IWD - Empowering at Every Level, Every Day

IWD - Empowering at Every Level, Every Day

IWD is a day of celebration for some, a day of protest for others. It's not a day to get complacent, or the only day of the year to consider female employees, companies, or charities - and certainly not an opportunity for selling feminist slogans on clothing made by underpaid, mistreated workers. The ensuring and securing of women's rights and empowerment is a year-round job. 

Used constructively, March 8th can serve as a necessary yearly marker of how far we've come, and how much further we need to go for true equality - and to celebrate those working towards it. 

We really aim to consistently empower at every level here at Lucy & Yak - whether that's providing training and offering stable, quality employment in India, paying a living wage, providing a platform for different voices, championing indie/female-led businesses, or supporting different causes throughout the year - such as our Black Friday Schoolgirls Initiative, December Fundraising for Widowed Women, or our recent Vulva Campaign in aid of period poverty.

We're lucky to work with a huge number of amazing women, and we wanted to use the day to shine a spotlight on some of the lovely individuals who make our company what it is - from those who make our clothes, sell our clothes, model our clothes, friends of the brand, customers and collaborators. Each have their own stories, passions and projects - we've asked them all a few questions, from what is important to them, what are they striving for, what makes them feel empowered to how they are empowering others.

 

INDIA TEAM

(Interviewed and translated by Sonia Sethi, our wonderful Production Manager in India)

Ghotya

A very happy lady - her aspirations are to support her family completely.

For her L&Y means Lucy & Chris. She believes that Lucy & Chris have changed her life completely. Her husband has worked for Ismail for the past 2 years and has three kids (two boys and a girl). She was a housewife initially and later on she started coming to the factory for couple of hours so that she can earn some money for her daily livings.

She decided to upgrade herself and took up training for stitching. After 6 months, she was making our Denim Atlas Dungarees. She feels very happy and content now as she is supporting her husband in upbringing her children, the way she wants. She  is proud to be giving a proper education to her children.

Working for L&Y made her life change a lot, her mother in laws give her more respect now & are taking care of her children when they both are at work. She is stress free.

She wants to buy a new and bigger house in the near future.

 

Guddi

Guddi belonged to a good and rich family of Tillora village (the place we named our trousers after!) She lost her husband two years back, they spent all their money on treatment but he couldn’t survive. After her husband passed away, she was sent back to her mothers house with her two boys (14 and 11).
Guddi refused to take help from her parents and started looking for a job. Ismail helped her and offered her a position in thread cutting as she was not skilled. Guddi was broken (financially and emotionally) when she same to look for work. After a couple of months, she developed an interest in stitching so she approached Ismail, he offered her training to start making our tote bags from offcut fabrics. She is skilled now and makes all the bags for L&Y - she is earning well and is happy.
In India (specially smaller towns), you are not supposed to wear colours when you loose your husband. But see how happy and vibrant she is - she loves colour & especially L&Y’s funky colours. Whenever she is low, she loves to talk to her peers.

 

 

Guddi & Anita

 

Our sisters! Guddi is 18 and Anita is 20.

Their father passed away 10 years ago, and their mother had the sole responsibility to take care of all the 6 kids. Guddi did her schooling until middle school, however Anita couldn’t study at all because of their financial issues.

They both used to do some local stitching from home initially then joined Ismail around 2 years ago. They love to make all the styles for L&Y, but not so much the boilersuit as it has a lot of work in it! However, Ismail makes sure that everyone gets the same amount of work so still divides pieces equally - ‘so there is no escape!’ (they laughed…)

For them, L&Y has made them independent girls and  they are able to support their family. Their siblings are able to go to the school. Their mother is not keeping so well, so now they are able to help her with the best medicines available. 

Life is a lot comfortable for them since they joined the team.

Guddi is fun loving & enjoys pizzas, Anita is a shy girl who is not very talkative but loves to eat Gol Gappa (an Indian snack).

 

Pinky (our Selfie Queen)

 

Pinky is fun loving lady and is always smiling (except when looking serious for photos!).

She is married and has two kids who are studying in junior school. Pinky started working with Ismail 2 years back, when she got herself trained on the bartack machine, and is now working as an operator. Before that she used to work from home for the local market.

