CARCEL’S SOCIAL MISSION: While living in Kenya a few years ago, Veronica D’Souza visited a work program for prison inmates, an experience that stayed with her and eventually led to today’s launch of Carcel.
Through a 30-day, $23,000 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, the company aims to get enough preorders to finance new knitting machines for the prison, where the collection is being produced. Those funds would also be used to give the women an education and start production. The Copenhagen-based company will launch its own e-commerce site in February, D’Souza said.
The sustainable knitwear label will be produced by female prisoners in Lima, Peru. While standing in the small visitors’ shop in the prison in Africa, D’Souza said it occurred to her that the well-made goods had such restricted distribution and that lack of demand diminished what must have been a purposeful activity for the prisoners. D’Souza aims to give them a sense of dignity, motivation and wages to provide for their children.
Carcel currently has lined up a team of 10 prisoners to produce its collection, but the company can scale up to 180 women depending on demand. The six-style collection of alpaca designs in bold colors retails from $125 to $350. From D’Souza’s point of view, poverty is “really the main cause” as to why these incarcerated women wound up in prison. Aside from being willing to sew and knit, the women are eager to learn about design. Each woman will have her name printed on the label of the garment that she creates to help to give them a sense of worth and to humanize the brand’s strategy. Consultant Louise van der Hoven has advised D’Souza about improving social engagement with clients.
D’Souza is considering opening pop-up shops, the first of which would be in Copenhagen, to sell Carcel sweaters, trousers and T-shirts. This is not her first attempt at a socially conscious company. In 2011, D’Souza helped start and remains a co-owner of Ruby Cup, menstrual cups designed to lessen absenteeism among school girls in Africa. Through the “Buy One Give One” model, the company donates Ruby Cups to girls in Africa.