What do you get when you cross a wannabe cowboy with someone who loves denim? You get Founding CEO of Outland Denim, James Bartle – obviously! I guess you could say that Outland Denim was his first official rodeo, aimed to solve social issues through fashion.

You see, these aren’t just any jeans. Outland is the denim brand making jeans differently and setting a new standard in fashion manufacturing. The brand is driven by the desire to curb the trafficking of young girls into the illicit commercial sex industry. James created Outland Denim to provide employment opportunities for women vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

With his strong objective in mind, James started Outland Denim from very primitive beginnings in Cambodia and it took 6.5 years to develop the brand. It’s true when they say nothing worth having comes easy! But luckily, James found success through telling his story – one that connected with customers.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing; James had to overcome many challenges and obstacles to deliver on his purpose – jeans were the solution to change people’s lives. Afterall, he launched at a market in 2016 trying to sell 2 pairs of jeans in summer! Now, that is passion.

You’re probably wondering how James built his brand on a solid message, secured crowd funding and what his tips are for startups, right? Well, here you have it!

Securing crowd funding & positives in doing so:

  • As a ‘People’s Brand’, this provided an opportunity for others to be a part of Outland Denim.
  • The brand has had 650 investors to date and are aiming for 1000 investors – this enables organic growth and marketing via word-of-mouth.
  • You can build a connected community and loyal brand ambassadors.
  • Doing so enabled a store opening in Melbourne.
  • Outland Denim partnered with Karen Walker to manufacturer for them due to a successful collaboration.
  • It may provide future manufacturing opportunities for non-conflicting brands.

James’ top tips for startups:

  • Reflect and really understand your ‘why’.
  • Ask for help if you need to – it’s so important in your business!
  • There will be lonely, tough days where you will doubt your why.
  • Have conviction as to why you do why you do.
  • Be unwavering and unapologetic and you will find your community.
  • You can’t appeal to everyone.
  • Stay true to yourself and your community

But with COVID-19 in strong force this year, we were expecting to see some changes in the industry. Due to the halt, James says our planet is prospering and thankfully, Outland Denim will benefit from the environmental and ethical shift.

So how does a brand shift with the times? It’s all about seeking out opportunities, changing purchasing customer behaviour, establishing new strategies, maintaining your brand ethos while maintaining strong staff connections and support systems.

The future of fashion is looking bright and if anything, James advises to stop, reflect and change.

Change for the good and the fashion industry will lead the charge for change – James Bartle

To listen to the full chat with James Bartle from Outland Denim, head to Fashion.Business.Mindset. The podcast is available now on Spotify, Apple Podcast, Deezer and Google Play!