Canadian Fashion Connection – Five Believers’ Batiks Ltd.

In 1966 middleweight boxer Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and his friend John Artis were driving in a car in Patterson, New Jersey when they were stopped by the police. Mistaken for two other men who had just shot up a bar killing three people, the two were taken into custody. Despite a lack of due process (no paraffin tests for gunpowder residue, no fingerprint evidence, as well as unreliable and changing eyewitness accounts) the two were convicted of the crime. Carter became a jailhouse lawyer, poring over the transcripts of his trial, gathering evidence of his innocence for retrial.

Carter found support from celebrities like Bob Dylan, as well as strangers, like a group of Canadian socialists who opened a boutique in Toronto’s Yorkville Village in the 1970s called Five Believer’s Batiks Ltd. to raise money for his defence fund. The group knew nothing about fashion, but raised the money by importing clothes made from Malaysian batik cloth. The business was in operation from about 1972 to 1979.

Carter’s association with Five Believers eventually lead to a romance with one of the women in the group, and after 18 years in jail, and two trials, Carter was released. He immigrated to Canada, and died in Toronto in 2014 at the age of 76.

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.
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4 Responses to Canadian Fashion Connection – Five Believers’ Batiks Ltd.

  1. This is so interesting. I’ve listened to Bob Dylan’s song about Hurricane Carter so many times. Thanks Jonathan!


  2. RJS Sonier says:

    I worked in the movie Hurricane as a cut man in the ring. Had a chance to meet Mr. Carter and speak with him over a 2 week span. He was such a gentleman. After what he went through in that hell hole in the US (And not compensation from US Gov) he landed in Canada with the founders of Five Believers. I stayed in that commune for a short time and moved on and got married and had a few careers along with 3 children and 9 grandkids. Lisa was the guru of the clan. What Lisa wanted, she got. It was too much. I had to leave and find myself again. I was a believer until I left. I know how Mr. Carter tolerated that environment for so long. Maybe he had no choice. RIP Rubin

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