The fashion industry impacts nearly every human being on the planet. Despite having numerous exciting opportunities, the industry still deals with various challenges. Some of these pressuring issues are employment in poorer countries; social & environmental responsibility along with the resale market and waste mining market. The Founder and CEO of Outland Denim, James Bartle feels that this is an area where governments can have the greatest impact by introducing regulations to protect the industry’s most vulnerable people. Furthermore, sustainable textile innovation is an impressive area for those brands and manufacturers that are ready to invest and work with the textile mills and even at the ground level, farmers, to produce sustainable crops and materials. The Founder James opines, “In the rush to innovate, we sometimes get what’s desirable but not always what’s responsible.”
Helping Survivors of Human Trafficking
James is passionate about denim and the craft of jean manufacturing, but the route to making denim jeans was anything but conventional for him. The notion of founding Outland Denim came to him when he watched the movie ‘Taken’, which is a fictional film inspired by the very real $150 billion illicit trade in human beings. Following on from that, he had encountered an NGO working in the field at a music festival. The stout-hearted leader later had the opportunity to travel with them to South-East Asia. There, he saw firsthand what it was like on the ground and how human traffickers prey on vulnerable young girls.
After researching for a period of time, he learned that once a girl has been rescued and reintegrated into her family or community, a sustainable career path is crucial for securing her future. Reminiscing that moment, the CEO says, “It was from there that the foundations of Outland Denim were laid as an avenue for training, employment and career progression for women who have experienced, or are at risk of experiencing, sex trafficking and other social injustices.”
Additionally, he also learned that denim is not only one of the most challenging sectors to break in, but also one of the dirtiest. Since then, James and his team set forth to create something 100% socially sustainable and to clean up the denim industry.
Culture Promoting Transparency, Honesty, and Integrity
In today’s complex and connected world, a culture embodies the core values of the company that each team member emulates. At Outland Denim, the Founder James is trying to foster a corporate culture based on transparency, honesty, and integrity, where all the employees are invested in the brand’s social and economic success, and core values are prioritized above all else. Because of its unique social mission, the company finances significantly in research and seeks to align with other companies that make a positive difference in the fashion industry. Importantly, its dedicated Social and Environmental Impact Manager assess its impact and the standards of its suppliers from the cotton farm all the way through to its couriers. This ensures that the success of Outland Denim and the people it has employed does not come at the expense of other people or the planet.
Training and Development of Employees, Making High-Quality Denim Jeans
Incepted in 2016, Outland Denim crafts premium denim jeans designed to bring the worlds of its seamstresses and customers together. The company sources the finest raw materials from around the world. The employees of Outland Denim receive cross-training in every aspect of the jean making process, career progression opportunities, and a living wage for their work. Along with this, they also receive education in areas such as budgeting, women and infant’s health, self-defence, and languages. With a holistic approach to supporting its staff, it has proven that a sustainable career path is a key to true social change in not only the lives of its staff but their families and communities also.
Driven by an ethos of zero exploitation, the fashion company’s environmental stewardship starts with the engagement of suppliers who meet its strict raw material quality requirements. This is grasped in the design of its stand-alone wash and finishing house which opened earlier this year. This house uses the best available new technology for reducing water usage and carbon emissions. Because of this, Outland Denim is able to deliver sophisticated jeans that are better than the other market competitors. By disrupting the traditional fashion business model, it is planning to turn exploitation of people and the planet into an opportunity for improvement, and also prosperity for very vulnerable people.
Presently, Outland Denim is serving diverse locations like Australia, North America, and the UK along with global customers. The commonality that brings them together is an effort to be more mindful of how they influence people and the planet through their purchases. Clients love the note they find on the inside pocket of their jeans, which is written by one of the women who made them. This spirit of unity is reflected throughout high-quality denim jeans developed by the company. The CEO shares, “Our customers have an appreciation for material comfort as well as timeless, classic fits, like our best-selling Harriet skinny jeans.”
Working Towards a Brighter Future
In the years to come, Outland Denim is looking forward to expand its apparel offering and venture into new regions with the support of new stockist partnerships. In parallel, it wants to continue to seek ways to mitigate the environmental effect of garment manufacturing by way of its research projects. But for the long-term, the team of the Outland Denim is aiming to take their business model and using it to create true, measurable, generational social change in vulnerable communities worldwide.