Hand knitting is an ancient tradition in Peru. In the highlands surrounding Cusco, young kids grow up spinning yarn and knitting apparel. Knitting was introduced to the Andes by the Spanish in the 16th century, and while innovations continued over time, the craftsmen and women of the Peruvian highlands have kept the hand knitting traditions alive.
Visiting Cusco’s narrow streets of the old town you can be nothing but impressed with the tiny, completely packed street stalls with shaky piles of colorfull knitted wool. Everywhere you look, men as well as women are occupied with their hands, knitting or weaving in traditional patterns and bold colors.
Our founder and CEO Veronica went to Peru for the first time in 2016. With the newborn idea of starting a social business, she visited both men’s and women’s prisons all over Peru. In every prison, the inmates were killing time making beautiful products. But without access to a market, they were earning close to nothing.
This is the dilemma that Carcel is based upon: creating better opportunities for people in prison by turning lost hours into valuable products. With the vision to make clothes from 100% natural materials with a cultural connection to the region it’s made in, we found Peru the perfect starting point for Carcel.
Above: Haydee, Esther and Teofilia chilling and knitting outside the workshop in prison.
Below: Eleuteria and Fanny, our two special hand knitters, making La Bomba A Mano.
We now have a fully functional production in a prison just outside Cusco. Ever since we started Carcel it has been fundamental to us to create a respectful and motivating working environment.
The women on our team are proud of their cultural craftsman skills and they love to knit. They pass time after work knitting outside in the sun, while watching TV or baby sitting their kids. Many of them grew up with family traditions of knitting and they find much pride and dignity in the work they do with the luxurious baby alpaca, that also has a deep connection to the region.
Traditional knitting by hand is a time consuming luxury in some parts of the world, but an abundant resource inside the prison. Therefore, we have developed our own A Mano line, where we give jobs to women in prison through limited high quality pieces. La Bomba is our first style in this line.