Meet Outland Denim, a social enterprise creating premium denim products that help tackle the worlds human trafficking crisis. Every 30 seconds, someone is sold in the human traffic industry. Once in, it’s nearly impossible to escape.
Human trafficking is quickly surpassing drugs and guns as the world’s fastest growing criminal industry.
According to a United Nations report, the most common form of human trafficking (79%) is sexual exploitation. The victims of sexual exploitation are mostly women and girls. The second most common form of human trafficking is forced labour (18%), although this number may actually be more, because forced labour is less detected and reported than trafficking for sexual exploitation. Worldwide, almost 20% of all trafficking victims are children.
Outland Denim has created an approach of zero exploitation, to help prevent young girls being drafted into sex trade, or as slave labor into the garment industry. This approach is done through a program that Outland created called The Denim Project. This program offers young girls with an interest in sewing to earn fair wages, and to learn and master the crafts of sewing and fashion.
Outland Denim began when founder James Bartle travelled to Asia and saw first hand how human traffickers prey on vulnerable young girls in order to service the sex industry. After learning that once a girl has been rescued and rehabilitated, sustainable career path is vital for securing her future, James created the “Denim Project”, which would enable those girls who demonstrated an interest in sewing to put their new skills to use.
Now, every purchase supports a commitment to zero exploitation. In addition to this great program, Outland Denim carefully sources all their raw materials and creates fashion only through responsible and sustainable methods.
Below is a Q&A with James Bartle, founder of Outland Denim.
What inspired you to start Outland Denim?
How does the Outland Denim team handle the transition for new seamstresses coming in, leaving their unsafe situations behind?
What does your training program look like for your seamstress team?
We work with rescue agencies, and they will refer to us women or girls they have rescued. Once they have have been through the rescue agency program, we take over. Our job is to offer OPPORTUNITY, and it’s important to note that this is key to creating genuine change. We can’t save the day, our job is to generate the opportunities and then equip our staff with all the tools to be successful. Opportunity, training, education and living wages make up the most important components of our business model, which is entirely designed to give freedom to those who gain employment with us.
Tell us a little about your approach to sustainably made jeans and what raw materials you are using.
We love your business model. Can you explain a little bit more about the business model and the supply chain you have created?
One of the most important things to note is that for us, we understood that the product was the key to creating real sustainable change. We love denim, and we love fashion, and that passion for a beautiful product has to be maintained. It’s all too easy to only focus on the charitable aspect of our business at times as you can’t beat the feeling of watching the transformation take place in the lives of our family of seamstresses. But for real change to take place the product needs to lead.