About 'While Shepherds Watched'
My name is Lucy Jiwa, and I am the founder and owner of While Shepherds Watched nativity Costumes. The aim of my business has always been to provide beautiful nativity costumes with the minimum amount of stress. I hope to help parents who often need to provide a costume at very short notice!
When I first started this business I sewed all of the costumes I sold. They were such a success as people liked buying 'handmade' costumes, even if they hadn't been made with their 'own' hands! In 2009 I couldn't keep up with demand and trialled selling some ethically produced costumes. They were such a hit, and so beautifully made, I no longer sew any of the costumes I sell.
Ethical values have always been important to me, so from the start I was keen to make these costumes as 'green' as I could. I love the phrase "made for children, not by children". In 2009 I started using Organic Fairtrade Certified Cotton for my costumes, and moved on to importing costumes sewn by talented tailors in India. The tailors used were paid above average wages, worked in clean modern buildings and had allowances for healthcare, secure employment, provident fund, gratuity, sickness benefit and a crèche.
The business I bought these costumes through (Bishopston Trading Company) closed down in 2012, as the policy of educating the workers' children meant that more children were going to University rather than continuing in the family business of weaving or tailoring. A victim of their own success! I managed to stock up on a last large order of my costumes, and then in 2014 I found a UK based worker's co-operative who could sew my designs for me. I sourced more beautiful fabric, all of it containing Organic Cotton and some of it fairtrade registered, and my business continues to grow.
How did this all start?
I well remember the anxiety of letters coming home from school requiring costumes, usually at short notice, for my children's imminent Nativity Plays. My daughter's first school Nativity Play in Reception required her to be a "busy person" and wear her usual winter coat, so that wasn't too tricky. By her Year 1 play though she was promoted to "Shepherd 5", so a real costume had to be provided. That year (2004) I quickly ran a costume up for my daughter, and also for a friend of hers.
By the next year, word had got around the playground that I could make costumes and I was asked to make several Shepherds, three Sheep and a Cow. I enjoyed sewing them so much I made a few extra and sold them on eBay.
By 2006, to cope with the extra demand, I launched the 'While Shepherds Watched' website.
What makes the costumes so special?
When I first had to find a costume for my daughter I looked in supermarkets and online and was disappointed to find a very limited range of costumes, most made from very cheap nylon fabric and looking like they might not last even as long as the first performance. I know I was looking for traditional nativity styles, with a touch of individuality, coupled with long-lasting quality and ease of care.
My children, on the other hand, mainly wanted to be comfortable. They wanted a costume that was easy to change into, and back out of again, and that didn't require any 'fussing'.
I think that all of my costumes satisfy these criteria, and I hope you agree! None of my costumes have any fastenings - no buttons, velcro or zips - which means they are easy for your child to get on and off by themselves which can be essential in a busy production. Being made of natural fabrics means they won't have the dreaded 'static hair' either.
The Fairtrade Certification Mark is an independent guarantee that the cotton in a product which carries the Mark has been certified in accordance with international Fairtrade standards. The purchase of products made with Fairtrade Certified Cotton ensures small-scale farmers in developing countries receive both a fair price and additional Fairtrade Premium for social, economic and environmental projects. For more information on Fairtrade cotton please visit the Fairtrade Foundation Website.
The costumes with head dresses are supplied with a simple adjustable elastic head band. The elastic head bands aren't Fairtrade certified.
Please look at the fabric details for each costume, as not all of the fabrics are Fairtrade Certified.
Article in Candis Magazine, December 2008
In 2008 I was interviewed by Maria Whittaker for Candis magazine, and featured in an article about Christmas businesses. Click on the logo to open the article as a PDF file (you will need a suitable viewer installed in order to open this).