When this company reached out to me about its edgy, eco-conscious fashion created by Eastern European prisoners who are “stamping their own dark flair into products”, I loved the products but thought it all sounded too good to be true.
Heavy Eco’s collection includes hard-wearing messenger bags, wallets and computer sleeves from no longer used advertising billboards. The creative process according to the company’s website: “These billboards are huge (measuring 6×3 m) and there are endless possibilities to cut it, so what you see on a bag is decided by inmates who made it.” Images on Heavy Eco T-shirts are “…portraying the world as it is, with pictures in black and white, taken from everyday life in Eastern Europe, may it be a graffiti on the prison wall or an average Joe’s chest hair.”
Here’s what Toomas Plunt had to say when I asked him for details about how the prisoners are involved:
“Dealing with inmates is difficult and more complex than with normal workforce, so we can’t employ them directly. There is Prison Manufacturing Ltd, that provides inmates with work opportunities and pays their salary. There are two main things about work they do – rehabilitation and earning salary. We are working out the basic design, give some instructions and order it from this Prison Manufacturing Ltd.
Working in manufacturing can be quite boring, because you repeat the same process all over again. So we have suggested our intermediary let the convicts, themselves, choose what part of billboard you see on a bag. I’ve gotten feedback that some inmates like to make bags more than other things, because it offers them a chance to express themselves more.”
Although I haven’t done a site visit (!) I buy his answers and plan on buying some products from Heavy Eco. Not only because they are really fresh but and because maybe with only stores in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Helsinki and London, every Tom, Dick and U.S. Hipster Harry won’t have em!