30 A Hol­ly­wood-fave shoe la­bel lands in Canada; a denim line in­spired by Taken; model Hunter Schafer is (so much) more than a pretty face.

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents - —Jac­que­lyn Fran­cis

It’s not of­ten you hear some­one say “Liam Nee­son changed my life.” But that’s ba­si­cally what hap­pened to James Bar­tle, founder of Aus­tralia’s Out­land Denim. The for­mer freestyle mo­tocross rider was rocked by the 2008 ac­tion film Taken, which stars Nee­son as a re­tired CIA op­er­a­tive des­per­ate to res­cue his daugh­ter from sex traf­fick­ers. In 2011, a chance en­counter with the anti-traf­fick­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion Des­tiny Res­cue took Bar­tle to Asia, where he vis­ited Thai­land and Cam­bo­dia and came face to face with fe­male sur­vivors of hu­man traf­fick­ing. “I couldn’t turn my back once I saw,” says Bar­tle of meet­ing girls as young as 13 who’d been sold into the sex trade. “I have two lit­tle girls of my own. It’s press­ing that I fight this prob­lem.”

With me­dia re­ports of slave auc­tions in Libya and mass ab­duc­tions of school­girls in Nige­ria, the is­sue of hu­man traf­fick­ing is very much a prob­lem to­day. The In­ter­na­tional Labour Of­fice (ILO) es­ti­mates that in 2016, 40.3 mil­lion peo­ple were em­broiled in “modern slav­ery”—24.9 mil­lion of them in forced-labour sit­u­a­tions and 15.4 mil­lion in forced mar­riages.

Af­ter five years of re­search, Bar­tle came to be­lieve that poverty is what most of­ten leaves peo­ple vul­ner­a­ble to traf­fick­ers. So he founded Out­land Denim with a fac­tory in ru­ral Cam­bo­dia that em­ploys peo­ple who have been res­cued from traf­fick­ing or sex­ual ex­ploita­tion or those who have been deemed “at risk.”

While in Toronto to talk about Out­land Denim (jeans from $235, at the H Project in Holt Ren­frew), Bar­tle ex­plains how the fac­tory that started with just five work­ers now has 65 em­ploy­ees who have been trained to work in the ap­parel in­dus­try and earn a “liv­ing” wage, not just min­i­mum wage. “This is a [fi­nan­cially] sus­tain­able model, but it’s only sus­tain­able if you pro­duce a beautiful prod­uct that peo­ple want,” he says. As for choos­ing to fo­cus on denim, the fash­ion in­dus­try’s “dirt­i­est” item, Bar­tle says that Out­land uses or­ganic cot­ton and or­ganic veg­etable dyes. “If we’re go­ing to wash some­thing, it means we fil­trate it,” he says. “All the stuff that washes out can be used for other things.” (A de­tailed break­down of the sup­ply chain, process and busi­ness model lives on the com­pany web­site.) It all sounds great, but with en­vi­ron­men­tally savvy con­sumers start­ing to re­think ev­ery sin­gle cloth­ing pur­chase, can fash­ion ever be thought of as a pos­i­tive thing?

“Yeah,” says Bar­tle, nod­ding his head with un­bri­dled op­ti­mism. “We wanted to de­velop a model that is scal­able and trans­fer­able. This is about cre­at­ing change in the in­dus­try.” He then tells the story of an em­ployee who re­cently bought her sis­ter back from traf­fick­ers. “These women are some of the most coura­geous you’ll ever meet. And we don’t make the change for them—we give them the tools.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.