Nov 4, 2020
Sex trafficking is a $99 billion industry, and human
trafficking in its total is a $150 billion industry. The statistics
around human trafficking can feel incredibly overwhelming and at
times it can feel like there is just no way that we could ever make
a real change in this industry. A denim company is striving to make
a dent and a real difference in fighting human trafficking. My
guest this week is the incredible James Bartle, founder and CEO of
Denim. Outland Denim started as a means to provide
stable employment and income opportunity to women who would
otherwise be vulnerable to human trafficking. But James didn’t stop
there. He innovated on industry standards to create an incredible
line of jeans with a minimal footprint. This was an absolutely
phenomenal conversation. James has been a highly requested guest
this year, and I was really honored to have him on the show. We
touch on some important topics and you’ll see what I mean when I
say that I could have talked to him for hours!
4:32 - The James 101
- James is the CEO and founder of Outland Denim,
which has been in the marketplace for about four years now. They’ve
spent the last six years developing their business model to impact
people around the world and right environmental and social
injustices. James knew in order to truly accomplish this, he needed
to be impacted first.
- James was first introduced to what human
trafficking is while seeing the movie Taken. The film
mentioned in text that human trafficking happens in the real world,
and it really affected James. Over the next few years, James and
his wife started researching more about the issue. James had a
chance to travel with a rescue agency through Southeast Asia and
witnessed a life-changing and heart-breaking situation where
someone was selling a young girl.
- James thought of his young nieces and now his own
daughters. He was horrified that any human has to be sold for their
own survival, family’s survival or are stolen and held captive.
They knew it was an economic problem and if they wanted to solve
it, they needed to come up with something that addressed the
economic system and/or situation that was making them
- It is important to recognized that human
trafficking is very nuanced and complex. It can’t be summarized in
one movie. For James it was a very gradual learning experience. He
wished he could go fix the problem immediately but realized it
would be much more complicated than that.
- James realized that it wasn’t until they could
address the roots of the problem and systemic issues that they
could really start to help people out of trafficking. They knew
they needed to equip people to make their own decisions to change
on their own through education and opportunity.
12:19 - Change Can Come from Us
- Sometimes there is a disconnect approaching Human
Trafficking from a business standpoint when a portion of profits go
toward a cause. James and Outland Denim began early-on by melding
with another industry: the ethical fashion industry. At the root of
the fashion industry is trafficking. James chose to merge the two
things by fighting trafficking while building a sustainable fashion
- James learned early on in his education about
trafficking that nearly 80% of people that come through rescue
programs often end up in a worse position later down the road
because there’s no way for them to move forward with a plan or new
- Before Outland Denim, James never gave the health
of the environment a second thought, but once he was able to link
environmental degradation to social injustice. He realized that his
worldview as a Christian should also include a responsibility to
protect the planet and that doing so also helps protect
marginalized people groups.
16:10 - The People and the Planet
- Outland Denim understands that you can’t care for
people without the planet or the planet without the people: they
are very much connected. They decided to try to use industry to
challenge the environmental degradation of the planet by the
fashion industry while also impacting not only the lives of
marginalized people groups all over the world, but even the sales
associate and the brand’s stakeholders.
- James sees denim as the ultimate product for
changing the world. It’s one of the most unsustainable and damaging
fabrics in fashion. The chemicals, water, and energy used is
- Denim can also hold a nostalgic comfort in our
psyches. James compares it to music. It can conjure memories and
emotions. Everyone has their favorite pair of jeans that they never
want to throw out that can transport them to another time or
distant memory. The goal is to remove the environmental damage and
keep the positive impact. Outland Denim even prints messages of
thanks in the jean pockets from the women makers who made that pair
- If ethical brands are not thinking about making a
product that customers want, it’s just a “pity purchase.” It
doesn’t empower the artisan who made the product. When a product
has consumer demand, you sell more product and are able to employ
- We can’t push people into the change, but we can
inspire them to want to be a part of the movement. More Christians
can lead the way in supporting ethical fashion. If we are called to
love our neighbors more than ourselves and deny ourselves and
follow Jesus, we can invite others to be a part of a bigger story
like Jesus does for us.
