Vendor Spotlight: Mini Stitches

Mini-Stitches-Employees

Vendor Spotlight: Mini Stitches

Pantaloons, playsuits and ra ra skirts – these might not be the first words which come to mind when the subject of women’s empowerment arises, but think again.

Innovative children’s clothing brand Mini Stitches are showing how to use business to nurture a diverse community, all while dealing in soft stripes and geometric prints.

The East London social enterprise empowers disadvantaged women in the area by providing employment, training and English classes. Each Mini Stitches item is unisex and produced largely by Bangladeshi women from Tower Hamlets in East London, with up to 75 per cent unemployment in their community.

Responding to a growing demand for ethically-produced clothing in the UK, the charity designs on-trend kids’ clothing and reinvests the profits straight back into the services they offer.

Using only ethically-sourced materials and fabrics in the manufacture of their contemporary collection, Mini Stitches was born out of charity Stitches in Time which has been behind creative projects in the area for 20 years.

With clothes made to last,  their quality garments are crafted to be passed from generation to generation – further reducing the waste produced by their small-scale operation.

 

But while the team behind Mini Stitches is pioneering a fresh vision in the fashion world, their goals extend well beyond industry parameters.

Women’s self-development is the name of the game at Mini Stitches. The social enterprise was carefully designed to tackle the root causes of unemployment among Bangladeshi women in the area such as a lack of work experience and too few qualifications.

As well as receiving industry-standard training,  their female workforce are also given access to English classes, I.T. support and mentoring opportunities. The collaborative space also helps women build confidence and set personal goals while fostering relationships in their community.

“As this community-made, children’s clothing brand develops and grows, so does the women’s ambitions, self-belief and sense of achievement,” said director of enterprise and outreach Katie Adkins.

“Seeing how much they are capable of, individually and collectively, has allowed many women to see their dreams as attainable.”

Mini Stitches also flies the flag for transparency and sustainability – explaining each step of their pricing to potential customers and making the move to hand-woven, environmentally-friendly materials.

Next time a kids’ clothing catalogue is popped through your letterbox, consider setting it aside and browsing Mini Stitches in The Big Issue Shop instead.

 

 

 

Vendor Spotlight: Hey Girls

Expensive, essential and – for many – a cause of embarrassment, stark figures illustrate the extent of period poverty in the UK.

Increasingly recognised as a public health issue, women’s rights group Plan International UK says 1 in 10 girls have been unable to afford sanitary products and 12 per cent have improvised – using socks, rags and toilet roll. Additionally, 137,700 girls missed at least one day of school last year because they couldn’t afford menstrual products.

Amid a groundswell of opposition around the affordability of period products one revolutionary campaigner front and centre of the fight – and now working with the Scottish Government – is Celia Hodson, from Dunbar in East Lothian.

With first-hand experience of the financial strain women across the country are experiencing, Hodson, with help from her two daughters, founded social enterprise Hey Girls, which sells sanitary towels on a ‘buy one give one model’ – meaning for every pack purchased, another is donated to a woman in need.

“It all started with a heated discussion between myself and my two daughters that results in a big hairy audacious goal,” Hodson told The Big Issue. “We simply wanted to work out if we could fix period poverty and what that would look like.”

The enterprise smartly bridges the gap between activism and retail, and since launching in January has achieved outstanding success. Hey Girls is a key partner in the Scottish Government’s period poverty roll-out – chairing round table events on the issue and donating towards the free provision of products to an estimated 18,800 Scottish women.

The enterprise is also the recipient of a £50,000 investment and mentorship from Big Issue Invest’s Power Up Scotland programme, a move that has helped bolster the social enterprise’s ability to grow.

And now we’re welcoming Hey Girls to The Big Issue Shop!

Hey-Girls

The no leak, super comfy, chlorine and bleach-free, environmentally friendly sanitary towels are available as a multipack including two boxes of Daytime and two Night time natural bamboo pads.

Shop Hey Girls at The Big Issue Shop now

Vendor Spotlight: Just Trade

By now we’re all aware of fair trade. Fair trade gives you the power to change the world every day just from being a little more savvy when picking up your shopping. But for a long time, it also covered simply providing a fair wage to workers.

Now, enterprises like Just Trade are here to say that fair trade is so much more than just a fair wage. Their collaborative business approach means it cultivates long-lasting relationships with its artisans. Combining traditional craft skills with expert knowledge, every piece of Just Trade jewellery is handmade using locally-sourced materials from eight groups based in Peru, Ecuador, India and Vietnam. You can shop their collection at The Big Issue Shop!

This handmade hammered gold plated bangle was made by the women in the Flowering Desert Project in Tamil Nadu, India.

While this handmade cosmetic case made from screen-printed linen comes from a World Fair Trade Organisation registered factory in Vietnam that employs over 100 marginalised workers from Hanoi and the surrounding areas to make textiles.

Coming from economically disadvantaged communities, each of these makers receives not only a fair wage for their work, but training opportunities and fair conditions too.

Vendor Spotlight: Elephant Branded

“The idea of Elephant Branded is like The Big Issue in that it is run like business, not a charity, and shows that business can be a force for good.”

That’s the view of James Munro Boon, co-founder of Elephant Branded – a social enterprise that make bags, laptop cases and wallets out of recyclable materials to make a difference.

For every one sold, a child in Cambodia gets a school bag to help them with their studies.

“The idea of Elephant Branded is like The Big Issue in that it is run like a business, not a charity, and shows that business can be a force for good.”

That’s the view of James Munro Boon, co-founder of Elephant Branded – a social enterprise that make bags, laptop cases and wallets out of recyclable materials to make a difference.

