We spoke to trailblazer James Bartle, founder and CEO of Outland Denim, about ethical production in the fashion industry and what makes the denim brand so revolutionary.
Where do you call home?
Tamborine Mountain, in the Gold Coast Hinterland.
Have you always been a designer?
Prior to Outland Denim I had founded an extreme sports tour group that travelled around Australia promoting healthy lifestyle choices to mostly youth. I was first exposed to the idea of creating apparel through merchandising for that business, though denim and sustainability weren't on my radar. This was back in the mid-2000s. To supplement my income, I had worked in various trades, including as an electrician and as a welder, so I had a very practical skill base, and was never out of work. That came from my father; he's a painter by trade, and a pastor, but has run a farm for as long as I can remember, and he always took the time to demonstrate how to fix machinery. Adapting my skill set to the requirements of jean making, and the mechanics of jean making, and setting up shop in a foreign country where I didn't speak the local language was a learning curve, but I think that once you have an appreciation for how things work, and how to do things well, and to be flexible in your learning and skill set, you can more easily move sideways into different fields. Outland was very hands-on from the beginning.
What was the last great book you read?
Unfortunately I can’t remember the last time I read a book for leisure! But I did enjoy reading ‘Princess Joy’s Birthday Blessing’ to my daughter’s recently - does that count?
What would we find on your playlist in your studio/office?
An Australian, Country playlist for sure.
If you weren’t doing Outland denim, what would we find you doing?
I think it would be really interesting to develop and reno old properties, I think that is probably what I would be doing if it wasn’t for Outland Denim.
What does sustainability in fashion mean to you?
I think when people refer to sustainability there is a lot of weight given to the environmental side of sustainability, and while there is no doubt that this is important, to me sustainability is social, environmental, and economical. We need to protect everyone in the supply chain including their wider communities, we need to ensure we mitigate negative impact to the planet, and of course to continue in the fashion industry and as a business in general we need to be economically sustainable.
Dream holiday destination?
A road trip or perhaps a trip to New Zealand
If an out of towner was visiting, where would you take them?
I would take them to St Bernard’s hotel here on Tamborine Mountain; it’s an iconic location and has an amazing view.
Describe your style in 3 words.
Minimalist, Monochromatic, Denim
Favourite Instagram feeds?
Do you collect anything and if so what?
I can’t say that I do!
Summer or winter?
The turn of the season when it’s not too hot or cold.
Harry wears the Sienna Wide Leg Jeans from Outland
Mountain Brew; the cafe right next door to our Head Office on Tamborine Mountain. They always make sure our team is well caffeinated and are an important part of the Outland Denim family.
What takes your breath away?
The moment that stands out for me was in our earliest days, in talking to one of our first staff members. We asked her about three years into her working with us, 'How is this helping you; this kind of employment and opportunity?' She went on to say that because of this opportunity she'd been able to build a home for her family who previously lived under a plastic sheet. She went on to say that she was also able to buy her sister back off a man that owned her. At that moment I thought, 'Well, I've reached my career high'.
Favourite Australian product....
Fanta Pants Surfboards
Why shop local?
Now more than ever it is so important for us as a community to help each other by buying local wherever possible. I truly believe that one silver lining that will come out of COVID-19 is that people will be more considered in what they purchase, opting to support local and brands that align with their values as an individual.
Do you have a signature scent?
Not sure if it is a signature scent but I use Valor Pit Stop organic deodorant.
Is beer a cocktail? haha!
Use one word to describe Jim & Jane.