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  1. #1

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    Goalhouse Denim - Jeans Made by Prisoners

    Have seen some advertising for this knocking around today:

    Gaolhouse Denim

    Looks like an interesting product and idea, jeans also look quite nice. Half considering ordering a pair just to be involved in it and see what they're like.

    Anyone else seen this yet?

  2. #2

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    Looks like a good initiative and I'm very supportive of anything that helps criminals gain some skills to turn their lives to something positive.

    As a concept it's great, but the question is how much ? Because inmates are paid a flat fee of 12 a day for any type of work, so it's basically the equivalent of an Indian sweat shop. With this in mind it would be criminal (pardon the pun) to start applying a silly price for these unless absolutely only the finest denim and highest quality work is on display. They might be using trendy All Saints style photos, but hopefully they are going to be realistic with the cost of the actual garment!

    Edit - just seen the price.119. A scandal to be honest!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Creed View Post
    Looks like a good initiative and I'm very supportive of anything that helps criminals gain some skills to turn their lives to something positive.

    As a concept it's great, but the question is how much ? Because inmates are paid a flat fee of 12 a day for any type of work, so it's basically the equivalent of an Indian sweat shop. With this in mind it would be criminal (pardon the pun) to start applying a silly price for these unless absolutely only the finest denim and highest quality work is on display. They might be using trendy All Saints style photos, but hopefully they are going to be realistic with the cost of the actual garment!

    Edit - just seen the price.119. A scandal to be honest!
    Agreed, the price is too much. I imagine they're finished off by more skilled workers after but they have definitely cashed in on being different, hand made and they come wrapped in brown paper so they're bound to be expensive.
    The images are cool and using Ricki Hall is an ingenious bit of marketing but I don't think I'm willing to pay 119 for a brand no one has worn yet.

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    I would have serious problems with the ethics behind something like this. The company brands itself as providing "meaningful and rehabilitating work to some very talented prisoners". While I have no doubt that creating things would be of benefit to prisoners and their rehabilitation, there is still a large element of "slave labour" to schemes like this as the companies selling the jeans pay a pittance to the prisoners for their labour. The fact that the prisoners volunteer to do this work for the pay offered is irrelevant, it is still unethical.

    The other side to this is that for every pair of jeans that is sold by Gaolhouse, it is one less pair that would have been sold to a company who are paying a law abiding citizen to do the same job (and for a fair wage).

    The Gaolhouse website is cool, they promote themselves well and I can see why some people would think this is a great idea, but to me it's just screams of all sorts of wrong.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Naboo View Post
    Agreed, the price is too much. I imagine they're finished off by more skilled workers after but they have definitely cashed in on being different, hand made and they come wrapped in brown paper so they're bound to be expensive.
    The images are cool and using Ricki Hall is an ingenious bit of marketing but I don't think I'm willing to pay 119 for a brand no one has worn yet.
    The brand ethos seems a bit like a kitchen table daydream that's got out of hand. If they were priced competitively at, say for example 70, which is above high street but less than the mental barrier of 100, then it could have taken off and be given the opportunity to actually expand and become a mainstream brand - which surely should be the aim of any label? Especially when they could offer the released inmates the opportunity to go and work with them upon release. At the moment it seems an extremely limited target audience - people with big wallets who are compassionate towards prisoners. Whilst most people would welcome the chance for prisoners to gain skills, I doubt many would be willing to actually pay out hard money for this. I think they've priced themselves out of a saturated market!

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    Quote Originally Posted by DorianGrape View Post
    I would have serious problems with the ethics behind something like this. The company brands itself as providing "meaningful and rehabilitating work to some very talented prisoners". While I have no doubt that creating things would be of benefit to prisoners and their rehabilitation, there is still a large element of "slave labour" to schemes like this as the companies selling the jeans pay a pittance to the prisoners for their labour. The fact that the prisoners volunteer to do this work for the pay offered is irrelevant, it is still unethical.

    The other side to this is that for every pair of jeans that is sold by Gaolhouse, it is one less pair that would have been sold to a company who are paying a law abiding citizen to do the same job (and for a fair wage).

