In 2008 I went to the cinema with my wife to see the film Taken, a fictional film inspired by the very real $150 billion illicit trade of human beings. It was my first introduction to the world of human trafficking and I was driven to learn more.
I later had the opportunity to travel to Asia with an anti-trafficking group and saw first hand what it was like on the ground, and how human traffickers prey on vulnerable young girls.
After a research period, I learnt that once a girl has been rescued and integrated into her family or community, a sustainable career path is vital for securing her future.
It was from here that the foundations of Outland Denim were placed as an avenue for training, employment, and career progression for women who have experienced, or are at risk of experiencing, sex trafficking.
We first welcomed a small group of five aspiring seamstresses who had been recommended to us by a non-government organisation (NGO) with frontline operations in Cambodia. These women needed work in a safe space owing to their experiences of exploitation.
So with these small, humble beginnings began the steep learning curve that is picking up a highly specialised craft from scratch, from experiments in pattern making, sourcing raw materials and stone washing in a cement mixer, to setting up a manufacturing process that began with pedal press sewing machines and hot-coal irons in remote Cambodian villages
Today we have opened our doors to welcome over 100 staff from varying backgrounds of vulnerability. We know each of them by name, and with them we have been able to create a product of a premium standard worn and loved by people the world over.
Our environmental mission began in earnest following on from our social mission, as some of the world’s most vulnerable peoples are also affected the most by environmental degradation.
Today we have a unique business model that proves that the fashion industry can be the solution to some of the world’s most pressing global social and environmental issues.