James Bartle is taking a democratic approach to running a business.
At its core, James Bartle’s Outland Denim is a label with a purpose.
The men’s and women’s brand was founded by Bartle in 2011 to provide employment opportunities and living wages to vulnerable populations in Cambodia, using fashion to fight poverty.
The company’s decade-long efforts to combat human trafficking earned it a Thompson Reuters Stop Slavery Award in 2020.
Apart from social initiatives, the label’s commitment to responsible fashion also extends to environmentally friendly techniques, including ozone oxidizing, laser washing and e-Flow chemical transfers.
This year, Bartle allowed the average consumer to buy into the brand’s mission through a crowdfunding initiative. Individuals could own a piece of the company for as little as 250 Australian dollars ($175). The campaign was a success, raising roughly $1.3 million Aus- tralian dollars ($904k) from 1,000 micro investors in the midst of Covid-19.
What will the denim industry be like in the next 18 months?
I think that in denim, and in the fashion industry in general, we will continue to see research and innovation in the environmental sustainability space. Brands that have purpose and impact at the center of their business will be the ones that succeed in the next 18 months. I also think there will be less emphasis on traditional seasons and more capsule collections in response to disruptions Covid-19 has made to the typical fashion calendar. This is one of the ways we intend to pivot our operations, by shifting from two annual seasons into a yearly six capsule cycle, as well as expand into new garment categories.
What change would you like to see in the denim industry as a result of Covid-19?
I think that Covid-19 will make people more conscious consumers. My hope is that during these challenging times people will consider when making a purchase, ‘By purchasing this item where is my money going? Who is benefiting from this purchase? Do I support what this brand stands for?’
How do you define sustainability in a post-pandemic world?
Well, Covid-19 has definitely highlighted the immense need for a more sustainable world all around. At the beginning of this pandemic, it was and continues to be those who are already most vulnerable who suffer the most. Countless garment workers around the world who are already underpaid (some not even a minimum wage), are out of work due to Covid-19. This has caused heightened risk for those most vulnerable to social injustice, modern slavery, human trafficking and exploitation. The vast media covering these issues due to the pandemic has finally shone a light on the damaging realities of the fashion industry. My hope is that consumers now understand what sustainability is and how important it is. It isn’t just organic cotton. In order to be truly sustainable, you have to be conscious of social, environmental and economical needs. It needs to protect people, protect the planet and also be financially viable to continue. This definition of sustainability is what we need to drive the earth and the industry forward.
Describe your dream jeans.
My dream jeans look great, feel amazing to wear, have a positive impact on the planet and enrich the lives of the people who made them. My ultimate goal is to make a pair of jeans that leave the world a better place.
What is your most worn pair of jeans, and why?
Probably my relaxed slim-tapered Ranger jeans in black.
Name one word that best describes denim.