In 2014, Veronica D’Souza was living in Nairobi, Kenya, and she went to visit a women’s prison because she was curious about why the women where there, and what they were doing while inside. Instead of meeting rough criminals, she met ordinary women from poor background, incarcerated for non-violent crimes due to a lack of opportunities. Every day, the women were sitting 8 hours and knitting and sewing.
The time was there, the women were there, the machines were there, but without access to good materials, designs and a market, they were unable to sell their products and made no money. It was a factory in full production but with a useless output. Most of them had children living inside and outside of the prison. In many countries, it’s a great stigma to go to prison as a woman, and it’s an incredible struggle to get reaccepted back into society not to mention finding a job when released.
As a social entrepreneur used to thinking in design solutions to eradicating poverty, this experience annoyed Veronica for several years. She moved back to Copenhagen, and surrounded by the beautiful simplicity of Danish quality design, she decided to do something about it.
The Unique CARCEL intersect: Exclusive materials & poverty-related crime.
Some of the countries in the world that have high-rates of poverty related crime for women are also home to some of the world’s most exclusive materials. Peru fits this description with a high-rate of drug-trafficking sentences for young women from poor backgrounds but also home to the exclusive and fantastic Alpaca wool. In April 2016 she brought her family and fellow women’s rights passionate Jessica Rose to Peru, where they visited women’s prisons all over the country.
Like in Kenya, each prison was full of women who committed crimes out of desperation, stuck for 10- 15 years, without the opportunity to support their children. Most of them already skilled and knowledgeable about the handcraft of Alpaca manufacturing on manual knitting machines.
With a partnership with the National Prison System of Peru, and a local production manager inside the women’s prison in Cuzco, the idea became reality. Designer Louise van Hauen joined the team, and made the first collection inspired by Danish quality, detail and substance, mixed with the bold substantial Peruvian colours. Since then, we have built strong relationships with the female inmates in Cuzco, who are ready to start production. The team has grown with talent, advisors and supporters, and now we are proud to launch our first designs through a Kickstarter campaign to get support from people all over the world, who want to help support the first production.
Our next collection will be made from Organic Silk, manufactured by women in prison in India.
Veronica is a strong believer in improving the world through designing business solutions that are attractive and aspirational.
She is a social entrepreneur and prior to Carcel, she co-founded the award-winning social business Ruby Cup. She is recognized as a ‘Global Shaper’ under Word Economic Forum, the youngest Jury member at INDEX: Design To Improve Life, a SOCAP selected entrepreneur, a Youth Mentor for Ashoka, Nairobi, a senior fellow of Humanity in Action in New York, a United World College Student and co-author of ‘The Road Map for Sustainable Leadership’ from the leading Scandinavian Think Tank, Monday Morning (DK).
She has an executive degree in Social Entrepreneurship from INSEAD, a Master in International Business and Politics from Copenhagen Business School, specialized in Sustainable Business Operations and Strategies from Columbia Business School, and a Bachelor in Business, Languages and Culture from CBS and La UADE, Argentina.
Veronica is a passionate and ambitious soul, always looking for the right business strategy to make capitalism solve the world’s pressing challenges. She gets her inspiration from people with drive, songwriting, world travelling and her young daughter Vita Leo.
Louise van Hauen
Creative Director & Partner
Louise is the creative force behind Carcel’s collections. Her design philosophy is to address every bit of the design process with respect, from stitch to material and silhouette.
Her passion for design and style has always been present, and after working in retail in Copenhagen, she went to London to educate herself as an accessories designer at the best design schools. After receiving a BA (Hons) degree from London College of Fashion, she did a Masters degree at the prestigious Royal College of Art where she graduated in 2012 as one of only two accessory designers. Her final collection of leather products included shearling coats, leather jeans, shoes, bags and gloves. Material is everything to Louise.
She since went on to work as a stylistic consultant for Dirk Bikkembergs in Italy, a design assistant for Louis Vuitton in Paris and freelance accessories consultant in London. In 2014 she went to Nairobi on holiday and returned 2 years later with a baby and the experience of being creative manager at Sandstorm Kenya, the leading brand of leather bags in East Africa.