Giving people a second chance does not always come easy.
This is often the case for prison leavers who look forward to reintegrating into society after their release.
Founders of the Inside Out project believe that change starts from inside; and this is why UK’s first clothing brand created by former offenders is giving an opportunity to find a fresh start.
In the UK, available statistics show that 48 percent of adults released from prison are reconvicted after a year; with only 10 percent finding employment within six weeks of their release, rising to 17% after a year.
The statistics speak to issues such as rejection, faced by people who have been formerly incarcerated; however, with the right network and support services, they can properly integrate into society without turning back to crime.
The Inside Out project gives a second chance for prison leavers to start their fashion business; providing an opportunity to gain meaningful employment through entrepreneurship. In collaboration with LinkedIn, the ‘Blank Canvas’ allowed eight young offenders to design and launch their own clothing brand selling it in a pop-up shop in East London in April 2022.
On display was a Limited-Edition Collection made up of 13 individual pieces, all hand designed by themselves.
“Blank Canvas offered former offenders a unique opportunity to develop skills and feel encouraged and empowered to enter the world of work”, Co-Founder, Zack Fortag said in an interview. “Inside Out is a nonprofit, and any money from sales goes back into the project, which we hope to run each year. Fashion was also chosen because it resonates with younger people”, Fortag added.
During the 10-day period, patrons who were part of the one-of-a-kind pop-up experience also had the opportunity to meet LinkedIn coaches for career advice in addition to having their headshots taken by a professional photographer. The shop provided young people a chance to develop skills in business, fashion and retail through a mix of classes led by LinkedIn. The partnership also gave them access to the organisation’s online training and organized mentoring, as well as advice on how to polish their profile pages.
Greg McKenzie, Co-Founder of the Inside Out project also said: “a big part of the project is challenging the negative public perception of ex-offenders and giving them an opportunity for a second chance. Some young offenders don’t get a second chance, some don’t even get a first chance. We wanted to give them experience in fashion and business.”
Inside Out is a social enterprise; and all the clothing purchased on its website are created, designed, and hand produced by the young ex-offenders on the project. According to its website, “each person involved is a brand ambassador with their own stories of hope, just wanting a second chance. All proceeds from sales go back into the charity which will enable us to continue the Inside Out project each year.”
To purchase products designed in the Blank Canvas project click here.
By: Theresa R. Fianko
Image Attribution: Inside Out Twitter Page