“The greatest thing Meghan Markle did for us was tell our story.”
That’s Outland Denim founder James Bartle on the effect that the Duchess of Sussex had when she wore a pair of Outland Denim’s jeans on the royal tour of Australia last year.
The company saw a spike in sales, and an increase in web traffic in the order of 1000%. Ultimately they sold out of the Harriet jeans Meghan wore in 24 hours, but to James the most important thing was the story.
“The biggest publications in the world used Meghan Markle as the headline, but were talking about our brand and story.”
Story is such an important factor in the Outland Denim journey. On the inside pocket of each pair of the company’s jeans is printed a message of thanks. It’s the story of the woman who made the jeans, who has had their life transformed.
You see, Outland Denim isn’t your normal business. It’s a social enterprise that’s run on ethical and sustainable practices, with the underlying value that everyone should win. The company was founded when James was made aware of the problems of human trafficking and sex slavery.
Seeing the Problem
In 2011 he travelled to South East Asia with the group Destiny Rescue, and after coming face to face with girls who were being sold as a commodity, he committed to being a part of the solution.
“I believe that business is the solution to a lot of the problems we face around the world today.”
He worked on creating a business model that could help solve the problem of modern day slavery. “When you’re made aware of a problem like human trafficking, and impacted like I was impacted from seeing someone first hand who was a slave, you just can’t turn your back” James said.
Since that initial trip James and his wife Erica have welcomed two daughters into their family, making their work hit just that little bit closer to home.
“Having daughters changes everything – the purpose for why we do what we do is way greater than it was before. It’s also motivating because I picture what my daughters will ask me in years to come.”
“Women were enslaved – what did you do? Were you part of the problem or did you try and solve it?”
A Different Business Model
James core belief that is that absolutely everyone needs to win out of business. “We can equip those who are less fortunate than us to be successful in their own right, and go and have a prosperous life.”
The brand is built on 4 major platforms:
- Opportunity is given to those who may otherwise not receive it
- Training to become a valued employee
- Paying employees a living wage (which is different to a minimum wage), meaning they can enjoy a similar lifestyle to Australians
- Education around finance, language, infant care and a range of life skills
“We know from experience, and our own data, that over the period of time that someone works with us they will pull themselves out of poverty.”
James continues – “If they pull themselves out of poverty, they then pull their families out of poverty. The model definitely works, and is more powerful than we ever dreamed it would be”.
Recognition for Sustainability
This year Outland Denim has scored an A+ (the highest score) on Baptist World Aid’s Ethical Fashion Guide, and was named as one of the top 10 leaders in sustainable fashion by the English fashion network Common Objective.
This is testament to their record of providing sustainable career paths, and preventing vulnerable women from returning to the world of slavery, but also their commitment to sourcing the most ethically and environmentally sound raw materials.
“Environmental and social causes need to be tied together – if you care about one, you need to care about the other.”
James Bartle will be presenting at the Thrive Business Conference on May 30th, which is proudly supported by 96five, and will be exploring the topics of ‘The Meghan Markle Effect’ and ‘Social Responsibility and Your Business’. You can find out more information about the conference and book at 96five.com