As sources of sustainable clothing go, Eastern European prisons are hardly the first to come to mind. But that assumption has been proven wrong by Heavy Eco, an eco-conscious and socially progressive fashion label that sells products designed and made by inmates in Estonian prisons.
Bags, iPad and computer sleeves and wallets are made from discarded billboards; t-shirts and underwear are made from organic cotton from India. The use of discarded billboard material isn't new to us; Target even made bags from its own advertisements.
Heavy Eco argues that social injustice and childhood difficulties are what led many of the involved inmates to prison in the first place. It donates 50% of its profits to "homeless and orphanage children," though it does not mention any specific charity or organization.
As far as the inmates are concerned, Heavy Eco explains that they make the minimum wage (an EU regulation). Designing and making original clothing is an outlet for creativity and teaches job skills. At the very least, it's a way to kill time. The project was co-financed by the European Social Fund, the EU's employment support arm.
Heavy Eco just launched in the UK, where those looking to up their street credit can buy t-shirts for £33.27 ($53) and bags starting from £41.70 ($66).
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