Years ago, the French-born, Peru-based textile specialist Thomas Jacob accompanied a friend on a trip to the San Jorge prison in Lima. “I was struck by the dignity of the inmates,” the 27-year-old recalls. “They didn’t have a mind for pain, they just accepted their fate with sobriety and humility.” He located two similar correctional facilities near the country’s capital — Santa Monica in Chorrillos and San Pedro in Lurigancho — and established a system that would enable the inmates at each to work together making clothes. The nascent fashion collective took its name, Project Pietà, from a masterpiece by Michelangelo.
Now, roughly 30 male and female internees, whose crimes range from petty theft and narco-trafficking to murder via the ’90s terrorist militia Grupo Colina, collaborate with Jacob on designing and creating the garments during daylong workshops. Motivation, aside from combating boredom, is a shortened jail sentence and a third of Pietà’s profits.