Much more stylish than those bright orange jumpsuits
Hakodate Juvenile Prison on Japan's chilly northern island of Hokkaido may not strike one as an originator of fashion trends, but that's exactly what's happened. A series of stark, black & white aprons and totes emblazoned with the prison logo in both Japanese and English have taken off like a lifer who's loosed the lock on his leg-irons.
The aprons first appeared at the Correctional Association for Prison Industry Cooperation's Tokyo store outlet and quickly sold out. Even the agency's online website has stopped taking orders until supplies are back in stock.
According to Shoji Nakajima, an official at CAPIC, "We thought the character for 'jail' would turn people off, but that turned out to be the big appeal. Especially, young people seem to like it." That's the key in today's Japan, where nearly every new trend is driven by the nation's youth.
"Our customers have said the design is cool, despite what the logo means, says bar manager Mariko Yoshida. "They often ask where they can find them. It's good quality, too."
A total of 70 Japanese prisons holding approximately 81,000 inmates participate in compulsory prison labor programs under the authority of the Correctional Association for Prison Industry Cooperation. Among the items produced by the prisoners – who do not receive any of the sale proceeds, by the way – are wooden furniture, small Buddhist shrines, teacups, green tea and clothing.
Curiously, the program hasn't been blasted with the kind of bad publicity associated with China's prison labor program... perhaps because the prominent prison logos make buyers fully aware of what they're buying and where it comes from.
Con job... crime DOES pay, but the prisoners aren't
To date, over 5,300 of the aprons alone have been sold at 1,260 yen (about $12) each, returning a decent chunk of change to CAPIC. You'd think that the prisoners would be pushed to crank out as many aprons as possible, but no can do. "Inmates are not allowed to work overtime," explains Nakajima, "and the prison cannot hire additional staff."
Tokyo fashionistas will just have to wait their turn... and in the meantime, hope for a jump in Japan's crime rate! (via Daily Yomiuri)