Opinion: Fashion and Prisons

Last week I read an interesting article about an American clothing company who have come up with a creative solution to two social problems.
At LCF, I have always been passionate about using the power of fashion to tackle social, environmental or political issues so it immediately caught my eye.
The article mentions how little clothing is made in the same country it is worn, in the U.S. for example, only 2-3% of clothing worn there is made there – down from 50% in 1900.
Rising unemployment and poverty rates have also seen an increase in recent times, with an incredible 700% increase in incarceration from 1970 to 2005 in the U.S.
At first these two things don’t seemed to have an awful lot in common but the American clothing company Lazlo have seen an opportunity to link these problems in their solution.
When Lazlo discovered that the Michigan Department of Corrections had set up a program to train and employ men in a prison garment factory, the clothing company recognised an opportunity. They set up a shop in Detroit and employed prisoners to work there.
Lazlo now provide living-wage jobs for a marginalized population and in return are bringing garment manufacturing back to the U.S.
This is an excellent idea, as it is well known that prisoners face difficulty finding living wage jobs after incarceration. With a lack of basic job skills many prisoners are employed a few months after release, and unsurprisingly nearly 80% of people released, reoffend within a year.
This social problem forced us at LCF to establish Made For Change, a fashion training and manufacture unit at HMP Holloway, which, like Lazlo, aims as providing skills and meaningful employment for offenders.
This project, which has been set up to help female offenders turn their backs on a life of crime, fills a recognised skills gap within the London area. It aims to train and employ up to 20 female offenders on a regular basis within Holloway prison and support them on release to gain work placements and employment within the fashion manufacture sector in the UK.
I am pleased to hear that other companies are joining us in using fashion to tackle these social issues as well as promote more ethical sourcing of our garments; an inspired solution.
You can read the original article in the Huffington Post here and check out the great work Lazlo are undertaking here.