34:39 – Global Brand
- Outland Denim had a successful launch in Australia,
and then James’ wife told him about WWD (Apparel and Retail CEO)
Summit happening in New York (about 5 years ago). There was no
mention of sustainability in the presentations he heard. It was all
about finding cheaper production in another country and how other
markets were doing. It was disheartening for James to witness where
the fashion industry was then, about five years ago.
- James sat next to a man and the two got to
discussing what James did for a living. The man grabbed a handful
of James’ jeans and told him, “Tell all your investors they’re
about to lose all their money!” The man’s wife, embarrassed by her
husband’s actions, invited James to lunch and they stayed in touch
after the Summit.
- It turns out the man was a distributor in Canada,
and he invited James to come visit to show him the jeans. He took a
big risk and put James in front three of the biggest retailers in
Canada. They gave him 20 minutes, looked at the product, heard the
pitch and an hour and a half later, everyone is crying and wanting
to know how to help.
- The next day, another retailer came with a family
member who was extremely passionate about sustainability and that
retailer, Harry Rosen, Inc., still supports Outland Denim to this
day. They’ve helped evolve the brand, the product, and bring
relevance to their customer.
- Not long after that, Outland Denim signed a
contract with David Jones, one of the biggest retailers in
Australia. And shortly after that, Megan Markle visited Australia,
WEARING OUTLAND DENIM JEANS! The media went crazy and James had to
jump on a plane for TV appearances. She really opened the brand up
to the world and because of the attention, Outland Denim was able
to hire 46 new seamstresses!
- That lead to more exposure to other retailers and
right before Covid-19 hit, Outland Denim launched with the new
Nordstrom store in New York City! Many retailers really do want to
be a part of creating change now and are supportive of brands that
do. To support the brand, it is important for purchases to go
through retailers, and is generally sustainable well into the
Tune in to hear how Outland Denim has been affected
by Covid-19 and the creative ways they are working toward the
future. Find out how we can turn the word “consumerism” into a
positive phrase and solve global issues that the government isn’t
able to solve.
46:54 - Getting to Know Our Guest
- Enjoy hearing some fun facts about what James’
favorite movie was when he was growing up, his guilty pleasure,
some common misconceptions about Australians and Americans, and of
all of his pet peeves, which is the strangest, and more! You’ve got
to tune in to the end to hear from James what it means to him to
run a business with purpose!
9:54: “If we really want to create change, we’ve got
to change people’s hearts in countries like ours ad well as
countries that we work in. We’ve got to be able to create
opportunity that gives everybody, people in developing and poor
nations, the same opportunities we have to be educated, have health
care, save (money), and live with their families. Just the basic
11:46 “It is incredibly powerful when you put the
power back in the hands of the people to make the change
themselves: you give them what they need to be successful at it and
32:02 – I hope that’s a legacy about the brand, that
it would have a small part to play in motivating our staff that
“You’re not a victim, but you’re somebody that has so much to offer
in your community and in the world.” If we all look for that
opportunity and use it, we’re going to create massive impact.
Thank you to our partners of the show:
Did you know I have an ethical brand directory?
That's what Chelsea used to start finding products for her boutique
almost four years ago! Now, Amma's Umma carries over 50
intentionally sourced brands and is the perfect one stop shop for
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At GOEX, we believe in the power of purchase. We use
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The Lemonade Boutique
This episode is sponsored by The Lemonade Boutique, a
women’s clothing with a cause store. Featuring ethically made and
fair trade items from over 10 countries, every item is made by
women facing extreme challenges such as trafficking, poverty, and
more. Your purchase empowers women to take life's lemons and make
lemonade. Shop at THELemonadeBoutique.com. Listeners of the Business
with Purpose Podcast can save 15% by using code PURPOSE15 at