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Outland Denim is growing up and launching a ready-to-wear range

IMAGES VIA OUTLAND DENIM

WORDS BY JASMINE WALLIS

The social enterprise and denim label is expanding its range.

When speaking with designers about the future of sustainable fashion, a common response is that it centres on cutting back and thinking mindfully about what you’re purchasing. 

This wasn’t the case when I asked James Bartle, founder of Australian label Outland Denim, if releasing a new collection was inherently unsustainable. “I believe consumerism is the big answer to the problem,” James tells me over the phone. 


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“But we just don’t have anybody producing in a way that is good for people and the planet. In fact, nobody – including ourselves – would be able to boast that we are producing products that have no environmental impact.”

But while it’s impossible to produce clothing without using up resources, Outland Denim is getting pretty bloody close. An idea that was originally sparked by a viewing of the 2011 Liam Neeson film, Taken, Outland Denim was founded after James learnt of the horrifying $150 billion human trafficking industry. 

A trip to Asia with an anti-trafficking group as well as seeing the effects of the trade first-hand led James to build the foundations of Outland Denim. The Australian brand is now a place for women and girls affected by trafficking to gain a trade, employment and career progression after being in vulnerable positions. 

With over 100 staff gaining employment through the social enterprise, Outland Denim began to move its focus to the environmental side of the fashion industry. 

After gaining a certification as a B Corporation (a sign that it meets the highest social and environmental standards) as well as receiving an A+ rating in the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report, the denim label has now decided to expand its range to more than just jeans.

The ready-to-wear collection – aptly titled the Reset Capsule – features classic slip dresses, T-shirts made from organic cotton, elevated linen shirt dresses and more. James says that designing the collection to pair with the denim products already on the market was a no brainer. 

“The goal is every time we sell a product, that product activates all of this impact on people and the planet and so if we’re able to have more of those products out and hanging in people’s closets then, ultimately, that furthers our impact.”  

Outland Denim wants every piece to feel unique, something it achieves by using hand-looming rather than machine-made fabrics and ensuring that it’s not over-producing. “When we look at those fabrics and finished garments, it’s beautiful, elevated and just better,” explains James.

For many fashion brands around the world, COVID affected orders and business drastically. But while some fast fashion brands were cancelling orders and not paying their staff, James wanted to ensure that the people who make the clothes were looked after first and foremost. 

“Denim wasn’t the category that was flying off the shelves,” James laughs. “It was about the commitment to the people though. For six months of last year, we had our factory either entirely closed or had a skeleton team yet we still continued to pay our staff to be at home. I’d rather lose our business doing the right thing rather than make high profits doing the wrong thing.” 

Despite building a social enterprise, leading the way in sustainable fashion as well as being committed to its staff and victims of sex-trafficking, James notes that Outland Denim, like any fashion brand, isn’t perfect. 

“We’re not perfect but we have a big vision. We believe our industry could be the solution to so many of these big problems that we’re facing and it should be celebrated and supported,” he says. 

“If we get greedy and just look at our own bottom line and don’t address the full system then ultimately we’re just another brand who is there to exploit someone or something but we believe that there’s solutions that are possible… because if we do that then the future looks different for the industry.”   

You can check out Outland Denim’s full range here.

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