Bethany Williams is a name that isn't only making waves within Menswear but within the realm of humanism and charity as well. Her debut collection Breadline explored social and enviromental issues and the connection between the two. Sustanibily and creating change within the arena of fashion but at the same time manifests change in the wider sense is the catalyst for Bethanys designs. 211 Girls had the pleasure of shooting her debut collection and getting more insight on the way she works and her upcoming projects in this instalment of 'Ladies Dressing the Boys'
211 Girls: As a female what drew you to menswear?
Bethany Williams: The shape and fit of menswear, as I wear a lot of mens clothing, I feel there is more to be explored through menswear.
211: What is your earliest memory of wanting to be a designer?
BW: Helping my mum make mine and my brother’s clothes and learning to knit with my nan. I was just intrigued with how yarn and fabric came together to create a garment.
211: Where or what do you mainly draw inspiration from?
BW: I find critical theory and the words of Jacques Rancière extremely inspiring. He is a philosopher who discusses art’s ability within the world to create political and social change. My family is a huge source of inspiration for me too, they are very creative, caring and concerned about people and the environment. This has had a massive influence on my practice and how I view the world. Their views and beliefs have provided the foundations, which my work is built upon. Before studying an MA in Menswear at London College of Fashion, I studied BA Critical Fine Art Practice at Brighton University. The course gave me my interest in critical theory, which is the backbone of my work.
I’ve always been interested in fashion and art but as a student I found it very difficult to combine both disciplines. I chose a degree in Fine Art but always felt I had to justify the use of garments within my practice. Through the creation of my BA project ROOFLESS, I was able to combine all my interests and I know this is what I want to do with my life. Help people, create art and design clothes.
211: Do you have any upcoming projects that you are working on? Will your future work have the same ethical value as Breadline?
BW: Creating change through fashion will always be a common thread in my work. I am currently working in collaboration with the UK based Charity Women in Prison, The London College of Fashions’ Prison Project and Zegna’s rehabilitation foundation in Italy called San Patrignano. I have been consulting for London College of Fashion’s Prison Project in Downview Prison, which focuses on healing and rehabilitating the female prisoners through stitch. The women are trained for two years to become an industry standard machinist and they take orders for production within the prison. The proceeds from the orders is being used to set up a factory outside the prison in Poplar London, the women can then gain employment in the factory once they have carried out their sentence.
I have been going into the prison to teach the ladies embroidery techniques and will place an order for the embroidery to be produced by the ladies. Additionally, I am also collaborating with Zegna’s foundation San Patrignano, in Rimini. The foundation is completely self-sustainable and rehabilitates people that have drug and alcohol dependency, that have been referred from the court system for low level crime. Through the teaching of traditional Italian craft and sense of community, the clients are rehabilitated with a 75% success rate of not reoffending. The clients are able to learn a high standard traditional craft, such a furniture making, weaving, leather bag making etc. I am currently collaborating with the hand-weaving department to create a new bespoke hand woven, recycled material.
I will be working alongside the charity Women in Prison, which helps supports prisons with mental health problems, to develop a clothing exchange. I will take the waste garments from the clothing exchange to create the new material with San Patrignano and a knitting community here in London to develop a new collection.
Photography: Amber Grace Dixon
Designer: Bethany Willams
Styling and Words: Safiya Yekwai