FAQ

 
Here we have done our best to provide you with information about our organisation and its operations in addition to accurate facts about the broader social and environmental issues we endeavor to address.

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Outland Denim manufactures and sells high-quality, premium denim jeans and other apparel for sale in the global marketplace. We do this to create employment opportunities for the vulnerable.
We exist to create safe, healthy employment opportunities for some of the most vulnerable members of society, particularly those who have experienced poverty, which is a root cause of many social ills, including human trafficking and sexual exploitation. From our research, we have discovered that we are the ONLY jeans manufacturer with a proven social impact such as this. We also endeavor to make jeans with an artisanal quality, contemporary fit and durability to ensure they become a part of the wearer's life story: the foundational “hero” of their wardrobe, so to speak.
While established as a company in its own right in 2016, Outland Denim began back in 2011 under the pseudonym ‘The Denim Project' when the company's founder, James Bartle, encountered an anti-trafficking group at a music festival. He found out more about the issue by travelling to Thailand and Cambodia where he saw the affects of human trafficking first-hand. With the resolve to do something to help, James set about setting up a sewing operation in Cambodia in conjunction with the front line rescue agency Destiny Rescue to take in formerly trafficked and/or sexually exploited girls who had chosen to undertake sewing as their vocational skill during their restoration process. So began the highly educational process of creating a jean making enterprise. Since then, the company has undergone an evolution of sorts (from girls operating foot-pedal machines in their home villages to a centralised sewing room and community hub), and now manufactures highest quality jeans for sale globally. It continues in its original mission to employ young women victims of human slavery and sexual abuse.
We are based in a sleepy little town called Tamborine Mountain, about an hour's drive from Brisbane, which is where you'll find our flagship store and offices. Our manufacturing operation (aka The Sewing Room) is based in Kampong Cham, Cambodia, about three hours from the capital, Phnom Penh.
While we are passionate about denim and its construction, making jeans has never been our sole motivating force; that has been equipping, skilling and employing young women to break the cycle of poverty and vulnerability. However, while our business model began with the desire to help these girls, we soon saw that creating ONLY world-class denim jeans would give them the hope of being a part of a brand with longevity that reflects the investment of their time and skills. So we set about making the BEST jeans possible to leverage the talents and creativity of our team, which in turn gives them a sense of pride and dignity. As Simone Cipriani, founder of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, has said, “Work empowers people to lead the flourishing life… it allows people to use their emotions, their thinking capacities, their senses, to be fully part of society.”*

*Wardrobe Crisis: How we went from Sunday Best to Fast Fashion by Clare Press (Nero, 2016)
Our seamstresses are treated with the utmost respect and care. This is of significant importance to us regardless of whether a team member has endured past trauma or not. Beyond paying living wages, holistic support for our team members is at the forefront of our minds. This extends to counseling and in-house development programs that teach life skills, as well as maintaining a nurturing, understanding work environment. We see the importance of gradually increasing wages according to staff skill growth, experience and quality of work, and also incorporate incentives such as bonuses and allowances. We don't require our staff to work excessively long hours in order to make a living wage; family life and time outside of work is highly valued. 

Also known as “modern-day slavery”, the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime defines “Trafficking in Persons” as "the recruitment, transport, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a person by such means as threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud or deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability, or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation."

According to the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, exploitation may comprise: 
a) All forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage and serfdom and forced or compulsory labour, including forced or compulsory recruitment of children for use in armed conflict; 
b) The use, procuring or offering of a child for prostitution, for the production of pornography or for pornographic performances; 
c) The use, procuring or offering of a child for illicit activities, in particular for the production and trafficking of drugs as defined in the relevant international treaties; 
d) Work, which, by its nature or the circumstances in which it is carried out, is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children; 
e) Work done by children below the minimum age for admission to employment (UN General Assembly, 2000; ILO et al, 2009). 

The International Labor Organisation's report entitled Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour (2014) estimates that forced labour, including human trafficking, generates US$150 billion in illegal profits per year. Of this revenue, the ILO says that two thirds (US$99 billion) comes from commercial sexual exploitation, which includes sex trafficking, forced prostitution and other forced sexually exploitative services.

The UNODC notes that it is very hard to get quantifiable estimates of the number of people involved in human trafficking because of the clandestine nature of the crime, the silencing of its victims and limited data provided by countries, however the ILO estimates there are 20.9 million victims globally (2012) of which 4.5 million (22 per cent) are in forced sexual exploitation and 14.2 million (68 per cent) in forced labour exploitation activities such as agriculture, construction, domestic work and manufacturing. The remainder (10 per cent) are in state-imposed forced labour. 

