Eleanor De, about 5 years ago
Over the course of our blogs, we have demonstrated that, despite the skills and talents offered by people with convictions, there remain a number of difficulties accessing employment after release. We also know that women face particular difficulties when they are released and there is a 45% reoffending rate due to factors such as childcare pressures, unemployment (or low pay) and lack of qualifications.
This was a particular concern of Barbara Burton's when she went to prison for the first time at 55 years old. She recognised the barriers and stigma facing women prisoners and devised a business plan to tackle the issue: BehindBras was born.
Bras are at the heart of Barbara's business plan because “we all wear underwear, it is close to our hearts" and it's a highly personal piece of clothing. She noticed that when a woman goes to prison, she is deprived of her femininity and individuality, and making underwear for women by women is a way of challenging this.
During her 12 months sentence Barbara spent time in 4 different prisons, one of which was East Sutton Park, an open prison, where the local charity Changing Paths funded her to go out on day release to study fashion and business at the London School of Fashion which included a course on 'How to set up a lingerie business'.
She designed her first signature bra with the manufacturing company In.Dwear and fashion business consultant David Jones which is available for pre-order on the website. BehindBras now consists of 5 high-qualified team members who have ambitions to partner with fashion academics and women's prisons all over the UK to expand the business, equipping more women with the valuable skills and confidence they need for the workplace.
BehindBras partners with women's prisons and women's centres, welfare providers, resettlement and mentoring charities, and colleges and experts in fashion. 2018 is set to be a busy year for Barbara and the rest of the team and we look forward to showcasing their brilliant work in the future. Find out about the ways you can support BehindBras here.
“Forgetting women behind bars doesn't make the problem go away. Doing something positive and practical will help. I'm delighted that making elegant, well-designed lingerie can benefit women, who with care, help and belief can fulfil their potential." - Barbara Burton, Founder.