For every one sold, a child in Cambodia gets a school bag to help them with their studies.

“To be honest, that’s the only reason I do it,” he says. “I go out there every three or four months and that has been since uni when I was spending all my student loan on flights out there every five or six months.

“I’ve seen kids growing up and have their own children thanks to the work we do. I love spending time there and I think that the really valuable thing is where we support people to run their own business and build their own lives.”

While Elephant Branded faces a constant battle to find new recyclable materials – with a struggle to find a waste material available in high volume that doesn’t vary in quality and consistency – it is constantly attempting to innovate with new products on the way.

But the original three ranges of products are available in The Big Issue Shop.

“As well as the exposure, I think working with The Big Issue adds a degree of credibility,” says James.

“Just like how it is wrong for me to Cambodia and tell people what to do and how to run their business, The Big Issue gives vendors a chance to work their way out of poverty.

“And I think that people who buy The Big Issue have the same ethos and concerns as we do. I’ve met a family in Cambodia that I would never have had a chance to meet and that’s where I see the synergy with The Big Issue.”

Street Art: Steve McIntosh

Street Art Steve McIntosh

Street Art: Giving Marginalised Individuals an Outlet for Creative Expression

Every week in The Big Issue, our Street Art page gives talented, marginalised individuals an outlet for creative expression, as well as a platform to sell their prints through The Big Issue Shop.

Steve McIntosh taught himself to draw at a young age by reading and imitating DC and Marvel superhero comics. ‘My drawing feels more technical than artistic; puzzles, crosswords and historical facts influence my thoughts and occupy my time, though my work comes from my imagination. I don’t feel in any rush when working, just take my time, each line is considered, not instinctive. I’m not sure why my landscapes and towns often lack people, maybe because I like solitude.’

Vendor Spotlight: Damsel & Daughter

Damsel & Daughter

Vendor Spotlight: Damsel & Daughter

Founded by Mai Gornall, DAMSEL & DAUGHTER, sell beautifully crafted leather and vegan leather coin purses which raise funds to improve women’s health in London.  Marrying her love for crafts with social consciousness, Mai Gornall formed Damsel & Daughter to respond to issues surrounding women in poverty. The word ‘damsel’ finds its roots in ‘women of noble birth’ as Gornall believes all women are created nobel.

Damsel & Daughter

Born from wanting to figure out some way of giving women in disadvantaged positions back their dignity, Gornall found a need for regular feminine hygiene packs. This lead to the creation of the leather coin purses which the proceeds would help fund feminine hygiene packs. These coin purses are all up-cycled from leather and faux leather off-cuts sourced on Brick Lane. The silver model is made from vegan leather.

The packs are then are distributed to various shelters across London, such as The Manna Society and the Hackney Migrant Centre.

SHOP DAMSEL & DAUGHTER

Damsel & Daughter

Street Art: Andy Bick

Andy Bick

Street Art: Giving Marginalised Individuals an Outlet for Creative Expression

Every week in The Big Issue, our Street Art page gives talented, marginalised individuals an outlet for creative expression, as well as a platform to sell their prints through The Big Issue Shop.

Andy Bick from Worcester experienced a long period of homelessness, including living in a hostel for several years, and before that rough sleeping and sofa-surfing. He now lives in his own rented flat. He started drawing cartoons as a means of communicating with his 90-year-old mother. “I intended for these cartoons to have a simplistic style,” he says. “I felt it would be wrong or a distraction to Beano-ize the homeless. It was important for them to look like something homeless folk could relate to.”

Street Art: Stephen Mundy

Stephen Mundy

Street Art: Giving Marginalised Individuals an Outlet for Creative Expression

Every week in The Big Issue, our Street Art page gives talented, marginalised individuals an outlet for creative expression, as well as a platform to sell their prints through The Big Issue Shop.

Stephen Mundy served two years of a four-year prison sentence at HMP Lewes, Sussex. “I created this image (pictured above) just before I was due to be released from HMP Lewes, Sussex after serving two years of a four-year prison sentence,” says Stephen. “While I was in prison I was given the choice of working in the workshop, or going to education, I chose education. I was very mentally ill, and practising art was a real benefit to my mental health. I applied to college on release but didn’t have anywhere to live. That’s where this piece of art fits in – boarded-up houses, a man with a rucksack, scratching his head, thinking “where to now?” Luckily since release, I have been in temporary, supported housing, and doing well at college.”

Stephen Mundy

Vendor Spotlight: Good News Shared

Vendor Spotlight: Good News Shared

Good News Shared is shining a light on the uplifting, charitable things that are happening all around us to help people feel more optimistic and to inspire people to make positive contributions to their community.

Studies have found that hearing and sharing good news can have a number of positive effects on us, including increased optimism and reduced stress levels. Good News Shared aims to put this at the forefront, promoting charitable events and positive mental health.

They have since created a guided journal with daily reflection questions to help you notice, remember and appreciate the good things from your day.

Called, The Moments Journal, this book gives you a positivity boost every evening as countless studies have shown focusing on positive moments, kindness and good news can increase your happiness and reduce your stress levels.

The Royal Collection

Royal Wedding Collection

The Royal Wedding Collection

We are proud to present to you The Big Issue’s Royal Wedding Collection – guaranteed to be your Antiques Roadshow treasures of the future! This exclusive range of commemorative objects to treasure are all designed by contributors to our Street Art page and artists who have experienced homelessness. We have portraits by John Sheehy, Jo Adamson and Geraldine Crimms, whilst our stunning cover was created by David Tovey.

A unique way to celebrate – Big Issue style!

Celebrating The Royal Wedding

Royal Wedding

Portrait Royal Wedding