A Look Inside Our Factories: Making For Change

Onesta Journal

A Look Inside Our Factories: Making For Change

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At Onesta, we’re passionate about doing fashion differently. We’re making clothes that are kind to the planet, people and animals. You’ll probably know by now that our clothes are made with innovative fabrics and that we do our best to look after the environment, but now we want to tell you about how we are kind to people! We hope to have a positive social impact by working with social enterprises and ethical, transparent organisations to produce our clothing. One of these is Making for Change, and we recently had the opportunity to visit them, so we’d love to tell you all about it!


Making for Change was established in 2014 by the Ministry of Justice and London College of Fashion, UAL, as a way to provide opportunities for marginalised members of our society, primarily women prisoners and ex-offenders. Making for Change teaches these women technical skills, helping them qualify for recognised training programs, in an effort to improve their wellbeing and reduce re-offending rates. We visited their studio to learn more about them and meet the people behind this amazing project.


As we walked through the concrete jungle that is East London, the Poplar Works facility, where Making for Change manufacture our clothing, emerged from the surrounding housing estates, presenting to us its vibrant, contemporary architecture. The building is long and thin, resembling the garages that once inhabited the space, and from which the establishment was repurposed from. The building is split into two tiers with the bottom painted in an array of coloured stripes, and the top perfectly mounted with planks of plywood. Despite being situated in London, the factory was surrounded by quaint cafes and shared gardens, creating a community-like feel.


We were greeted by a grinning, very welcoming, man named Alex. Alex oversees the Poplar Works facility. He spoke to us as though he had all the time in the world, showing us around and answering all our questions and assimilating us into what had clearly become their family. Immediately after entering to building, it is difficult not to notice a distinctive split within the facility, with half of the space being designated to workshops and learning spaces, and the other half bustling with industry specialists working on projects. These learning spaces are where most of Making for Change’s community outreach occurs. Alex explained that women would begin their training, and practice their skills, in the workshops, then gradually move over to the other half of the factory as they become progressively skilled and confident, and they eventually work on garments for Making for Change’s clients, like us! We absolutely loved this approach to structuring the building. It gives the project participants a visual representation of how far they have come, and where they’re aiming for.


Alex relayed the experience of one particular woman, who had never sewn before and only started in the programme a couple of weeks ago, but was already working on one of Onesta’s Iris blouses. It was as if sewing just came naturally to her! It was so heart-warming to think about all the women like her, who have discovered their passion and skill for textile manufacturing, with the help of the Making for Change project.

 A look inside the Poplar Works workshop: 

Not only this, but projects like Making for Change, have proven to be very successful in the rehabilitation of female ex-offenders. A Government report from 2005 found that in the first quarter of 2001, 59% of all offenders starting community sentences were reconvicted within two years. However, it was also found that 6 out of 7 inmates that received intervention from exterior educational establishments and were offered training opportunities, were more likely to be employed within the six months after their sentence. This is why Making for Change also have a facility inside HMP Downview women’s prison. It is their hope that inmates may learn transferable skills and qualifications during their time at prison that enhance their employability upon completing their sentence. 


For us, that is one of the most important things in our decision to work with Making for Change. We are helping to empower women who deserve a second chance in life. We don’t know their circumstances or what led them to be in the prison, but it is clear that they want to make a change, and we are proud to be a part of it. Similarly, we hope to make a difference in the lives of women from some of London’s most marginalised areas, offering them a community, a safe space and a vibrant future.


We are so passionate about the amazing enterprises that we are working with, so please get in touch with us if you have any further questions about our production process: hello@onesta.uk.


Useful links:

Making for Change: