Introducing: Project Pieta

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It’s rare to find an unknown clothing brand doing something interesting with their production that’s not just ad copy, but instead something that strikes you immediately as new and unusual. Recently we came across the Peruvian brand Pieta, who hands manufacturing of their clothes over to prisoners in a local Lima prison. They even feature some prisoners as models in their lookbook. The brand is very careful to explain how this process came about and how they are trying to make cool clothes while also making prisoners lives better.

Visiting the prison a year or two ago, Thomas from Pieta noticed sewing machines and work areas gathering dust, unused by prisoners, and after a long talk with people at the prison, came up with the brand and a mission. The goal: to equip prisoners with skills they can use after they leave prison, to allow them to make a living off their own hard work, to see the results of that work, gain confidence and pride, and rehabilitate themselves quickly and productively. Additionally, for every day that the prisoners work, they take a day off their sentences. In a world where we are used to prisons acting as holding pens for mostly lower-class young people, it’s great to see someone trying to do something positive in these people’s lives.

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One thing that drew our attention was the way these clothes were produced. The clothes are made of what the brand calls “all-natural, ecological, and recycled” materials from Peru: pima cotton, baby alpaca wool, and other materials sourced from the region. The production model the brand uses, perhaps out of necessity, is not a production-line one, but one based around the idea of an artisan’s workshop. Although made to standardized patterns, each garment is in some way different from the others, unique, hand numbered, and signed by the worker who made the garment. The clothes feature no logos and no tags. The brand admits that it took a while for the prisoners’ work to be close to market-ready, but after a lot of practice, and trial and error, they were able to produce quality samples and get mass production to a level appropriate for retail. This also grabbed us– the brand grew with the prisoners. Pieta didn’t stumble across a prison full of imprisoned tailors, instead they helped make everyday, interested people into capable craftspeople.

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We were also struck by the designs of the clothes and the lookbook that accompanies the brands’ launch. A project like this could very easily have slacked on the design and PR sides of things, forgetting that selling these goods is just as important as producing them, or they could have gone the route of many altruistic brands and got all crunchy– appealing to a granola-eating, middle-aged crowd. Instead they’ve gone in a different, younger, direction, with American- and European-inflected streetwear influences and a striking lookbook. Several of those photos are featured with this post.

We’re excited to share this brand with you. We like a lot about it– the concept, the lookbook– and we look forward to seeing what they do next and how they grow.

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 WORDS: DAVID VIBERT