Bethany Williams presented her SS21 collection celebrating the ethos of the Magpie Project, an organisation she has been volunteering for and collaborating with since 2019. Newham-based Magpie Project works with children and mothers who are homeless or at risk of homelessness – 80% of whom have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). These children, like some 100,000 in the UK, live in destitution because their parents immigration status denies them the safety net of our welfare system. In 2017, the Project’s founder Jane Williams first became aware of the plight of these children in her community. She sought help from the local authority. She was told by councillors, service providers and commissioners that they had no duty to look after these vulnerable children because they were not in the right catchment area, they were not entitled to help, they were “not our children.” Jane couldn’t let this stand. She set up the Magpie Project to insist that – no matter what – every child has the right to support: they are all our children.
Bethany’s latest collection – aptly titled All Our Children – not only finds its inspiration in the stories and lives of the people she met and worked with there, but also the importance of family spirit in a child’s life. Through the process of designing the collection, Bethany included the families that are part of the Project via drawing workshops and playtime, and then teamed up with illustrator and artist Melissa Kitty Jarram on transforming children’s drawings into prints and patterns that became part of the final textiles. “This is a true co-production with the Magpie community and it’s really validating for these women who have previously been disbelieved and unheard, marginalised and ignored to be valued and listened to at the highest level,” explains Jane.
As always, 20% of the proceeds from the collection will go back to the Magpie Project.
Part of this outing is also a partnership with the Somerset House – Bethany and Melissa designed a flag that will be erected on top of the House in honour of All Our Children. In addition to the words, the vibrant design of a mother and child on the canvas references the Asafo flags of the Fante people in Ghana that traditionally symbolise warrior-like strength which is in this case assigned to the mothers of Magpie. Instead of a catwalk show, Bethany worked on the visuals with her friend and photographer Ruth Ossai. Shot in accordance with the Covid-19 government guidelines in front of Magpie’s Newham offices, the lookbook photographs and film capture five families wearing the garments.
The video is soundtracked with a poem specially written for this occasion by playwright and writer Eno Mfon. Powerful, moving and encouraging all of us to own up to our collective responsibility for the next generation, her words verbalise the mission of the collection and Bethany’s work at-large.
“They say it takes a village to raise a child, And I say, we are that village and they are all our children.”
Credits Creative Direction – Bethany Williams
Director, Photographer & Filmmaker – Ruth Ossai
Photography assistants: Luke Ossai, Ryan Connolly
Film and Editing – Lorraine Khamali Poet – Eno Mfon
Stylist – Tallulah Harlech
Illustrator– Melissa Kitty Jarram
Casting – Chloe Rosolek
Music Direction – Benji B MUA – Rebecca Davenport Knitwear – Alice Morell Evans
Footwear – Adidas and Helen Kirkum
Corsets – Rosie Evans
Bags – Stevan Saville
Text – Dino Bonačić
Communication – The Lobby London Production – Faye Scott-Maberley Models – Stephanie, Khalani, King, Mariam, Mohammed, Mesk, Melaz, Kemi, Leo, William, AJ, Akuac Team – Natalie Hodgson, Catriona Macleod, Megan St Clair
Special Thanks – The Magpie Project, Somerset House Trust, The British Fashion Council, Caroline Rush, Wool and the Gang, ISKO VITAL™+, Orto Print Studio, Molly Evans, Joseph Henry, Eric Williams, Karen Kewley, Natalie Hodgson, Catriona Macleod, Megan St Clair.