Innovation That Matters

Prison inmates paid to design & produce t-shirts and bags

Nonprofit & Social Cause

Heavy Eco is an Estonian site that sells t-shirts, bags and accessories designed and produced by Eastern European prisoners still behind bars.

If prisoners can make and sell hot sauce online, then why not clothing and bags? That, indeed, is precisely the premise behind Heavy Eco, an Estonian brand that sells t-shirts, bags and accessories, designed and produced by Eastern European prisoners still behind bars. Aiming to provide hope and rehabilitation to prison inmates, Tallinn-based Laurus Ethica OY — owner of the Heavy Eco site — gives those behind bars a chance to design and produce products ranging from messenger bags to t-shirts and wallets. Bags and wallets are produced from PVC material reclaimed from discarded billboards, making them able to withstand virtually any weather conditions; a lifetime warranty backs up that promise. T-shirts, meanwhile, are made from organic Indian cotton and feature prints inspired by old Russian prison tattoos, each of which tells a story about the individual who wears it. The site explains: “In the Russian criminal world, every tattoo tells a lifestory of a criminal. You can tell what the person is in jail for, how many times he’s been convicted and even if he has a gambling or drug addiction just by looking at the tattoos.” Prisoners involved with Heavy Eco get paid for their work, which is sold online as well as through stockists in London, Denmark, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands. Fifty percent of all profit is donated to Estonian NGOs benefiting orphanages and homeless children. Buyers, meanwhile, get unique goods with a story and (still) made here appeal that’s second to none. Social and eco-minded entrepreneurs around the globe: be inspired! Spotted by: Steven Rich



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