Convict Chic: the latest trend in Berlin fashion
That this style is being "produced, designed and inspired by prisoners" sounds almost like a joke, until you realize how seriously the designers are are taking it and how 'authentic' they're trying to be.
I can accept that they've employed jailed Texans to design tattoo-styled t-shirts for Berlin fashionistas, but what is this business of "espresso beans roasted by inmates"? Seriously.
If you want to be part of Berlin's fashionable in-crowd these days, try dressing like a convict — drab prisoners' garb, it turns out, is the new, cool look in the streets of the German capital.
Or at least that's what Ahmad Keyaniyan says. On Friday, the native Hamburger opened a store selling fashion produced, designed and inspired by prisoners.
Squeezed between a pornography store and a run-down insurance company office in the eastern side of downtown Berlin, the sparsely furnished store called Haeftling, or Prisoner, sells the rough and tough look of the jailhouse.
Striped shirts, gray hoodies and dark brown jackets are the mainstay of the men's collection, while miniskirts made of coarse denim and sweaters with hidden pockets — useful for smuggling drugs past prison guards — make up the ladies' label.
"Our entire look is robust and adjusted to prison," said spokeswoman Karola Schoewe. "We use hard materials and there will never be a lot of color."
A limited T-shirt edition was designed by inmates in Texas — with prints of voluptuous women similar to the tattoos that adorn some prisoners' arms and chests.
Convicts at prisons all over Germany, from the Aichach women's prison in Bavaria to Billwerder prison near Hamburg, are involved in the production.
While not all the clothes are created or designed behind prison walls — some of the street wear is produced by regular workers in Poland and India — Keyaniyan says that 3 to 5 percent of every item he sells goes to prisoner-related charities, among them Amnesty International and the German Initiative against Death Penalty.
Besides clothes, Haeftling also sells bed sheets, dish towels and espresso beans roasted by inmates.