Her husband is working as a line supervisor in the same factory, so they both come together and leave together.

She loves to dress up and cooking is her hobby.

 

 

UK STAFF 

Amanda

Amanda heads our wonderful all-female team of machinists in our Barnsley Warehouse, who created our Made in Britain Collection from start to finish. She is passionate about bringing skilled, stable sewing jobs back to rural Yorkshire. She is a no-nonsense Northern gal who loves a bright nail colour.

Working with Lucy & Yak for their Made in Britain Campaign has been great for me as Lucy and Chris have given me the opportunity to build and lead a team of seamstresses, all hand picked by myself. Between them they have over 100 years experience in the sewing industry. It’s great that they have all been given a chance to once again use their skills and show off their talents. 

I feel really proud as I have been able to manage production as well as be hands on. The team are great and passionate about the project. I am excited to see what the future holds.

 

 

Roxy Khan-Williams

Roxy is one of our lovely shop supervisors, not only is she a Yorkshire gal, an expert playlist maker, boomerang taker and occasional model, but she has recently completed her Masters Degree in Conflict Security and and Development, AND co-founded Common Ground, who work with the migrant community in Brighton. 

What does your work involve?

My work as an activist is diverse, but Common Ground is an organic food growing project working with the refugee and migrant community in Brighton. In short what we are trying to create is a sense of community for those who are often left isolated; a place where we can come together and embrace the things that join us rather than divide us - our common ground so to speak. The past year we've been doing all the behind the scenes work it takes to set a project like this up - fundraising, policy writing, community outreach, volunteer training and preparing the land for harvest. So Mondays you can see ya gal ploughing the field, Tuesday I might be writing a funding application – the work is so varied and I love it for that.

When do I feel most empowered?

In the company of others and in the feeling of community. Last week I went to an incredible talk up in London on womxn in the climate movement and it was so inspiring and reenergising to hear what all these fabulous babes were doing! But no womxn is an island and I mean that both in its temporal and spatial meaning. We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us, and we must pave the path for those of the future.

What would you want to see happen by next year, IWD 2021?

Some of the things that sit at the top of my list is change in government policy and attitude towards not only refugees and migrants – but anyone who sits at the fringes of society. I would love for more refugee women to be seen in social life, including the arts, politics and the media. There is so much untapped potential within the refugee community, and all of society benefits from them being given the opportunity to be themselves.

How can other people best get involved to help your cause?

As of spring we will be starting our gardening sessions with the refugee community (exciting!!), if people would like to come volunteer with us then we are always looking for more hands to help. 

In terms of the cause more broadly, refugees are constantly scapegoated and securitised so you can do so much by just having conversations and being kind about your friends from overseas. If you wanted to do something more practical here are my top 5 tips:

  • WRITE to your MP telling them if you disagree with their immigration policy.
  • EDUCATE and equip yourself with the knowledge to engage people in discussion. 
  • VOLUNTEER and get involved! This counts for anything you’re passionate about – get stuck in and meet people who share your outlook on life (I have found that this has stopped me from getting emotional burnout when the world looks like it’s all doom and gloom.)
  • DONATE! There are a multitude of wonderful organisations both at local and national level who collect donations and take them to places such as Dunkirk and Calais (Calais Action and Help Refugees). For a list of much needed items, see here.
  • OFFER A SPACE. If you are in a privileged enough position to have a spare room in your home, then there are great charities such as Refugees at Home and Rooms for Refugees who pair up hosts and people in need of somewhere to stay!

 

 

COLLABORATORS & FRIENDS OF THE BRAND

Mikaela Loach

Mikaela is a medical student, climate activist, writer and blogger - specialising on sustainability with inclusivity, ethical fashion, refugee rights and kind living. She has just started her own podcast and recently spoke at an event surrounding Sustainability and Women’s Empowerment, which put importance on the two issues going hand in hand. She also guest blogged for us back in July, about privilege in sustainability.

@mikaelaloach |  @theyikespodcast |  @ecoage

 

What does your work involve?

I'm a climate activist based in Edinburgh. My work is mainly with Climate Camp Scotland in the Media and Press team, as well as on my Instagram & Podcast (The Yikes Podcast) where I write and talk about how to make the climate justice movement more accessible and inclusive!  

