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Airing Dirty Laundry: Textiles’ Role in Correctional Facilities and Orange is the New Black


If you’re like the millions of other Netflix-loving Americans, you are currently in the middle of a binge-watching session featuring everyone’s favorite bad girls.  That’s right: Piper, Alex, Nicky, and the rest of the Orange characters finally returned (early) on June 11th, meaning drama-filled marathons at minimum-security (maximally-entertaining) Litchfield Penitentiary – the setting of “Orange is the New Black.”

But what does this have to do with us at Apex Mills?

Breaking down the title

The catchy title does seem a bit humorous in the fact that the women are forced to wear, what some fashionistas might find to be, outrageous orange prison jumpsuits.  Although the characters are also caught in beige, orange is what makes the title, and show, ultimately stand out.

Let’s leave deconstructing the plot for a moment to realize how relevant the textiles are, in both a fictional, and non-fictional world.   Prison uniforms are deliberately visually distinct to make a convict more easily identifiable and emphasize danger, might a prisoner ever escape.  They also lack common objects on clothing that could be potentially hazardous and used as a weapon, for example, a sharp zipper.  The purpose of the plain material is to make the environment as safe as possible – limiting the chance of self-infliction, or danger to fellow inmates and/or government workers.  The different styles generally consist of orange, khaki, striped, and yellow uniforms, although orange is becoming an increasingly less popular color in prison due to the popularity of the show – best to keep reality and entertainment separate in our humble opinion.  In a June 28th article, vox.com details the recent escape story of David Sweat (now back in custody) and Richard Matt (killed by law enforcement during the June 26th shootout, in attempt to recapture the escaped convict).  Images from the editorial show how a prisoner would shed notable prison uniform to blend in with the land.

At Apex Mills, we manufacture a wide range of performance fabrics in a variety of colors for correctional facilities, entertainment, military and other  industries.  The fabric for laundry bags, vests, and yes, even jumpsuits can be customized,  don’t wear or fade easily, are easily manufactured, and cost-effective.We construct our designs to keep fabric comfortable and durable for long-term use.

The Laundry Room

We’ve seen the OITNB women in various settings; from the greenhouse to the cafeteria, sporting those infamous inmate uniforms, for which the series is named.  And while the stories that unfold within the walls and around those uniforms are only loosely based on reality, there is one setting that’s very real in institutions around the country: the laundry room.

While Piper and Pennsatucky remain in the realm of TV, throughout the states, laundry services at correctional facilities rely on well-constructed, heavy-duty laundry cart bags. These bags transport countless articles of clothing both in and around the facilities.  Laundry cart bags must be exceptionally durable, and long-lasting, carrying large amounts of clothing every day.  There simply isn’t enough in the budget for constant replacement.  Furthermore, they have to withstand regular washings, wear and tear, and must be large, yet easily laundered.  What most Orange fans rarely think about is how specific these items are, and how dependent facilities are on them.

Of course, when prisons and detention centers have materials and tools that perfectly meet their needs, no one has to worry about it.  In fact, that’s our job!  The mesh fabric that we provide can be constructed in a variety of shapes and sizes.  What makes this fabric ideal?  Its strength-to-weight ratio.  Although the fabric is lightweight, it is extremely tough and tear resistant.  With our ability to modify the size of the openings we have created “filter fabrics” which allow liquids to pass through the netting while containing small pieces of particles and debris.  The use of high-end elongation or elastomeric yarns also gives fabric varying degrees of stretch and recovery.

With some new knowledge on the “dirty laundry” at actual correctional facilities, head back to your Orange is the New Black-athon and watch as the ladies continue to air their “dirty laundry”— meanwhile, we’ll make sure it’s constructed properly.

For more information on our durable, performance materials please visit: http://www.apexmills.com. Remember, our ability to work with synthetic yarns and apply engineered design helps us manufacture a variety of low-cost, high-tech, cutting-edge products for each and every one of our customers.