Sarah Beckett of Birdsong talks about ethical fashion and Entrepreneur Academe.

I’m Sarah Beckett, one of the founders of Birdsong. Birdsong is an online marketplace for clothing made by women’s organisations. No sweatshop, no photoshop.

We started Birdsong one year ago in response to funding cuts to women’s organisations. 92% of women’s UK women’s charities have had their funding cut in the last three years. We knew, on the other hand, that many of these groups make great clothes, often with a high level of skill. Where they struggle is when it comes to selling the clothes they make online.

That’s where Birdsong comes in. We offer tailored support, helping these groups reach the level they need to sell. We are now working with fourteen women’s organisations from around the globe. We have knitters in Kingston, seamstresses from migrant communities in Brick Lane and jewellery makers in Notting Hill. We have Israeli and Palestinian women waging their own peace protest together by making dresses, single mums making underwear in the US, and survivors of slavery turned metalsmiths in India.

Ethical fashion is a growing market, but it’s not just the well publicised damage caused to the environment, the low wages and poor working conditions that have provoked this change in attitude. It’s also the way that brands market to their consumers. The tide is turning  against the unrealistic standards based on our beauty as worth. Today’s women are growing tired of the same narrow representation of women, overly photoshopped models and one size fits all marketing campaigns – there is a call for change.

My co-founder, Sophie, experienced this in her brief stint as a model in her teens. She was constantly told, as an underdeveloped 7 stone teenager, that she was perfect the way she was and encouraged to stay ‘as you are’.

That’s why we never photoshop our models. Our recent #AsWeAre photo campaign uses women of different ages, races, sizes and abilities as models and has been featured in The Guardian, Dazed and The Pool, with a great response so far. We would love to have your help spreading the movement and sharing the photos.

Over the past year we have taught ourselves pretty much everything we know about business. Entrepreneur Academe has been an incredible support with this. Having the other entrepreneurs and mentors on hand to chat to over a coffee has been a huge asset and encouragement. We’ve learnt there’s almost nothing that Google can’t teach you, and that it’s perfectly possible to become a makeshift photographer / coder / designer until you have the budget to hire someone to do it for you. We’ve also learned that you can’t build a brand overnight, but we are excited about the future and have some ambitious sales targets in the run up to Christmas. We are very much enjoying the journey and the opportunity to meet inspiring people like yourselves along the way.

We want to say a huge thank you to the team at Entrepreneur Academe and to all the mentors who have generously offered their time.