 When do you feel most empowered?

When working with other wonderful people in community action groups to take action to change the systems we live in. All social justice issues are so interconnected. We are so much stronger when we listen to each other, work together and make sure we empower everyone with our actions!

What do you want to see happen by next year, IWD 2021?

Governments committing to net zero carbon by 2025, more marginalised voices being centered in all of our social justice movements, people (especially cis white women) with privilege passing the mic a lot more and actively being an ally! 

How can other people best get involved to help your cause?

Listen to marginalised voices and get involved with a community action group. If this seems daunting, have a listen to our podcast which breaks this down a lot! Also, come to Climate Camp Scotland: Mossmorran this summer and be a part of community action against the fossil fuel industry! Follow @climatecampscotland on instagram for updates!

 

Jem Stevens

 

Jem is the lovely and fabulous namesake of our Jem Boilersuit (designed by the wonderful @sophmoly_iiish) She works with independent businesses and is passionate about seeing more gender diversity in leadership roles. 

What does your work involve?

I’m a Customer Operations Manager for a Retail Startup leading a team of around 10 fab people across our London and Lisbon offices. I am not an alpha type leader at all and instead feel very maternal towards my team who have accepted me unquestionably which I recognise is not always the case for Transwomen in the workplace. 

When do you feel most empowered?

Being welcomed into female social life has been revolutionary to understanding myself as a woman and resultantly I found true empowerment through sisterhood. There is a strength in solidarity and being compassionately there for each other as a diverse community.

What would you want to see happen by next year, IWD 2021?

More and more women in leadership with increased diversity within that - I would love to see women respected irrespective of race, sexuality and gender identity and given more platforms to speak.

How can other people best get involved to help your cause?

Really listen to women of all backgrounds and respect - listening in particular to the experiences of Transwomen and moving forward from the current climate of the discourse surrounding us to a more understanding and empathetic place. Foster unity and acceptance.

 

  

Naz Toorabally

Naz is one of the wonderful models for our recent Made In Britain Campaign - she is also a musician and the editor of WIERDO zine, which aims to document the perspectives of alt South Asians in fashion, beauty and music. 

@naztooraballywww.weirdo.zine.com |  @weirdo.zine

What does your work involve?

The current work I’m doing is through my zine called WEIRDO which serves as a platform for alternative South Asian people to share their experiences and perspectives through essays, interviews, poetry, art, photography and more. It’s a project that focuses on improving the visibility of alternative South Asian people in fashion, beauty and music, specifically those who identify with subcultures like punk and goth, and connecting people both online and offline. It’s been great meeting some of the contributors and talking about stuff I’ve never really been able to talk about with other South Asian people I know.

There are certain expectations placed on people of colour and when we fall out of those norms, many of us find ourselves stuck in this place where we don’t quite fit in with the communities we feel we’re part of. WEIRDO aims to change some of this and normalise the fact that there isn’t one way to be South Asian or “alternative”.

When do you feel most empowered?

I feel most empowered when I see other womxn of colour – especially South Asian womxn – succeeding in industries that we’re often not particularly visible in or encouraged to enter. About a year ago, a friend drew my attention to Anita Bhagwandas, a self-confessed part-time witch and full-time goth, who is a very successful beauty journalist – former Beauty Director at Stylist and former Beauty Editor at Marie Claire. Learning about the successes of a South Asian goth in an industry that has historically excluded women of colour is a recent anecdote that made me feel empowered.

I’ve also been going to a lot more talks and events for queer people of colour in recent years and these spaces have empowered me to live my life unapologetically. This has, at times, been difficult given that my family are not particularly accepting of me being queer.

What would you want to see happen by next year, IWD 2021?

I’d like to see people within my network be more open and receptive to learning about other peoples’ experiences of the world and actively participate in dismantling forms of oppression that may not directly affect them. That might sound like a big ask, but there are many small things people can do to facilitate social progress for everyone (for example asking people what their pronouns are and actually using their preferred pronouns without question).

How can other people best get involved to help your cause?

In terms of WEIRDO, buy a copy of our print zine! We’re currently only funded by donations and zine sales which help us pay our contributors for their time and energy. It’s great that we now have this platform, but it’s also important to me that people are compensated for their work.

