2020 has taught us a LOT. In fact, trying to sum up this year was almost as challenging as the year itself! To ring in the very welcome 2021, we spent some time reflecting on the year, and wanted to share our highlights with the people who make it all worthwhile: you!
First up, to 2020 off in style, we launched our fabulous Made in Britain collection, a celebration of British craftsmanship bringing skilled tailoring jobs back to Barnsley, South Yorkshire - home to our warehouse! Yorkshire was once famous for its thriving textiles industry, and Barnsley itself used to be home to thousands of garment workers. We believe creating sustaining, well-paid and rewarding jobs is one of the best ways to benefit a community, and that’s what we try to do both in India and the UK.
But that's not all - we also launched our vivacious vulva campaign! We talked all things vaginas, from waxing (ouch!) lyrical about vulva diversity and tackling the hard truths surrounding period poverty. And naturally, because, how could we not — we launched our limited edition Vulva print, illustrated by the fabulous Sanna Suvi, and our stylist and ultimate creative Soph transformed the shop doorway into a giant vulva too!
Then March hit, and life started to look very different from the norm in the UK. As the National Health Service started to prepare for an influx of COVID-19 patients, our Made in Britain team took to their sewing machines and started to produce medical-grade scrubs. We donated hundreds of sets to hospitals up and down the country, as a token of our appreciation for the continued efforts of our incredible NHS workers. (They went down so well, that our scrubs have since become one of our permanent online collections - and don’t forget, NHS workers get 20% off!)
As COVID-19 cases rose through March and April, and the country started to take steps to stem the spread, we temporarily closed our warehouse in Barnsley. To keep the business moving, Lucy, Chris and Danny (who were in a support bubble) jumped on board to parcel your orders! And while the country settled into lockdown, we took measures to ensure that our warehouse was safe, with social distancing measures in place in order to welcome back our wonderful team.
Throughout lockdown we kept busy working with creatives to offer workshops, focusing on creativity and self care. From pottery to embroidery, crochet to bath bombs, you can find a whole host of projects up on our IGTV. We held virtual yoga classes with the lovely Olive and had delicious, nourishing recipes with Gem's Wholesome Kitchen. We also partnered up with the fab AWAL to bring the sweet sounds of some super exciting and talented up-and-coming musicians, from their homes to yours. This year has really hit a lot of freelancers, creatives and musicians hard, with many unable to use their skills and passions as they did before, and we were happy to do out bit in supporting them where we could.
May came around, and the tragedy of George Floyd’s death sparked powerful changes in conversations surrounding race and social justice all around the globe. We began to look at our responsibility as a brand with a vocal platform, and committed to actioning demonstrable changes to ensure that Lucy & Yak encapsulates and celebrates all people, of all lived experiences. To support us in our journey, we continued in our hiring of a dedicated Advisory Panel, made up of experts on social justice issues, sustainability and environmentalism as a starting point, and with intersectionality at its core. This panel will consult with us regularly to ensure that our products and ethics are inclusive and accessible to all. We are in the early stages of this and have a lot more organising to do to kick off properly, but it's in the plans for 2021. We also donated to several organisations who work to combat racial injustice; Black Minds Matter, Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI), Show Racism the Red Card, The Runnymede Trust, and Stop Hate UK. We are currently working on other, long-term charitable initiatives, and look forward to sharing more with you in 2021.
The ongoing COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the incredible impact of the fast fashion industry on employees and living wages, both across the UK and overseas. We published our “What is Fair Pay?” blog to discuss what fair pay means to us, and how it is an invaluable thread weaving through everything we do. We are a proud Living Wage employer, and review our rates of pay in accordance with updates from the Living Wage Foundation. We also started trialling a 30-hour working week across our entire business, to improve employee well-being and encourage a healthy work-life balance. All our employees work the equivalent of a 30-hour working week, but are paid the equivalent of a 37.5-hour working week.
One of our highlights of this year was opening our amazing new Brighton shop in North Laine! Our signature pink palace is a treasure trove of hand-painted murals and lovingly-sourced secondhand furniture - complete with a rainbow fridge, obviously… We can’t wait to welcome back some of your familiar faces in the new year, and meet all the new ones who weren’t able to swing by just yet.
2020 has been a real opportunity for growth and learning, for us especially. As our team has grown rapidly over this year we’ve had more capacity to evaluate our priorities and understand how we can do better. We listened to uncomfortable truths about the lack of diversity in our size ranges, and we are dedicated to working through that discomfort, and committed to learning from our privileges, and owning our mistakes. In September, we welcomed an incredible Garment Technologist to our Production team, with over 25 years’ experience in garment construction, and a particular specialism in developing plus-sized garments. We also welcomed a Size Inclusivity Consultant on board; the wonderful Sara Brown, who has a wealth of experience in designing plus-sized ranges. Work is underway on re-grading our core products and we are currently on track to begin offering up to a UK size 28 in some of our signature styles from Spring 2021 - with other key pieces to follow thereafter.
And quick as a flash, Black Friday came around again! For the past few years we’ve done Black Friday differently, and 2020 was no exception. We were once again delighted to support our friends at Fior Di Loto - a charity helping impoverished girls in India go to school - and had the privilege of supporting a new parter, Magic Breakfast, who work to provide nutritious breakfasts to schoolchildren throughout England and Scotland. Thanks to your support, we had a record year and smashed our targets; sending 112 girls to school and providing 150 monthly food parcels to families across Rajasthan, and serving 10,624 breakfasts to schoolchildren across the country.
But our giving didn’t just stop there - we also supported our friend and business partner, Ismail, and raised over £5,000 to provide food to those in need in his local area. Your support generated more donations than we or Ismail could’ve dreamed, and he was able to offer support even further afield!
We also donated to Marine Conservation and Eve Appeal, and planted over 13,000 trees with Ecologi! In an effort to reduce waste, we donated excess stock to Thread Ahead, who provide new clothing to those with precarious immigration status, supporting those in need whilst combating the carbon footprint of the fashion industry.
On reflection, it might’ve been easier to list what we DIDN’T do in 2020. One thing is for sure, this year has taught us a lot about ourselves as a brand, as a team, and as a society. Hand on heart, we can say that we’re indebted and grateful to 2020 for helping us take stock, check ourselves, and learn how we can be better. We still believe that we can create a system where everybody wins, and we’re so glad that you’re here with us, ‘cause that means you believe it too.
And lastly, but by no means least(ly?), a note from our founders, Lucy & Chris:
"2020 has been challenging for all independent businesses, but online brands have actually been the lucky ones. Although we have had a lot of adapting to do, we were still able to operate, and for that we are extremely grateful. As a brand that has a deep connection with our suppliers, one of the most challenging things for us has been the distance between us and our suppliers in India. Under normal circumstances we would visit them personally three times per year. We have always had a two-way relationship where we support each other, and this has been impossible this year. We hope to visit Ismail and the team in 2021, and share lots of the amazing things the team out there have been up to. COVID-19 has caused a lot of disruption to our supply chain, but we are grateful that all of you have been understanding of the challenges that we have faced."
Happy New Year to our customers, colleagues, friends, fans, and community. We’re so excited for all that 2021 will bring.
Team Lucy & Yak