It used to be that ex-cons would have to broker a record deal before starting their own designer line of fashion but the female inmates at San Vittore prison are cutting out the middle man. A recent article in The New Zealand Herald called “Jailbirds Want to Break into Fashion” (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/section/2/story.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10454767) and reports that this Milan based prison that has in its past housed fascists, terrorists, and murderers is now the home to emerging designers. The cultural arts programs which include courses in film editing, theater, poetry, and tailoring are giving inmates more than “survival” skills, they are helping them discover their passion and talents in an effort to decrease recidivism rates. Two t-shirt labels from the prison called “Made in Jail” (established in 2001 by Mirko Prochilo, a 17 year-old arrested for robbery) and “Jail Cats” (more recently established) have successfully launched. Clients of San Vittore designers include television shows, posh boutiques, and Milan’s famous La Scala opera house.
I love that the democratization of fashion is happening from the bottom up rather than the top down. While the sartorial sensibilities of Kate Moss, Vera Wang, and other fashionistas are transmitted to the masses with their budget-conscious lines—leaving intact couture fashion as an elite world in which little people with thinner bank accounts emulate, the San Vittore inmates are changing what it means to be a couturier by injecting themselves and their sensibilities into it.