This month we celebrate the 13th anniversary of our company. I started my company after I recovered from breast cancer. When we started the company the women who produced our collection were prisoners.
The women in the maximum-security prison in Washington State had a company run by civilians that sewed for some of the biggest names in the clothing business. I was thrilled to have them sew my sleepwear too.
Going to the prison I had to have an appointment to visit; could not just show up. Everything I brought into the prison had to be searched. Every bolt of fabric, spool of thread, and piece of elastic had to be unwound and rewound. The procedure took hours.
On my person I was allowed to bring in blank paper. That was it! When I left I had to go through security again. Picking up completed product was another excruciating slow process.
I did it because it was worth it for me and my company and the women prisoners. When I started my company I wanted our products to be made in this country and as local as possible. The women in prison if they don’t have anyone on the outside helping them financially they can’t buy any extras from the prison store. Many of these women don’t have anyone.
Since it is maximum security most of the women are in prison for decades. To work for the prison company was a privilege. The women got a chance to earn some money and actually have a job with something they could take pride in doing!
I won’t deny it, I was a bit afraid going through gate after gate to the workroom. Over the 2 years I used the prison company, before they closed down, I got to know some of the inmates working on my collection. Most of the women were murderers. They killed their abusive pimp or husband or boyfriend. Because there is not much of a turnover, the work was done consistently and beautifully.
At the end of our first production run the women prisoners put on a fashion show for me of my collection. It brought me to tears. Their pride in their workmanship and partnership touched me deeply!
Is your reality of women prisoners from Orange is the New Black?