The Most Popular Class For Riker's Island's Female Inmates Is All About Fashion

kanye west runway models

Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

In 2004, the New York-based Prison Education Initiative was created with an aim to provide meaningful education to incarcerated women, allowing them to recognise their academic and personal potential.What started as a five-person team teaching GED reading and maths classes has evolved over the past nine years into a 25-teacher-strong program administering a variety of classes, from law to Hip Hop.

One of those classes is Fashion Theory, and it also happens to be the most popular course for NYC’s infamous Riker’s Island female inmates, according to a report in the Style section of Time Magazine.

Most of the class sizes range between 6-20 students from the Riker’s Rose M. Singer centre, but Fashion Theory attracts the maximum roster of 30 or so inmates every time.

Project Runway alum and handbag designer Anna Lynett Moss teaches the class. Topics run the gamut from how cultural roots inspire collections, to a socially conscious discussion on the industry’s standard of beauty — particularly concerning race both on and off the catwalk.

“In their Fall 2012 collection, The Row presented their work on all white models. What does it mean for my students of colour not to see many icons of beauty who mirror their image?” Moss said to Of A Kind. “Many of my students claimed they felt alienated by conventions they see in fashion advertising and on the runway.”

To supplement the images from fashion shows and magazine spreads, Moss shows her students beauty ideals from around the world, such as a Maasai woman on her wedding day that appeared in an old 1999 National Geographic. The class also discusses hot topics like Third World sweat shops, fast-fashion retailers, and second-hand shopping.

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