "austerity has meant that getting funding for our kind of work is increasingly difficult" - writes a charity that used to manage Pants to Poverty interns in the same building -"hard to make a case for this work with funders who are driven by assured targets and outcomes". "The rise of student fees mean young people face finishing university with massive debts, or have to choose not to go at all. Austerity policies have meant cuts to vital youth services, benefit clampdowns and an ever-dwindling number of decent jobs, especially entry-level jobs. Life for young people is becoming increasingly tough. And with that, having the time and energy to participate in the kind of programmes The Otesha Project used to run has become much harder for young people, especially those who are less privileged." "Like often criticised unpaid internships". Every year the pants company stayed open, it tried to use up more resources from public sector organisations, from private charities doners and volunteers, and from consumers or investers.
- Public money like Development Awareness Grants was used for the trade association funding and events in schools. The EFF lobby group was funded for projects like "Funding Spotlight" by Dfid to advise people on importing while Business Link paid it to give similar advice about trading in the UK, with Ben Ramsden a paid speaker at most of these events. Public sector favours helped in 2005 - free exhibitions at public galleries with PR officers (The V&A and the Crafts Council among others), and mentions in public-funded course books for fashion students. In contrast, when the Imperial War Museum did an exhibition called Camouflage, with posters all over London showing a camouflage boot, I tried to get them to stock my camouflage boots in their gift shop. The manager couldn't be arsed to give me a meeting and asked colleagues to check that I wasn't taking photos of her exhibition instead of buying official postcards. So that's what happens if you ask a public sector agency for business and you don't have ministerial support.
The buzzword in 2005 was "ethical fashion", led by the Department for International Development with help from London Development Agency among others. There were "Benefits recieved as an incentive to sign an operating lease" at a landlord called Rich Mix Cultural Foundation that had vast grants from London Development Agency for no apparent reason, partly spent in knocking-down their building and building it up again during the years up to 2005. Presumbly the firm had to pay something for the rent, even if it was subsidised by the taxpayer: "rent is expected to be adjusted to the prevailing market rate", it says in the accounts, and Ethical Fashion Forum, who shared an office, moved-out when they discovered the market rent in 2016 as did the charity that provided interns to promote pants.
"Ethical Fashion" was the buzzword of public spending in 2005, in a way that was never easy to track. Nowadays, government web sites and transparency have got better and we can see the how departments can be co-ordinated to support a cause like "social enterprise", this time led by the Cabinet Office with help from the Department for Culture Media and Sport, including a British Council promotion of Pants to Poverty, who are apparently a social enterprise as well as ethical fashion and innovative education.
Meanwhile, the public sector lost tax revenue from clothing manufacturers that closed and had to pay benefits to employees who lost their jobs. Some of them probably parents of children in schools that ran campaigns for pants to poverty. People in Tower Hamlets lost a piece of workshop space that could have been let to an employer such as a clothes factory. And the public sector gained no tax from the firm it spawned. Even in the one year when the company declared a profit, it didn't pay any tax towards all these grants obtained.
- Private sector favours to the firm itself like volunteer's or intern's time, recruitment and management of interns via a university -SOAS - working with the Santander Bank SME placement award. And more interns at the Otesha charity with its funders, using Otesha educational materials, and more interns again through Enternships. An un-specified grant from Unlt was probably linked to lottery funding - somewhere on the boundary between public and private funding. The organisation has declined to state how much it gave.
The Gazelle Group of Colleges tried to manage A-level students competitions to sell pants unpaid. Hogan Lavells donated legal advice on how to sell a dodgy bond to unsuspecting investers. Juno did a cheap special-rate web site on Wordpress. Bright One (funded by the Big Lottery Fund) offererd cheap and volunteer PR help from more volunteers and interns. Deloitte sponsorship of a pop-up shop designed and themed by Ollie Tiong and Ellie Ellis-Jones, advice from the Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneers scheme, charity grants from Unltd who are connected to the Big Lottery Fund, and public loans to the Pants Bonds, gift voucher scheme or Pants for Life. Some charitable trusts funded something called a "Global Leadership Award", as you do, at the "Sustainable Fashion Acadamy". The organisations at Rich Mix related to ethical fashion all did well out of Tudor Trust and Esmee Lauder Foundation who, according to Otesha Foundation, are less keen to fund now.
- Consumers' trust in ethical claims on clothes, and lenders' patience for risky soft loans. There are even reports of Indian or African suppliers getting sick of training schemes in fairtrade organic 3D accounting, but I don't know if they're specific to this firm.
As a result of this loss of trust, and the perception that ethical clothing choices are about £15 pants and gap years in India, This firm might have shrunk the market for similar products or lowered awareness of the issues. There have certainly been a lot of closures of UK factories during Pant's time in the market.
