James Bartle on Meghan Markle in Outlander Denim

Updated: Nov 23, 2018

James Bartle, the man behind the jeans brand that Meghan Markle wore during her trip to regional NSW talks about what that exposure will do for Outland Denim's beneficiaries and the story behind the brand.

It was "mind blowing" to see her (Meghan Markle) step off the plane in regional Dubbo wearing Outland Denim's Harriet jeans, which retail for $199.90, according to Bartel

“I was in Cambodia yesterday. So, I just work up to - my phone was just full of messages and Instagram and everything. And to see that Meghan Markle has actually put our jeans on. She’s worn them and stepped off the plane - that’s mind blowing for us,” Bartle tells the Today show.

He says he’s unsure exactly how she came to wearing the jeans but he believes that Outland Jeans and its products are “definitely what she stands for”.

Outland Denim was not born to create a denim brand, according to Bartle. The NSW based Aussie retailer was created to help survivors of sex offenses and human trafficking in Cambodia.

Bartle says he was a bit rattled after first watching the movie Taken with Liam Neeson. Despite it being a fictional film, he says the message was strong and clear in that this was what was really happening in the world, where “woman and girls get stolen for sex or for labour or all sorts of things”. Then a few years later, during a trip to Malaysia, Bartel tells of his unfortunate experience of seeing a little girl for sale. “You know, you can’t really turn back from that. So, I knew then that I wanted to commit my life to doing something about the problem.”

Bartle says that while charities are great, they are often a band aid solution and what he wanted was to create something “genuinely sustainable”. “The product has to lead for that to be the case,” he explains.

With no background or experience in fashion, he set about to make that vision a reality. Over a five year period, he went about creating a business model that would help these women and girls escape poverty and vulnerability by offering sustainable employment and training opportunities to women rescued from human trafficking and sexual exploitation. His business model also involved creating beautiful pair of jeans. “If you get someone loving your jeans, potentially they’ll come back and buy again and again and become a lifelong customer.”

Every pair of Outland Denim jeans comes with a little thank you note about the person who made the jeans; the woman whose life was changed by the B Corp retailer, who taught her to make the pair of jeans.

When asked about his reaction to seeing Meghan in his Outland jean, Bartle responds: “When you find out they’re coming to Australia, you always hope get some sort of action and a little bit of exposure as well, but you don’t believe it. It’s a it like winning the lotto, really.”While Bartle says his e-commerce site outlanddenim.com.au didn’t crash, it did go gangbusters when Meghan was broadcast live in the jeans.

“We saw a 1,000 percent increase in traffic. Our sales went through the roof instantly. We sold out on all the popular sizes of the black jean she wore, The Harriet jean.” The blazer that Meghan paired with the jeans is the Boss Blazer by the tennis star Serena Williams' clothing label, Serena, and fittingly belongs to its Royal collection. Of course, it sold out within minutes of being seen on Meghan.

Bartle says through the exposure of Meghan wearing his brand’s product, he’s seen in just one day what the value of her wearing it has meant to the women he works with in Cambodia. “To be able to say that Meghan Markle has worn the jeans that you produced, and for some of them, only six months ago they were in these horrible situations, some of them eight years ago. But, You produced something good enough for probably in the world if you want anybody to wear, it would be her. And you made that. That restores dignity. That’s pride in their work. So for us, we couldn’t really be more thrilled.”

Meghan Markle has long been an advocate for human rights before she met Harry. She is a UN women’s advocate for Political Participation and Leadership, according to Rights Info.  In 2015, in a speech to the UN she said that it was imperative that women had a “seat at the table” and if that was not available “they need to create their own table!”

In accordance with her words, she has gone on to visit a refugee camp in Rawanda to meet with female leaders there and also spent time visiting slum communities in India’s Mumbai and Delhi. She went on to write about her experiences surrounding the stigma around mensuration in India, Africa and Iran in relation to the improper sanitation girls have access to, which in her words, “directly inhibits young women from pursuing an education…”  therefore affecting their life chances.

As the daughter of an African-American mother and caucasian father, Meghan has also become a racial equality campaigner, according to Rights Info. “She has been outspoken about the state of race relations in her home country, especially the protests against police brutality in recent years.”

If you’d like to get your hands on a pair of Outland Denim jeans, head to outlanddenim.com.au. Promise, the site won’t crash.

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