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Berlin's , onVIct chic

William MacDougall discovers that German inmates are prompting a Prisoner Cell Block H style renaissance.

ailwear since I898] states the ad promoting the Hael‘tling J clothing line. which is produced in Berlin‘s 'l’egel prison.

The name. meaning ‘inmate‘. might lead you to think it‘s produced for prisoners by prisoners. This was the case until last year when Stephan Bohle. ('l{() of the Berlin-based Herr Ledesi ad agency. stumbled across an article about the clothes being manufactured in liurope's largest prison. He managed to convince the prison authorities of the wider linancial benelits offered by a move into commercial production. According to Bohle. Hael'tling offers just what the fashionable party set who hang out in Berlin‘s Mitte and Pren/lauer Berg districts want: 'Brands which tell a story. communicate an authentic message. and get it across with credibility. Alter all. there are thousands of kinds ol’ shoes available. but shoes made and worn by convicts are something very special.’

Bohle‘s agency masterminded a 'mugshot'-type ad campaign. which the agency plans to build upon with maga/ine spreads and configured 'guerrilla‘ marketing techniques. Such was the level of demand that the online shop (www.haeltling.dcl. which opened in July. had to close its virtual doors until November. Taking its cue from Amazon. the website cheerin points out that ‘customers who bought this product also purchased . . f and reminds shoppers that it now offers ‘original jailwear from prisons in Saxony Anhalt. Brandenburg. Bavaria and Switzerland‘. (llael‘tling has no plans to adopt Lush-style marketing tactics of including the name. crime and prison number of the imnate who made your functional but stylish prison shirt).

Mindful ol' criticisms that Hael‘tling might somehow be glamorising life behind bars. Bohle counters by pointing out that money made is directed into much needed investment in the prisons and to the prisoners themselves: with prisoners offered a guaranteed base wage l7--» l 2 euros per day according to job and experience). It is hoped that the Hael‘tling range will help create 30 more jobs in a prison where around one in three ol. the l.7()() prisoners have no workplace.

l)cspite the generally positive response. some critics consider this limited move in the direction ol‘ prison selli-linancing as being the lirst step down the long road to American-style privatisation ol’ the penal system. Some l‘ormer inmates are also worried that the cool imagery might deflect the buying public‘s attentions from the harsher realities ol‘ daily prison life. Plans are already afoot to extend the product range and open the label’s lirst t‘lagship Berlin store this year.

And the posters'.’ ‘We really wanted to use an inmate for reasons of believability.‘ says Bohle. ‘But the authorities had some doubts and we had to agree on a compromise.‘ You guessed it » out on probation.

Collector’s paradise

Hybrid is building up a reputation as an excellent. specialised vintage store. It is certainly different from the average second-hand shop and has a beautiful selection of women's clothes and accessories. encompassing everything from Edwardian pieces to modern classics. Co-owners Audrey Taylor and

Alison Sinclair have spent years building up the collection. but have only recently turned their passion into a business. From a distance the shop front looks anonymous. but up close the window display immediater impresses. showing off pretty lacquered boxes and a silk print dress. Inside, the offerings include handbags, hats and gloves. belts. coats and perfumes. The jewellery cabinets are brimming with cut glass earrings,

enamelled bracelets and more modern pieces such as chunky silver rings. There are also ornaments and a good selection of vintage glassware. Although all of this is currently crammed into one small room. the owners hope to open up the downstairs area to display more stock and some small furniture. (Rachael Street) I Hybrid, 204 Great Junction Street, Edinburgh, 0731 554 0723.

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