    The Gaolhouse website is cool, they promote themselves well and I can see why some people would think this is a great idea, but to me it's just screams of all sorts of wrong.
    You've hit the nail on the head! This is a subject I know quite a bit about, as I spent 3 years as an offender mentor, but working with people who had just been released from prison (on probation). It is at THIS point they need the work - not when they are in prison on 12 a day doing everything from prison chef to folding linen. They need a job when out in the real world when no one else will give them a job, despite any skills they learned inside prison. No one will be giving these goal house workers a job upon release, and in the meantime they've worked for 12 a day. If goal house had a policy of making jeans with RELEASED prisoners, on a standard minimum wage, which is going to be 7+ per hour, then that's a totally different ball game and much more admirable. But more expensive for the label, and hence less profit! An example of how it should be done is the key / cobbler chain Timpson, who have 25% of their entire workforce as ex convicts.

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    Didn't realise Timpson had that policy, that's really cool.

    The more I look at the brand from different perspectives you can really see how and why they've gone with their chosen image as I think they'll do relatively well for a short space of time but don't imagine them ever breaking into the mass market.

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    DorianGrape's Avatar

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    Excellent points Creed.

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    I have a belt handmade by prisoners; it's my pride and joy. I think I paid around $25 from San Quentin Prison in San Francisco. If my flat were on fire it's the first item of clothing I'd grab.

    Morally, I spoke to the prisoner running the shop and learnt that, after the cost of the materials, the prisoner receives the full value of any sale for cigarettes and phone calls to family. I don't personally have an issue with that system. It's fair and there are no middlemen making a quick buck on the back of the prisoner's unfortunate situation.

    Quite why a private company is doing the same thing and making a small fortune out of people who are incarcerated - that I really don't get. I couldn't see any mention on the website of where the profits go so I can only guess it lines someone's pocket and doesn't help the people in the business doing the hard work.
    Last edited by naturals; 09-02-2014 at 11:09 PM. Reason: Spelling

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    Hi Guys,

    I'd just like to wade in here if I may. My name is Will Unwin and I'm actually the guy who started gaolhouse denim. I stumbled across this forum and find your discussion interesting, so I'd like to offer my two pennies worth if I may.

    Fist of all, I must correct you that these jeans are NOT made in prison, but were designed and developed. I.e. we worked with prisoners to create the jean which is now made here in England. Over a year we went into the prison tailoring shops and worked directly with prisoners and their mentors to create this first jean. In essence we worked together to create over 25 samples so that we could get it just right. You'll have to take my word for it that the prisoners really did enjoy working on a 'live project' and that it was a refreshing break from the norm. It is not a sweat shop environment where prisoners are behind machines with a mentor barking instructions, but instead an open and collaborative environment.

    In truth, the plan had always been that the jeans would be manufactured in prison but half way through the project the ministers had a change of heart and so we had to move the production outside. Partly because of growing concerns that this venture would take work away from good honest people. A fair point that I have grown to accept. To tackle this we moved our manufacture outside of the prison workshops and the upshot now being that we have been able to provide great work to prisoners while also providing work to the British tailoring trade at the same time.

    If you read our moving forwards tab on our website you will see that we do actually intend to diversify and create jobs for released prisoners. We are a fair way off yet, but that's the plan. We are hoping to team released prisoners up with our designers to help develop our future ranges. We need to establish ourselves first and will have to look at financing option for this as well as it won't be easy, but that's the goal.

    Re: you're comments about the price, it's great to hear your honest words as it's always a tough subject to tackle. All I can say in response to the matter is that compared to other 'Made in England' denim brands, I do not feel we are not over the top. Companies such as Fallow, Hiut and tender are all charging between 130-250 a pair.

    Of course we could certainly have made the jeans for less by using a cheaper denim, getting rid of the English twill, the custom haberdashery and making them in Tunisa, but that goes against everything we stand for, which at the end of the day boils down to quality and using home grown produce where possible.

    The price point we have set is also to future proofs us. While at the moment we are selling directly, we have plans to provide shops with our jeans. Typically retailers want to make a mark up to 120-200% for this type of product. To sell at 70 or so as mentioned above would see us making little to no profit.

    I hope you don't mind me stepping in. We're only a tiny enterprise at the moment so I thought it be OK to personally get involved.

    I'll check back here, but if you have any other questions please fell free to drop me an email at will@gaolhousedenim.com

    Best,

    Will

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