The fashion industry may be first and foremost a glittery glamorous world of fakeness, but there are every now and then designers and labels trying to bring some genuine changes, while offering consumers the chance to create a better world. Carcel is among those few labels that have chosen to make a social mission the heart of their collections.
Founder Veronica D'Souza - a social entrepreneur who also started Ruby Cup, menstrual cups designed to lessen absenteeism among school girls in Africa - was inspired to launch the project after she visited in 2014 a work program for prison inmates in Kenya.
Here she realised that most women in jail came from poor backgrounds and had been incarcerated for non-violent crimes due to a lack of opportunities.
D'Souza then visited Peru, a country with a high-rate of drug-trafficking sentences for young women from poor backgrounds and low levels of education, but a place well-known for its Alpaca wool.
In women's prisons all over the country D'Souza met a few people who already knew how to work on manual knitting machines and soon a project was born.
Thanks to a partnership with the National Prison System of Peru and a local production manager inside the women's prison in Cuzco, D'Souza put together a manufacturing team to make a compact and basic men and women's wear collection of knitwear separates in a palette of versatile bold colours. All the pieces were created by designer Louise van Hauen.
In October Carcel launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a sustainable collection made with the help of 10 female inmates (though the company would like to bring the numbers to 180) in Peru.
Carcel reached its DKK 150,000 goal in one day, hitting in November a new goal - DKK 351,950, a sum that allowed the company to buy new knitting machines.
Some of the women involved in the project share their thoughts and their biographies on Carcel's site: Gloria, a mother of three from a poor background, transported drugs to provide for her family, got caught and ended up in prison; "Anabel" is instead innocent, but has been in prison for more than two years since she was accused of aggravated robbery after answering a call from a friend.
From the stories on the "Journal" section of Carcel's website you clearly understand that work keeps them sane, while providing a way to make some money to buy things they may need in prison, such as toiletries, or help their families and children. In the long-term such projects can break the cycle of poverty since they teach new skills to the women involved and guarantee them a fresh start once they're out of jail.
Carcel's project is not new considering that there are a few organisations or associations out there producing garments and accessories made by inmates. But the label differentiates itself from other ones for having chosen to manufacture a collection with high quality yarns and promising consumers to distribute it on a global level.
It will be interesting to see if Carcel opts to take part next year in yarn fairs as well and bring in this way its ethical message to a wider audience of professionals and buyers. In the meantime, the label is planning its next collection: as stated in yesterday's post, it will be made from organic silk and will be manufactured by women in prison in India.