Runway News


German company Haeftling (German for “prisoner”) made international headlines with the February 2008 opening of its Berlin shop.
In an industry where where boycotts and anti-sweatshop campaigns oppose the labor practices of most luxury goods and apparel production companies, Haeftling sets itself apart.

Since 2003, a majority of Haeftling’s products have been designed and made by prison inmates, who earn about five dollars per hour making clothing like jackets, T-shirts, aprons and sweatshirts, as well as some housewares.
This is not quite sweatshop labor, though, since inmates seem to benefit from the voluntary program.  Besides earning a little money that they will need when they complete their sentences, sewing sessions helps inmates pass the time and get a little work experience.  The structure of time and activity, even if for just part of a day, gives inmates some semblance of the “normal” life they used to live and will one day rejoin.  

Haeftling also allows some creativity in the project, giving inmates the opportunity to design.  The Haeftling-designed clothing is modeled after prison wear, and just constructed by the workers.  But some pieces, like T-shirts, bear inmates’ original artwork.
At Haeftling’s Berlin store – and in their online shop – you can buy clothing and accessories for men and women, items for the home, and even coffee beans.

Inmates make about 20 percent of Haeftling’s products; the rest, more complicated pieces, are made elsewhere.  Between three and five percent of the proceeds of each Haeftling product benefits prisoner charities and anti-death penalty organizations, like Amnesty International and the German Initiative Against the Death Penalty.

The inmate-inspired pieces are pretty basic – they’re standard shapes, many stamped with a bold Haeftling logo.  But the men’s field jackets are actually pretty cute, and the company’s concept cannot be rivaled for originality.
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