The complex nature of the globalised economy means that some of the goods we buy unwittingly help fund the industry. Sadly, if there were no demand for cheap labour (and therefore cheap goods) and sex, human trafficking wouldn't have a market. Probably all of us are tarnished with the consumer-culture brush. We don't seem to be able to put a real value on the life of an individual person nor the goods we buy. But change is afoot globally.

Quick statistics:

  • 49 per cent of detected human trafficking victims are adult women; 33 per cent of detected victims are children (21 per cent girls; 12 per cent boys).
  • Globally, children now comprise nearly one third of all detected trafficking victims. Out of every three child victims, two are girls and one is a boy (UNDOC).
  • From 2004 to 2011, the number of girl victims of human trafficking increased from 10 per cent to 21 per cent. The number of women victims fell from 74 per cent to 49 per cent.
  • In countries in the Mekong Basin, the share of child victims is relatively high. In East Asia and the Pacific, 67 per cent of victims are adults and 33 per cent children; in South Asia, 60 per cent are adults and 40 per cent children.
  • A greater proportion of women are convicted of trafficking in persons than of nearly any other crime, and the detection of male victims is increasing. The share of women offenders is nearly 30 per cent (compared to 10-15 per cent of convicted offenders for all other crimes).
Source: UNODC Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014
"Sex trafficking" is the recruitment, transportation, and harboring of persons - primarily women and children - for the purpose of sexual exploitation into prostitution, pornography, sex tourism, and other commercial sex activities, including internet-based sexual exploitation, as a result of force, fraud, coercion or any combination of such means (including debt bondage).

Sexual exploitation was noted as by far the most commonly identified form of human trafficking (53 per cent) followed by forced labour (40 per cent) in UNODC's Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2014. The International Labor Organization estimates that 98 per cent of sex trafficking victims are women and girls.

The sex trafficking industry is fuelled by demand, and it's mostly men who are in demand (Iris Yen has covered this issue extensively in the 2008 paper ‘Of Vice and Men: A New Approach to Eradicating Sex Trafficking by Reducing Male Demand through Educational Programs and Abolitionist Legislation').

Impoverished women and girls from developing countries are vulnerable to all forms of human trafficking and exploitation, but they are especially vulnerable to sex trafficking.*

Mexican journalist and author of Slavery Inc. Lydia Cacho has said, “Hundreds of thousands of women and girls are not really choosing anything; they're just surviving through slavery and they just get used to it because that's what life has put on their plate."

* Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery by Siddharth Kara (Columbia University Press, 2009)
Outland Denim seeks to alleviate the risk of victims of sexual exploitation from being re-trafficked, ostracized in their communities and/or from becoming traffickers themselves by offering employment and training opportunities, living wages and other supports, that coincide with their restoration and acceptance into civil society.

People with limited access to protection, education and employment opportunities are more vulnerable to being exploited. For the exploited, often the stigma, shame and post-traumatic stress related issues of their experience are more of a hindrance to their building a prosperous future – some are even the targets of retribution. Additionally, they may lack a solid skill set and/or the means to gain one. So there is a mandate to empower vulnerable communities with income opportunities, and educate and protect victims. We are able to give our sewers quality of life, skills, purpose and dignity.

In its paper, The Rehabilitation of Victims of Trafficking in Group Residential Facilities in Foreign Countries (2007), USAID states,

“Vulnerable before they were trafficked, after the abuse and exploitation, victims are often even more vulnerable. Re-trafficking of victims can be a real danger. The long-term recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration of trafficking victims entails meaningful educational and economic opportunities, as well as extended psycho-social care.”.

Furthermore, Article 6 of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, notes that in protecting the victims of trafficking in persons signatory states must provide, in appropriate cases, “employment, educational and training opportunities”.

They are also to protect victims of trafficking in persons from revictimization, including instruction to “alleviate the factors that make persons, especially women and children, vulnerable to trafficking, such as poverty, underdevelopments and lack of equal opportunity” (Article 9: Prevention of Trafficking in Persons) while discouraging “the demand that fosters all forms of exploitation of persons, especially women and children, that leads to trafficking”.
 
Jeans are one of the most ubiquitous clothing items in the world. Social researchers Daniel Miller and Sophie Woodward, authors of Blue Jeans: The Art of the Ordinary, have said that in most countries outside South Asia and China perhaps half the population was wearing jeans on any given day. What better way to make a social statement than through the brand of jeans you choose to wear? Every time you wear a pair of our Outland Denim jeans you are helping a young woman who has been rescued from human trafficking reestablish her life. Our jeans are a true ‘fashion statement' – they look good, but they say you care and want to make a difference to someone's life.
The sad reality is that many garment factory workers are underpaid in order for clothing companies to make impressive margins on apparrel consumers now expect to pay less for.
 
