This September, London-based designer Bethany Williams presents 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.