DAY 1 of 2 / Chapter 6 of 7 – Italy
Milan 0,7 km
17:30 – Prisoner gowns – 3 Via Guadenzio Ferrari
Armani, D&G, Gucci, Missoni, Valentino, Versace… We’d like to take the story further, and tell you about Socially Made in Italy. It’s about Italian excellence combined with top quality fabrics, styles and products… and the common good.
It all started in 1992, in the San Vittore prison in Milan, when the Cooperativa Sociale Alice (Alice Social Cooperative) createda theatre costume-makingdesign studio that was open to any prisoners that wanted to take part.
Today, after years of activity, the studio is not just a place for socialising, but a veritable dress and accessory maker branded under the name SartoriaSanVittore. It’s the first fashion brand in Italy created by prisoners and ex-prisoners.
In 2010, the Cooperativa Sociale Alice opened a showroom outside the prison with a design studio where, given special permission, some of the prisoners were allowed to work.
There’s a retro atmosphere in the showroom as we go inside and meet Ida, manager of this studio. “SartoriaSanVittorio’s main objective is to teach prisoners skills. For many of them, this work represents an opportunity to re-join society. Some have since been employed by dressmakers, and some have opened their own dressmaking workshops.
SartoriaSanVittore’s collections are made using high quality fabrics and exacting dressmaking techniques.
Ida: “We’ve had the good fortune to meet professionals who believed in our project and they have supported us from the very beginning. One of the first was Rosita Onofri, who has worked to design collections side by side with the prisoners for many years.
We look through the collection with assistant Ilaria. There are some lovely pieces, including a green satin skirt called Grace with laser cut flower designs. Gorgeous!
Then we come across Mirna, a turquoise jersey fabric dress with macramé shoulders, made by hand.
And the orange poncho? We love it! It’s called Edimburgo, and it’s made from viscose jersey with a knitted border.
We find ourselves holding Olivia, a long polka dot dress made out of viscose jersey and elastane. What do you think?
Our number one piece is Nada, a pair of super high waisted trousers made from jersey fabric.
We go into the studio. Here, the prisoners tell us how passionate they are about making clothes with their own hands. “The sewing machine has kept my mind and my hands busy – something that is fundamental if you want to survive in prison. And I’ve discovered a vocation: sewing,” explains one prisoner.
Ida is delighted to see her girls in the workshop. “These women work with pride, competence, and a sense of responsibility.”
SartoriaSanVittore doesn’t just produce clothing, but also accessories such as shoulder and cross body bags, made using furniture fabrics.
It might sound like a joke, but this studio also produces gowns for lawyers and magistrates. They follow the same standards as they do for everything they create: tailored clothing, made to measure using high quality Italian fabrics.
We couldn’t resist trying one on.
Silence in court!
Another of the Alice Cooperative’s brands is Gatti Galeotti (t-shirts, shopper bags, and various gadgets), which is manufactured in the studio within the prison.
The Cooperativa Sociale Alice named the Gatti Galeotti brand after the cats that came into the prison garden, which is outside the design studio’s windows.
The prisoners looked after the cats in winter when they would seek refuge in the studio by stepping through the bars on the windows. That’s where the name for the brand came from (gatti is the Italian word for ‘cat’, and galeotti means ‘convicts’).
Gatti Galeotti is a symbol of freedom for the imprisoned women of San Vittore.