What is our stance?
The recent death of George Floyd was a demonstration of racism and injustice in its most blatant form. It was a wake-up call and a spotlight on systematic and systemic oppression that has been in place for a very long time. It’s not just a US issue or a political issue. It’s a human issue and it’s a call to all of us worldwide. This is not a moment, it’s a movement and there is no going back.
As a team and company, we will always put people first and we want to be clear on this – we reject any kind of racism and bigotry. There is no neutrality in human rights. We stand in solidarity with the Black community and those fighting for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Philando Castille and so many others who have lost their lives at the hands of systemic racism and injustice. A lot of people have been hurting for a very long time.
It can be overwhelming and hard to know where to start, but we have to turn our emotions and anger into tangible action and change. We all have a responsibility to use our voices and platforms, educate ourselves better and act together to create a world free of injustice and full of tolerance for all.
Why we haven’t addressed anti-racism before?
We have always wanted to create a different kind of business that truly benefits everyone involved. We always put people over profits and want to prove that success doesn’t have to be at the expense of someone else ever; from people to the planet we can create a system together where everyone wins.
Through this, we have always tried to bring lightness and positivity to our community (even when talking about social and environmental issues) through our platforms and content. We have an amazing and joyful diverse community and we really hope it’s a space where everybody feels welcomed and empowered. In that space, we have focused on the areas we know well first-hand and have been passionate about from the start; creating transparent supply chains, ethical working conditions, producing products we love and celebrating creativity. Through this, we have also been aware that fast fashion clothes production is an issue that disproportionately affects POC and while we have always worked to provide safe and secure jobs in India, and will always continue to fight for their safety, empowerment and that of their communities, we realise that we have never specifically diverted attention to Black communities that have been affected in the same way.
We’ve always felt it was important to talk about things that matter and affect us all beyond fashion. While we’ve created conversation around a number of social and environmental topics, previously we’ve only felt comfortable being directly outspoken about topics we know first-hand and feel we could authentically discuss with you like supply chains, workers rights and the industry. We've always felt it wasn't our place to pretend to be experts on everything so we would work with individuals and organisations to use our platform to spread awareness and create conversation around topics outside of fashion.
The last week has really made us think about what our role is as an ethical fashion business outside of the areas that we know and experience first-hand, with a passionately engaged community that care about social rights.
We missed the mark with anti-racism. The fact we had an option to not address this as a major social injustice of our time is a sign of white privilege in itself and we recognise that we too have benefited from the system.
We acknowledge that it took us too long to address this in our space – it shouldn’t have taken for the outrage over George Floyd or for another Black person to die from racial injustice to speak out about this. Being uncomfortable, not being an expert or not being used to speaking about racism is not a good enough excuse. As a brand it can be hard to know what to say and we want to get it right. But it's more important to act now then wait until you are perfect and have all the answers.
We recognise being anti-racist requires consistent and continued action; it takes learning, unlearning, dismantling and building. It is a lifelong commitment. We are all learning, and we know that the only way to learn is to make mistakes. We know that we have a lot of work to do and there are going to be times when we will get it wrong – we may say too little or too much but we must start somewhere.
The purpose of sharing this with you is not make this about us; it’s about sharing our process, holding ourselves accountable and acknowledging that we must all do better.
We’ve been thinking hard about the next steps and we wanted to share with you our current company structure and plan.
Our team structure:
We have 52 employees.
- Our warehouse, operations and logistics is based in Barnsley, South Yorkshire and employ 26x staff (50%)
- Our seamstress team is also based in Barnsley, South Yorkshire and employs 7x staff (13%)
- Our store, design/production office and marketing team are based Brighton (with some based remotely in Europe and India) 19x staff (37%)
- Our factory in Rajasthan, India is owned and run by our business partner Ismail. It has a team of 70 tailors. While Lucy and Yak and Ismail’s business have grown together from the start, they are separate entities and these figures are not included in our full time UK employees’ stats. We often refer to them as our team as we work so closely together and wanted to include this for transparency and avoid any confusion.
