Rarely are we aware of the actual name of the individual who made our clothes – the story of the person whose hands are responsible for our daily wardrobe. Well, that’s all about to change... 

Danish womenswear brand, Carcel, is setting a new standard with its socially responsible business model that holds transparency in the utmost importance. Working alongside female prisons, Carcel asks its workers to stitch their names into every minimalist masterpiece (the look is every inch the Scandi classic) so that, not only are you aware of the woman who brought each piece into existence, but you’ll carry her legacy with you each and every time you wear her work.

Intrigued by this model of socially responsible design, we asked social entrepreneur, Veronica D’Souza (one half of the brand, which she shares with her design partner, Louise van Hauen) to tell us more about this revolutionary retail concept.

Founders Louise van Hauen and Veronica D'Souza.

The idea for Carcel is a unique one… How did it come about?
I was curious about female incarceration in relation to poverty, so I decided to visit a women’s prison in Nairobi, Kenya. My eyes were opened; I watched how the women crafted for hours on end to stay busy, and I became incredibly aware that they had poor access to good materials and no market to sell to.

I’m a social entrepreneur by heart, and witnessing this sparked the idea to provide women with high-quality materials, training and the opportunity to earn good wages – all of which would mean that we could empower them and offer a better future.

How did this lightbulb moment in Africa lead to your first collection and collaboration with a Peruvian prison?
Our criteria was to set up our production in a country where there were high rates of poverty-related crimes, as well as quality, native materials. This comes from an environmental perspective, but also because the women are most skilled at working with these. Peru fitted that bill.

After visiting loads of different prisons, we settled on one in Cusco because of the amazing location in the Andes Mountains and the strong local sense of leadership and craftsmanship.

One of the defining features of each garment is that they are stitched with the name of the woman who made them. Why choose to include this?
Not only is it essential for us to create transparency, it makes these women extremely proud and engaged to know that people around the world know their name and story

It’s a given that people tend to care more for products when they are made of good quality materials and when there’s a story that they can feel attached to it. We believe in buying less but better in order to create a healthier, sustainable fashion industry

What does working sustainably mean to you? What do you hope for the future of fashion?
We always ask ourselves how we can do things better. This means that we have rethought the entire supply chain – from the choice of material, working environment and design processes to, finally, how we can improve the purchase and use of a product. 

We have introduced pre-order windows, which means that we produce on demand. For me, this is a great part of the future of fashion; I hope that the industry will soon realise the responsibility we all have… Otherwise, it won’t be able to continue. 

Click here to discover Carcel. 

In case you missed it, discover and shop Catherine Quinn's capsule collection with Women for Women International.