You can also read our articles online to learn more about the experiences of alternative South Asian people and engage with our content on Instagram. Importantly, share our content and work with us! In doing so, this helps us reach a larger audience of South Asian people and alternative people – we want to reach people outside of the alt South Asian community, too! You might have a friend who would love to work with us?

To businesses, please consider hiring more South Asian models and people of colour in general in a way that doesn’t fall into tokenism. There are few brands in general doing this well and none (to my knowledge) in the alt world. If you’re not sure where to start, get in touch with us as we know experienced alternative South Asian models!

 

Dani

 

Dani is another of our lovely models. She has written for i-D, Refinery29, BRICKS & more, and co-founded The Femme Collective, which works to empower and increase visibility of female identifying artists in the music industry.

@scarrie.bradshaw@femmecolllective | @platformbradio

What does your work involve?
I run The Femme Collective, a UK-based feminist media outlet dedicated to decreasing gender inequality in the music industry. It consists of a biannual print zine, an active online digital platform, a radio show on Platform B, and events, gig & club nights in London and Brighton. We showcase emerging female and non binary artists, providing them not only a platform but also a safe space away from other problematic, male dominated industry spaces.

When do you feel most empowered?

I feel the most empowered after putting on a great gig or more recently talking on a panel. knowing that I’ve raised awareness of industry inequality and provided a safe platform for emerging artists who might otherwise be turned a blind eye to or tokenised is really rewarding and empowering for me.

What do you want to see happen by next year, IWD 2021?

I mean there’s SO much that needs to change, both in the music industry and wider society. I’d like to see more female and non binary representation across the entire creative industry. I’d like to see the men who’ve abused their power within these industries reprimanded.

How can other people best get involved to help your cause?

People can best get involved with us by just listening, coming to our events, supporting female and non binary people in music and spreading awareness! We also encourage people to - if they’re privileged enough to be able to - call out bullshit as and when they see it. The music industry is rife with misogyny and it defo can’t fall just on our shoulders!

 

 

Paula Akpan

 

The wonderful Paula is a journalist who has written for i-D, Refinery29, Teen Vogue, Time Out London, iNews, and Lonely Planet to name but a few! She co-founded Black Girl Fest, a day of talks, workshops, panels, entertainment and market stalls, amplifying and celebrating Black British women, girls and non-binary people. From this stems Black Girl Fest Academy, a seven month community-focused creative programme, which aims to inspire, empower and enable Black women aged 17-25, equipping them with the tools they need to create events for their communities.

@paulaakpanpaulaakpan.contently.com |  @blackgirlfest 

What does your work involve?

I'm a journalist and cultural events producer so it involves a lot of listening to and engaging with my various communities in order to support their work and highlight their experiences through the resources available to me.

When do you feel most empowered?

I feel most empowered when I'm writing and researching for a piece and everything starts falling into place!

What do you want to see happen by next year, IWD 2021?

If I'm being honest, I'm not waiting for IWD in order for things to change and shift for my communities, everyone's doing the work all year round and if we're being real, a lot of the change we're working towards won't happen in our lifetime so it's more around legacy and what we're building for future generations.

How can other people best get involved to help your cause?

I think right now, it's the other way round for me and I'm trying to help others so I would encourage people - especially Black queer people - who are looking to do events or get into journalism to hit me up if they have questions.

  

Grace Campbell

Grace is a comedian, writer, director and activist. Grace co-founded the feminist group The Pink Protest, who have worked on various female lead, law-changing campaigns such as #freeperiods, and #endfgm. She wrote produced, and starred in the 2018 Channel 4 feminist prank show Riot Girls

@disgracecampbell | @pinkprotest  

What does your work involve?

It's always a real mix. I write and perform comedy most of the time, and then I’m constantly working on developing bigger projects, and writing other things. I just finished directing my first animation. I make a podcast with my Dad called Football, Feminism and Everything in Between

When do you feel most empowered?

When I’m on stage doing comedy. That's when I feel like I really belong there and am supposed to be there.

What do you want to see happen by next year, IWD 2021?

I want women to gain the power they deserve in politics. 

How can other people best get involved to help your cause?

Support the Pink Protest online. We always work on and share various campaigns. Also come and see me live!