Alden Wicker articulated the issue of what price we are willing to pay to ensure our jeans' makers were not exploited along the way in an article titled 'If Your Jeans Are Cheaper Than This, You've Got a Problem', for Refinery29, concluding, "If you find a pair of jeans that is selling full retail price for below [US]$100 - and especially $20, do your sisters in Bangladesh, China and India a solid and walk away." 
 
The retail price of our jeans is reflective of the efforts we go to to ensure that our sewing staff are well remunerated (i.e. paid a living wage) and cared for in a favourable working environment conducive to improving their overall wellbeing, as well as the sourcing of sustainable raw materials (denim, buttons, rivets, linings) of the finest quality, and the necessity of perfecting each pair of Outland Denim jeans in our manufacturing process
Please see the ‘Our Process' page where all is explained. Need more detail? Please send us an email.
We have researched long and hard to find a denim supplier that we'd be proud to use in the production of our jeans. We use Turkish denim from a mill that abides by the linked certifications and regulations. BOSSA Certificate of Compliance - BOSSA - cert.pdf, BOSSA Health and Safety.pdf, BOSSA Safety in Textiles.pdf, BOSSA Global Organic Textile Standard.pdf. Please read more on the Our Process page ‘denim' section.
We strive to create jeans of the highest ethical standards. We believe every aspect of a jean, no matter how large or small, deserves our attention to ensure it's made in a way that is environmentally and socially conscious. We are also fully committed to ensuring our supply chain is free from forced labour and have signed the ‘Keep Fashion Traffic Free' protocol committing to ensure our jeans are slavery and child labour free.

We commit to continue researching and finding more innovative ways to reduce our effects on the environment, lead the way with positive social impact and improve our supply chain in every way. We have put further information on our Thread, Zip, Denim, Button, Rivet, Washing & Packaging suppliers on the Our Process page.
At Outland Denim we acknowledge that the use of cotton and dyes in our jeans result in a myriad of environmental impacts. We attempt to reduce the impact of our denim by sourcing it from a Turkish mill called Bossa, which aims to improve the sustainability of cotton growing and manufacturing.

Organic cotton has proven to use 20-25 per cent less water than conventional cotton, and since competition for natural resources is a significant problem in many of the less developed countries where cotton is grown, Outland Denim is proving environmental and social stewardship through utilisation of organic cotton in our jeans. This stewardship is also shown by Bossa being involved in the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) which aims to increase the sustainability of cotton production through reducing the negative environmental and social impacts of cotton.

The use of toxic synthetic indigo poses a major threat to environmental and human health near manufacturing facilities. Outland Denim addresses this issue by using natural indigo dyes derived from a plant species called Indigofera. Use of natural vegetable dyes means that workers are exposed to less toxic chemicals and the likelihood or severity of water pollution is reduced, leading to an overall increase in the sustainability of our jeans. Please see our comprehensive 'Denim Supply Chain Information' here.
 
According to the International Labor Organization's Wages & Working Hours in the Textiles, Clothing, Leather & Footwear Industries report (2014), 52 per cent of Cambodia's national economy is reliant on the clothing industry. The sector currently employs more than 620,000 Cambodian workers, 86 per cent of whom are female and many of whom are relatively young. But the textiles and clothing industries are characterised by high volatility, low predictability and generally low profit margins. Subcontracting is common, intermediaries bring down costs and production lead time plays an increasingly important role (ILO).

The ILO says, “Young women with relatively low skills comprise a high share of employees in the clothing industry, which is often one of the few accepted forms of contractural labour for women in many developing countries”, while, “Long and unpredictable working hours and safety concerns make it difficult for women to combine family responsibilities with work. Low wages, weak collective bargaining opportunities and lack of equal pay for work of equal value can make women vulnerable to exploitation inside and outside the workplace.”

Outland Denim seeks to mitigate some of these garment industry characteristics to create worker stability within its sewing workshop, employment guidelines and work practises.
Have a question that is not covered by our FAQ page? Please see the below email addresses.

contact@outlanddenim.com - for all general customer enquiries. Your email will be passed on to the appropriate department or staff member.

sales@outlanddenim.com - for all sales-related enquiries, including customer care, product, returns and shipping.

contact@outlanddenim.com - for all media enquiries. Your request will be forwarded to our in-house communications staff or external PR agency. 

web@outlanddenim.com - for web-related enquiries.