Designer brings haute couture to Philippine prison

Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:55am EST
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By Michaela Cabrera

MANILA (Reuters Life!) - For inmates at a maximum-security prison in the Philippines, doing time has taken on a fashionable turn since an up-and-coming local designer recruited them to help craft his collection.

Puey Quinones conducts weekly workshops at the New Bilibid Prison to create couture cocktail dresses, bags and belts which are later sold in boutiques for hundreds of dollars.

The prison houses more than 12,000 inmates, with nearly half serving sentences of 20 years or more for crimes such as murder, rape and robbery.

Quinones said he was hesitant to even enter the compound at first. But to his surprise, the prisoners embraced the fashion workshops, with many turning out to be artistic.

"On the first visit, I was really scared because I was thinking these people here are convicts, you know, they might stab me or kidnap me inside," Quinones told Reuters Television.

The designer initially kept his project a secret, fearing the stigma against convicted prisoners might affect his business.

But when his clients found out about his prison-made couture, they scooped up his designs.

While the inmates are trained in construction, automobile mechanic work, and arts and crafts to give them skills they can use to get jobs when they are released, many never thought they would be passing their sentence making dresses.   Continued...