Making an Impact with a Second Chance
When you’re in Playa del Carmen, buy a bag you can feel good about. Prison Art sells unique clothing and accessories with a strong social justice component: the designers are prisoners or former prisoners, and part of the proceeds go to their families. It’s a big rehabilitation effort, giving people a second chance and an opportunity to express their own creativity. Below, founder Jorge Cueto-Felgueroso explains why the cause is so important to him, and what makes his shop’s designs so special.
How did you decide to open Prison Art?
In 2012, I was wrongly accused and sentenced to prison in Puente Grande, Jalisco, Mexico. I stayed an inmate for 11 months until my innocence was proven. During my time in jail, I determined that under the most adverse circumstances, there is always an opportunity for success. I came up with the idea of putting traditional tattoos in leather as fashion accessories, starting an amazing social project focused on the reinsertion of prisoners to society in peaceful ways while promoting art and culture. In the last four years, we have grown a lot and we currently have stores in Playa del Carmen, Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Tulúm, Cancún (where we are opening a new store this month), and Barcelona, Spain, where we recently opened a new store.
What makes Playa del Carmen a great spot to run a boutique?
A great combination of passion for Mexican art along with clients, especially visitors to our country, looking for one-of-a-kind pieces to take with them. The unique Playa del Carmen location helps our store.
Describe some upcoming products you’re particularly excited about.
It is very difficult to select only one product we are excited about. All of our tattoo pieces are one-of-a-kind articles. That means that we never repeat the same drawing in two pieces. The most exciting aspect of our work is seeing the new inventions that arrive every day from the more than 250 prisoners and former prisoners working with us. We are always looking for new designs for purses, portfolios, handbags, and other accessories.
There’s a strong social justice component to your work. How did you decide to partner with Mexican inmates? What, in particular, appeals to you about this cause?
The difficulties facing current and former prisoners are numerous. After seeing this for 11 months, I knew I had to do something to help. My great passion for art and my entrepreneurial spirit helped to create Prison Art. We currently work with over 250 prisoners or former prisoners, who produce all of our pieces from tattoos to chiseled designs and help with assembly and even office work. The money they make in most cases goes to their families. We enforce strict rules to support their training and personal development, including no-alcohol or illicit substances consumption.