Total UK team (52x)
- 84% White
- 0% Black
- 4% Indian/Asian
- 2% Mixed Ethnicity
- 10% Identify as other
- 82% Identify as women
- 18% Identify as men
Leadership team (5x)
- 2x Founders
- 3x Senior Management
- 80% White
- 20% Indian / Asian
- 80% Identify as women
- 20% Identify as men
- 5x Managers
- 100% Identify as women
- 100% White
Team in India (separate business)
- 100% Asian / Indian
- 14% Identify as women
- 86% Identify as men
- 100% Asian / Indian
- 100% Identify as men
We are a start-up with a small team and high staff retention across Brighton and Barnsley. We have had a limited number of roles come up each year in areas with a lack of racial diversity. This is not an excuse and we have recognised we must work harder to ensure greater diversity and representation internally.
As a small team we also tend to work with the same group of freelances, creatives, models and friends of the brand that form our creative collective. A large part of this freelance team is from the Black, Asian and minority communities. We see them as an extension of our team, and it has made us think that we are diverse team. We recognise this is not good enough and we must address this internally at all levels of the business.
What has happened over the last 2 weeks:
- We dedicated our platform to sharing, creating and amplifying anti-racism material, resources and the voices of the Black community.
- We made a donation to a group of organisations that are combating racial injustice; Black Lives Matter, Stand Against Racism & Inequality (SARI), Show Racism the Red Card, The Runnymead Trust and Stop Hate UK.
- We spent time reflecting, learning and thinking about what tangible steps we can make as a business to support the Black community and the anti-racism work through our business, team and community.
What is our plan and what will happen next?
1. Create workplace inclusivity
Simply put, we need to diversify our team, create inclusivity and hire more Black and non- black POC. We do not currently employ any full-time Black employees. We must work harder to attract more BAME candidates, diversify the channels we use to advertise the full time and part-time roles and create more opportunities with our business.
While the UK’s population is currently 86% White, 7.5% Asian. 3.3% Black and 2.2% Mixed Ethnicity (2011 Consensus), our team needs to reflect our wider community. We currently advertise our vacancies through our website, social channels, Linked In and nationwide sites. The next step will be to talk to a number of organisations, agencies, and universities on how we can engage and attract a wider pool of talent nationally and internationally.
2. Create representation
We will be starting a SIDE-Board (Sustainability, Inclusivity, Diversity and Ethics) from this month. This will be an advisory panel (paid positions) made up of individuals who are able to authentically and openly discuss topics regarding race, inclusivity, diversity, ethics and sustainability with an intersectional lense. We would like to work with the panel on a monthly basis long term to discuss important topics and our initiatives to ensure all voices are heard.
3. Champion and invest in BAME creatives and businesses
As a small team, we work with lots of freelancers and artists for our products. We are going to ensure that we actively seek and collaborate with more BAME and non-black POC creatives and artists through our design process. We will be expanding our search and to make sure these opportunities reach a wider audience. If you are a budding artist or creative, please contact us directly at email@example.com – we would love to hear from you!
We will continue to create campaigns with BAME freelancers, creators as well as invest in partnerships with black-owned brands and businesses.
4. Use our voice and provide our platform
The brand was founded on inclusivity and empowerment of all individuals. We will continue to use our platforms to effect change where we can and take an active stance, creating and sharing relevant anti-racism resources and continue to stand in solidarity with the movement.
Our team is committed to supporting community led activism at every level and we will continue to champion, actively participate and amplify the efforts of grass-root initiatives
5. Continued Education
- We need to keep the conversation on anti-racism and marginalised communities going – education is one of the best ways that we can continue to do this to keep challenging ourselves and empower employees to be effective advocates
- We will provide diversity and inclusivity training for our teams starting from this month
- We will invest in creating team learning hubs in both Barnsley and Brighton. This will be a permanent bank of educational materials available to all staff to access consisting of books, various literature, resources, media materials on anti-racism, sustainability, ethics and various social and environmental topics.
- We will invest in annual days of shared learning (think internal TED talks) by inviting external contacts (paid activity) to present thought-proving talks and lectures for our team
6. Ongoing Donations
We are working on creating a budget to provide financial support and champion initiatives supporting anti-racist work. We will be talking to a number of organisations both in the US and the UK to create a tangible plan on this for long term investment in these projects.
This commitment and progress will be part of our Yak To Basics: The Doing Better Report. This is a report that will be published next month (and then annually) that will be openly available on our website. We will continue to share and discuss its contents monthly.
We are still learning and listening, We know it’s not the job of the Black community or the marginalised to educate us – that’s on us. We’ll sometimes get it wrong and we don’t have all the answers yet, but we want to get better and commit to this. If you have any feedback, ideas or suggestions, we are listening! Please get in touch and send us an email firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us.
Further resources on our website: