Becky John

Becky John

Becky John (English with Medieval Studies 1998) started the social business Who Made Your Pants? based in Southampton. It has two aims – creating underwear using unwanted off cuts from the lingerie industry and employing women who’ve “had a hard time,” chiefly refugees from areas of conflict around the world. The profits are driven back into the business to offer training and development for staff, which includes providing English lessons.

“Just recently I was speaking to a lady who I have worked with since she moved to the UK when she spoke no English,” said Becky. “We were discussing how far she has come in her life since I met her and she said: “This is my favourite place.” I thought that was wonderful. She came from an environment that didn’t value women particularly, or value her.  I was very proud that something I had created was able to help her find something that she loved.”

Three people have inspired Becky, Honorary Graduate Shami Chakrabarti (Hon LLD, 2010), Director of Liberty, for giving measured, calm responses no matter what the subject areas and in the most challenging of circumstances. Political activist and comedian Mark Thomas has shown Becky how effective it can be to change and challenge things through the use of humour.

Fellow alumna Caroline Lucas (English 1983, PhD English 1990) the UK’s first Green Party MP, is also a source of inspiration.

Becky said:  “I asked her a question “how do you stay honest and true to your values?” and she said something very important to me – you have to remember why you are doing what you are doing. 

“She said focus on the outcomes not the activities, which is something that really rang true to me.”

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day “inspiring change” also resonates with Becky.

“For me it means to help people find something inside them that is important and that they want,” she explained. “I had someone do that for me; they showed me that there was something much more to the world than I had understood. 

“I think the limits that we impose on ourselves from the inside can be really damaging and really limiting, especially when you don’t even realise that you’re doing it. Sometimes just having someone open the door for you and show you that what you want can be available is most powerful, as it enables you to find your own way to what is important to you.”

Becky’s advice is to always ask questions, of others and of yourself.    

And always find time to play: “It’s important to find time to do things because they are fun and make you laugh.”