Consumers and investors have another opportunity to own a portion of the Australian brand, which was founded on the concept of turning fashion into a force for good. Rivet 50 member James Bartle launched the company in 2011 as a way to protect vulnerable people from exploitation, and has won various awards and recognition for his ethical work. The company’s social and environmental progress has inspired many to show their support with their wallets.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic closing Outland’s facilities for six months, the company raised 1.32 million Australian dollars (approximately $868,000) from 1,012 global investors—the majority of which were local to the Australian business, aged 40 or younger and female, and contributed $1,000 or less. The campaign was crowdfunding platform Birchal’s fastest equity crowd raise.
The round fueled Outland’s expansion goals and enabled it to not only maintain but also expand its workforce in Australia and Cambodia: It hired a new head of digital, head of ready-to-wear design, finance and operations manager, and production manager. With the funding, the company was able to grow its direct-to-consumer business by over 190 percent.
It also used the cash infusion to establish the Maeka Standard, a certification that represents Outland’s high standards of production that center on zero exploitation, and a necessary pillar for its expansion into becoming a manufacturer for other brands.
“For us, it’s simple,” Bartle said. “The more we grow, the more positive, life-changing opportunities we can create, thereby protecting more people from exploitation and poverty.”
Last year, Outland published a report in partnership with the University of Nottingham Rights Lab detailing the concept of the “Freedom Dividend,” which proves that the local economy improves when slavery is suppressed. By scaling ethical business models like Outland’s, affected regions stand to become more socially, environmentally and financially healthy.
Bartle said the new round will be used to increase production capabilities so it can begin manufacturing for more brands, expand into more international markets and invest in research and development for waste and circular technologies—an area in which it’s already made significant progress. Outland committed to the circular requirements of the Ellen MacArthur Jeans Redesign Project for about 75 percent of its range.
The funding will also be put toward aggressive advertising and branding efforts, helping the company to boost market share across all existing and new sales channels.
And while some doubt consumers’ willingness to spend more for sustainable apparel, crowdfunding may help encourage more to do so. Like Outland, others in the industry have found more enthusiasm when they invite consumers to not just buy from the brand, but also to be a part of it. The concept of “pro-sumerism,” in which a person is partially a consumer and a producer, can help drive more ethical shopping. According to Outland, 83 percent of investors in the first round named social justice values as a reason for investing.
“Instead of allowing mindless consumption to be the thing that destroys us, we’ve harnessed consumer behaviors, and use the power of the people to become the solution,” Bartle said. “This is the story of humanity together, rewriting the system.”
Expressions of interest are open through June 14, allowing interested parties to receive first exclusive access to the investment window. From June 15-July 1, investments will be open to the public.