Bethany Williams (Social Innovation in Materials Design, 2020)

Bethany Williams's Testimonial

This past twelve months of my Arts Foundation Fellowship year has been an extraordinary one - between expanding my brand, building on my portfolio and responding to the current crisis, I have been extremely busy!

This past twelve months of my Arts Foundation Fellowship year has been an extraordinary one – between expanding my brand, building on my portfolio and responding to the current crisis, I have been extremely busy!

One of my most satisfying projects this year has been working with the Emergency Designer Network, an initiative I established with Holly Fulton Cozette McCreery and Phoebe English united to galvanise local production to support hospital stocks of key garments such as scrubs. This is vital armour in the fight against COVID-19. Chris Evans recently donated funds to support our collective, comprised of an initial group of 10 small-scale UK manufacturers and designers. This December we were delighted to win the Community Honoree award at the Fashion Awards. EDN is still looking for experienced seamstresses who can support our endeavour!

Another major project for me this summer, was my commissioned programme at Somerset House, All Our Children, in which I invited audiences to reflect on our future generations and consider what wisdom and legacy we’d collectively like to pass on to those who come long after us. Through this I launched a collaborative capsule collection, and raised a flag over Somerset House made in collaboration with the Magpie Project.

My work has become more widely exhibited this year. The V&A Museum of Childhood have taken on a collection of my work for display in the museum, and I am preparing for a cabinet display at Design Museum London, due to go on display this coming July. My furniture sculpture for the new sustainable Adidas store on Carnaby Street was launched in October, and will be remain in place for the coming three years.

Another achievement being a finalist for the Woolmark Prize, who are supporting me in the development of a wool collection to be launched in 2021. I have had the pleasure of hiring a full  colleague working with me, and I have now moved into Poplar Works  offices. Finally, as enquiries
about internships have become a daily occurrence, I have started mentoring younger designers. Every last Friday of the month, instead of unpaid internships I offer tutorials and advice to the students and young professionals who approach me.

We have also increased our stockists and have launched a capsule collection with Selfridges.

Also I managed to move a part time assistant to full time which has occurred this year and has meant so much in terms of our workload and moving projects forward. 

More info about EDN given over the year. 

Working collectively as 150 makers, so far EDN have made nearly 10,000 sets of scrubs and distributed them to 42 individual hospitals, surgeries and care facilities whilst also supplying individuals who have approached us directly including midwives, ICU workers and Doctors, enabling them to have a personal supply of scrubs outside of the NHS chain. 

We have also been able to work on the distribution of 50,000 medical grade face masks that have been donated to us via Dazed Media. These will mainly be distributed between London Black Lives Matter Protests, Hospices and the British Pregnancy Advisory Board. 

We continue to work on finding both short and long term solutions for UK PPE and are manufacturing disposable gowns via the Imperial College Hospital. Longer term, we are trialing a new cloth for scrubs from our main supplier Carrington to reduce the temperature for the wearer with the Royal Free Hospital and also sending samples of a reusable gown that our fully UK manufactured. All processes and manufacturing is UK based, reusable cloth for the gowns is from a UK supplier so supporting the UK textile industry. If successful, this would offer a sustainable long term solution for UK NHS trusts, a key part of the EDN legacy.  Our recent interview with Fashmash can be viewed here to give a little more background on the EDN and our intentions for the future;

Donations have also engaged and united people: marathon runners, Communknitty and it’s 2 knitwear factories and 7 designers, the book Him & His Anthology, Grazia sketch auction, Pencil Agency artwork sale – that the community spirit has gone beyond just the EDN. 

We are currently working with Sarah Mower to collect all the information of the network to create a book that documents the EDN.  We have been supported by British Vogue, Telegraph, Dazed, WWD Japan, BBC China, British GQ, Grazia and with the book we’d expect there to be a lot of similar press interest.