Front Lounge

Rip it up and start again

Front Lounge blog

When it comes to sewing, sometimes you have to rip out the stitches and start again.

Here at Front Lounge, our Kindred Clothing project is all about resilience and transformation. Our learners sign up with tales of frustration, inadequacy and apathy yet leave with a qualification, new friends and business contacts to help take that next step. Whether that’s progressing to further study or meaningful work, the only constant is change.

But for those who hope to enter the clothes-making industry, how do we as a nation perceive people who sew clothes for a living?  And is it time that we ripped up that outdated perception of low-paid women’s work?

As we know from the myriad of professionals our learners work with, designing and making clothes in 2023 requires skill, knowledge, precision and creativity, not forgetting perseverance, drive and strong networks.

Zoe Smith supporting other Kindred Clothing learners. Photo credit: Thea McDonald-Lee of Mops Media.

That’s why Kindred Clothing learners leave with more than practical, sewing skills alone.

Because we focus on social justice, often supporting young people slipping through the cracks of society, we do a few things differently. Some of our learners had a poor experience of school and expect ‘learning’ to be dry, regimented and dull.  They soon realise Kindred Clothing is different. We teach our learners both practical and soft skills, preparing them to join a modern, skilled workforce, with good pay and opportunities to progress. So yes, they learn how to make clothes for themselves and their children but, in doing so, they also build confidence, resilience and patience. In short, they get up, show up and work as a team.

As thousands of employers, charities and individuals prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day, with this year’s theme being ‘DigitALL:  Innovation and Technology for Gender Equality’, technology also has a role to play. Technology shouts education, advancement and being part of a community – that’s what you get when you integrate it into the process. Only then can we transform these women’s lives and create the backbone of a sustainable and lasting industry – its workforce.

We’re exceptionally fortunate to have captured the attention of Ufi VocTech Trust which supports organisations across the UK to develop technology that will improve adult vocational skills. Specifically, they focus on supporting sectors, locations, skills levels and individuals that have not been well served by traditional or mainstream provision.

Having ‘got’ our ethos and mission from day one, Ufi has supported us in designing a Learning Management System (LMS) that allows learners to manage their own online portal, access course materials and upload their progress, whether through journaling or photographs. It’s also the place where our assessors can monitor their achievements and ensure they’re on track.    Because their portal is unique to them and they’re responsible for it, we’ve worked hard to ensure that it looks and feels good, is robust yet intuitive, even if they’re accessing it on a mobile phone.

As our mentor at Ufi Caroline O’Donnell said, “Successful projects focus on the learner, not the technology. If you keep the user at the heart of your tech you’ll keep them engaged, otherwise you’ll lose them.”

Kindred Clothing graduation

Dressed for the occasion at graduation! Pic credit – Drew Cunningham.

Because of the LMS, our course could be taught anywhere, to anyone. Whether students are in Dundee city centre, a village hall in Stornaway or a library in Glasgow, we can combine face-to-face teaching delivered by an ever-growing network of creative partners, supported by the LMS.

So yes, technology is crucial, but our learners also need the human touch. By combining that technology with our face-to-face teaching and interaction with industry professionals, learners benefit from the face-to-face support and encouragement you can’t get online.

At a time when, according to Women’s Enterprise Scotland, only one in five businesses in Scotland is majority-owned by women. We have a significant enterprise gender gap which needs closing and Front Lounge is right behind the drive to do just that. We empower our learners to see their potential, be part of something bigger and secure rewarding work to support and inspire their families. In return, we give back by shaping a skilled and motivated workforce that our country and economy are crying out for.

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