The search for products and materials that are attentive to both the environment and workers' rights, the valorisation and recovery of indigenous craft traditions, and the interest in varied types of know-how have imposed, even in the field of fashion, interests and styles of behaviour that can be traced back to the principles of sustainability and responsibility. In this context, a focus on the more exquisitely human dimension has led to turning attention to marginalised contexts such as that of prisons. In such experiences, creative work seems to be expressed not only as aesthetic and design research but also as a form of inclusion and human and cultural redemption. These are entrepreneurial realities often grappling with problems of economic sustainability and struggling with a difficult situation in a very competitive market, but also repositories of singular social instances combined with interesting product innovations.

A research project started in 2004, financed by the Ministry of Research and University (PRIN 2004 Project[1]), explored the existence of new forms of responsibility in the textile-clothing sector, in which solidarity takes on diversified forms ranging from allocating part of the profits to social projects to joint ventures between cooperatives in the South and designers in the North; from productions resulting from the work and creativity of socially disadvantaged people to garments made from organic materials. This was the first case of an analysis from a socio-cultural perspective of a prison brand - I Gatti Galeotti - carried out through interviews with inmate workers and the managers of the cooperatives. The brand is the result of the joint work of two cooperatives active in the San Vittore prison in Milan: Alice and Ecolab. The research later led to the publication of the text "La moda della responsabilità"[2].

In 2008, thanks to funding from the ModaCult centre, this thread was continued by studying a larger sample of prison social cooperatives active in the textile-clothing sector. Using a range of qualitative methods, the social cooperative Officina creativa, active in the prisons of Lecce and Trani and creator of the 'Made in carcere' brand, was analysed as well as the evolution of the Milanese cooperative Alice, which in the meantime has not only opened new workshops in other neighbouring prisons (Bollate and Opera), but has also created a further brand - Sartoria San Vittore. The results of the research were published in 2010 in the text "Creative evasions"[3] and presented at several national and international conferences.

In 2020/22, the combination of fashion and prison was again the focus of a further investigation in the project Benessere interno lordo (B.I.L) in ambito carcerario: Nuovi modelli di Economia Rigenerativa (New Models of Regenerative Economy) financed by the "Fondazione Con Il Sud". The project was developed in the prisons where the Officina creativa cooperative is present (Lecce, Trani, Taranto) with the aim of developing quantitative indicators to measure the social value produced by craft and creative work methods in difficult contexts. By social value, we refer to the sum of the welfare provided to the environment (through the reuse of discarded materials) and to the prison inmates thanks to a path of human and professional growth, triggered by work reintegration.

The results of the first part of the project were published in 2021 in the article 'From GDP to Bil: is another condition possible? The Made in Prison Model'[4]. The final outcomes are being published and were presented in Rome on 3/05/2023[5].


[1] PRIN 2004 (progetto locale, Modello B): Agire di mercato e culture della responsabilità. Comportamenti emergenti di consumo critico nel tessile-abbigliamento.

[2] Lunghi C. e Montagnini E., 2007, La moda della responsabilità, FrancoAngeli, Milano.

[3] Lunghi C., 2010, Creative evasioni. Manifatture di moda in carcere, FrancoAngeli, Milano.

[4] Ferrara M. e Lunghi C., 2021, Dal Pil al Bil: un’altra condizione è possibile? Il modello Made in Carcere, «Giornale di storia», n. 38 (

[5] Lunghi C. e Rovati G. alla conferenza “Un’altra condizione è possibile? Risultati dello studio di fattibilità e analisi degli indicatori del BIL – Benessere Interno Lordo”, 3 maggio 2023, Sala delle conferenze, Fondazione Con Il Sud