If you haven’t yet heard of Outland Denim, we can guarantee that you’re going to be an avid customer by the time you’ve finished reading this. Not only does Outland Denim ethically make stylish, high-quality jeans, but they’re also tackling an industry that may seem quite distant to us: the sex industry. They’re also using their business to properly equip women with tools that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
After an encounter with an anti-trafficking group, Outland Denim’s founder, James Bartle, could not be passive with his anger, so he travelled to Asia to see first-hand how human traffickers preyed on young girls; young girls intended to be sold in the sex industry. He soon learned that even when a girl has been rescued, a sustainable career path is essential in securing a promising future for her, so he set up the “Denim Project”: a project with an aim to enable and empower these rehabilitated girls who have shown an interest in sewing.
This epic business is endeavouring to provide empowerment to these vulnerable women through training and opportunity. Outland’s intention was never to follow in the Western World’s footprint of exploiting these smart and extremely capable people, but rather to educate them in order to ensure their own personal sustainability. Taking someone with nothing but a desire to learn and an interest in sewing and teaching them how to make every part of a jean is a process that takes around two and a half to three years, and Outland is getting helping to get them there.
As Outland has grown, however, they have also been able to welcome staff from varied vulnerable backgrounds, and allow their business model to centre on four key pillars: training, living wages, opportunity, and education. Not only are their employees working in a safe environment and earning a living wage but the profits are also enabling Outland to provide education and personal enrichment programs for their staff, including budgeting, women’s and infant health, computing, human trafficking awareness, English, and self defence.
A living wage, one of Outland’s four pillars, is integral to their processes. A living wage ensures workers have enough income to not only afford a decent standard of living by covering necessary expenses (food, housing, healthcare, and education, just to name a few), but also to prepare and save for unexpected events. In James’ words: “For many of our staff, this level of financial security is freedom in itself. Freedom from worry. Our staff can send their children to school, provide for extended family, and plan for the future.”
Now to the other way in which Outland’s pulling apart the fast-fashion industry by the seams. They’re very aware of the negative impacts conventional jean manufacturing has on the environment, and are doing everything in their power to minimise their footprint. They’re also extremely conscious of every aspect of their denim products, from the zippers and pocket lining to the shipping and power usage. You can read all about the process and materials on their website, but here’s a little snippet of their ethical awesomeness:
Outland’s denim is sourced from Bossa, a Turkish mill that has been actively involved in environmental and ethical issues since its inception in 1951. Outland Denim’s jeans are made from organic cotton that has been proven to use 20-25% less water than conventional cotton. Bossa is also part of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), where the main aim is to increase the sustainability of cotton production through reducing the negative environmental and social impacts of cotton.
Most dyes are made from synthetics and are toxic to both humans and the environment, but Outland Denim uses a natural indigo dye that is derived from plants. This means the workers are less exposed to toxic chemicals, and the likelihood of water pollution is reduced dramatically.
Outland Denim uses Print Together for all of their stickers and cloth bags. Print Together is focused on saving the world’s virgin rainforests through using only post-consumer recycled paper in their products. Single-use items like juice containers and workbooks are recycled into a new form for a new purpose, which, in turn, is better for the environment. On top of this, Print Together only use natural vegetable dyes in its products to ensure minimal chemical pollution.
Outland Denim is a business that is changing the game for the better. The level of thought that has gone into every facet of its workings is beyond comprehension. We could reiterate all of the incredible feats achieved by Outland but the work they are doing—and continuing to do—completely speaks for itself. They care. Whether it’s about the environment or the suffering people in less fortunate countries, Outland Denim actually gives a shit. Please, if you need a new pair of jeans, invest in a quality, hand-made pair that’ll last you the long haul. Outland Denim stretches their profits to reach many, many different hands, and we as consumers can help them in this process.
Want to know where Outland Denim sits and what they’re working on in terms of these 5 values? Hover over these values to find out.
Our stand-alone wash and finishing facility is equipped with industry-leading water and energy reducing technology, and every Outland Denim piece bought online is delivered in a recyclable and compostable cardboard box that has been designed for easy re-use in the event a return or exchange is required.
Outland Denim began as a means for victims of sexual exploitation to engage in safe, dignified employment as they rebuilt their lives. We have since widened our doors to accept employees from varying backgrounds of vulnerability, from those with disabilities to those who have experienced harsh conditions in larger garment factories.
Outland Denim employs fabric cutting technology, which reduces the amount of off-cut waste created per jean, and each Outland Denim piece bought online is delivered to our customers in a recyclable and compostable cardboard box from Austcor.
With a holistic approach to supporting our staff based on the four pillars of training, opportunity, a living wage, and education, we have proven that a sustainable career path is the key to true social change in not only the lives of our staff but their families and communities.
Outland directly connects with its 2nd tier material suppliers (denim, buttons, zippers etc) to not only disclose the location their products are manufactured, but also information about which countries their raw materials are sourced from.
“I was impacted by the reality of human trafficking after seeing a very young girl being prostituted on the streets in Thailand, and had to do something to make a change to the way young girls are exploited by giving them a way out”.