A new company called Pants to Poverty 09566221 was registered once the previous one lapsed, and continued to trade but filed no public accounts at all. Curiously, it didn't update the web site which had always broken the law by failing to state the company number anyway. The same stock and job ads showed month after month. The last archived web pages show it selling year-long subscriptions to buy future pants. "Trading Standards visited its London office following a number of complaints from out-of-pocket shoppers, officers found it empty."."The buildings owners say the trader left about a month ago with no forwarding details, says a spokesman for Tower Hamlets council", according to a Guardian article on 29th of March 2016. Ethical Fashion Forum have also moved and the landlord returns mail as "not known"; the cheap lease ceased. Flint Development Group of Hastings have helped at least one former shopper out of goodwill, and will present Ben Ramsden as a judge in a competition between local charity shops, but state no formal liablity. This is a pity, because the damage done to all the UK suppliers who have closed in the last 10 years under a PR blitz from the likes of Pants to Poverty is large, and these firms are very seldom replaced when they close. Some have expensive equipment like tubular weaving machines which would be very hard to replace, as are the skilled people involved, who get dispersed and demoralised. With a bit of encouragement they might even have bought some of the fair trade organic cotton wool that Ramsden is keen to promote.
A company called the Pi Foundation (no.07035546) had "grants" of £23,860 (but no obvious government grants or income ) and donations of £3,092 in 2009-10. 2008-9 was a good year with grant income of £53,000, and the director had another job at company 07586788 . There are also thousands of web references linking the firm to "awareness" and "transparency", as though Pants and Pi were an educational organisations, but accounts for the Pi foundation are hard to understand without more explanation. A new company 09826547 with a similar name was set-up in 2016. The nature if the business is to be disclosed in the next annual return - probably consultancy. The company claimed special skill in something called "accounting in 3D" that goes beyond profit and loss, but fails to state how much effect its buzz and column inches have no closing other lingerie companies like Remploy Uniforms, Who Made Your Pants? who made their products in the UK and closed about the same time. I quote two examples, but a fair proportion of Leicester has closed over the past few decades, with massive loss of jobs and skills due to low clothing sales. Even so, there are still plenty of clothes factories left open. A google street view of St Saviour's Road or Dorothy Road shows plenty of them, not yet closed by Ben Ramsden's consultancy efforts, and if he turns to promoting UK-made products he might help keep some of them open.
It would be nice to set-up a UK clothing brand with the same name, because UK-made clothing reduces poverty by paying-in to a welfare state. Unfortunately, Google Trends shows that not many people ever looked at the pantstopoverty.com web site. The hype was out of proportion to retail sales of £20,000 of stock through through the web site it in a good year.
An idea for this site would be to start selling whatever a UK factory already makes, hoping to buy by the dozen as part of a minimum order. When I bought the domain I thought there was still stuff from Manchester Hosiery available at M Holt wholesalers in Manchester, but both went bust last winter. There was a set of Unbranded Apparel stuff, made in Leicester from Indian fabric, available at a wholesaler last year but Unbranded Apparel have closed too. I had a very small crowdcube share in East End Manufacturing, who hoped to employ people in Tower Hamlets, but they closed after too many big shopkeepers moved orders to Turkey. Their problem was that firms like Pants to Poverty have muddled the market.
Minimum wholesale made-to-order would probably be something like 200 items or £300 for free delivery. One T shirt company - Sequin Designs - has quoted 600 pieces, but that seems a bit high. Fairtrade yarn or fabric could be used if economic; it would require larger orders. Another solution would be to use synthetics like microfibre or fibre-based yarn like nettle, and that would require a lot of turnover too. Meanwhile, there would be no need to borrow money from anyone, however quickly the business expanded.
Each time I've known of a shoe factory or a clothes factory that has to close, I've wondered whether a few stalls in a few markets could make the difference to selling a bit more and keeping some of the production capacity open. It turns-out that the Gazelle Group of FE colleges has a scheme rather like this, run so that groups of teenagers can get experience running a stall. Unfortunately they chose Pants to Poverty as a supplier, for example in Swansea near the Who Made Your Pants? factory which had to close about the same time because of lack of interest. If the Gazelle Group found some way to tweak the scheme, they could do a lot of good. The same applies to internships or work experience placements or any other scheme like that.
Something may appear here linking to ways to buy undies made in a democratic welfare state like the UK. The supply chains are very battered or broken and the firms in them are an endangered speces, so the chance of getting UK-made products with fairtrade organic cotton-wool in them are low; they're not the highest priority but if anyone knows how it could be done please get in touch
Some people will have found this web page while looking for another business called Pants to Poverty or Pants2poverty. If any information comes to light I might add it on a separate page. There is a new facebook page.
Some people will have found this wab page while looking for pants, boxer shorts, a sale, poverty reduction, altogether or in combination, or anything vaguely ethical. Searching for these things made in the UK is a good ethical option.