Fri, February 27, 2009
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Prisoners get creative

2009-02-27 06:17:59 GMT2009-02-27 14:17:59 (Beijing Time)  Reuters

Inmates at the Philippine national prison never imagined they would serve sentences by making dresses.

But doing time also means learning a thing or two about clothes from fashion designer Puey Quinones, who conducts weekly workshops to create fabrics, bags and belts for his collection.

Quinones said he was hesitant to even enter the prison compound at first, but gained confidence when many of them turned out to be enthusiastic and artistic.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) PUEY QUINONES, FASHION DESIGNER, SAYING:

"Oh the first visit, I was really scared because my thinking is, 'These people here are convicts, you know, they might stab me or kidnap me inside.'"

Around 30 prisoners convicted of crimes like rape, murder and kidnapping, with sentences of 20 years or longer, have worked in the last year and a half with Quinones, who says he's open to hiring inmates when they get released.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) PUEY QUINONES, FASHION DESIGNER, SAYING:

"These people are also human beings, and they're creative also, and they deserve a second chance."

They inmates receive a small fee for their work, but they say it's not only the money that makes it worthwhile.

(SOUNDBITE) (Filipino) JOEFRY FADERES, NEW BILIBID PRISON INMATE, SAYING:

"We're so pleased. Imagine, we're in prison and yet people outside appreciate our work. Typically we're viewed as mere prisoners, people think we're the garbage of society."

Quinones initially kept his project a secret, afraid the stigma against convicted prisoners might affect his business.

But when his clients found out about the jail-made cocktail dresses , they scooped up his designs as demand for prison couture is rising.

In Manila, this is Michaela Cabrera reporting for Reuters.

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