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Friends of Loving Earth

Q+A With Outland Denim

What makes a good pair of jeans? How do people work out what style best suits them? What factors should they be taking into consideration? 

A good pair of jeans should feel like a second skin, something that you feel confident, and stand a little taller in. Take into consideration fit, feel, quality of the materials and craftsmanship, and of course how they were made.

In terms of finding a style that suits you best, like everything this can come down to pure trial and error. We really try to steer clear of pointing our customers towards trends and instead pointing them in the direction of a jean they'll just love wearing whether that style happens to be in trend at the time or not. If someone is new to Outland and they are wondering what style they should try first, we point them in the direction of Lucy for women and Ranger for men. Two of our earliest styles and still two of the most popular to this day - we're yet to find someone who hasn't loved them.

How long “should” a pair of jeans last? Any tips on making them last longer? 

It really depends on the frequency of wear and what you are doing in them, but the short answer is years. Not only is designing denim to last better for the environment but it's more economical for the consumer too, who won't need to replace their jeans every season. It makes our day when we meet or hear of customers still loving their 2017 Harriet jeans today just as much as the day they bought them.

To wash in a way that is low-impact environmentally, and to maintain the longevity of your jeans we recommend washing only once every 10 wears or as needed, washing on a cold cycle, if your jeans contain elastane wash them in a garment bag to reduce microplastic release, avoid any heat like the dryer or iron, and lastly take them out of the washing machine as soon as they are done to protect the denim wash.

You have a famous fan in Meghan Markle, is there anyone else that you’re proud to be wearing your product? 

Just like Meghan Markle, finding out our denim was being worn by Leonardo DiCaprio was a pretty big 'pinch me' moment too. We're grateful for the support we've received from people that have huge followings because they help to introduce Outland Denim to more people. But really despite this sounding super cliche, I am just as proud to see our garments worn on every customer, because without their purchase and support, we can make all the jeans we want but we won't impact anyone.

You mention an exciting new technology to eradicate textile waste and divert 800,000 tonnes of textiles from landfill every year (and that’s just Australia!)– can you share any updates on this exciting discovery? 

We are focused on tackling the issue of textile waste through innovation. Slowing our consumption may help, but we fear it won’t be a fast enough solution. This is why we are investing in the development of new textile waste technology. We can't share too much on this project at the moment (or our lawyers will be onto me!) However I can share that so far we have proven in a lab as well as a small-scale commercial pilot test that we are able to take a range of textile fibres and break them down in a way that is safe for planet and people. The next step is to test this technology on a larger commercial scale to better understand its scope and the fibres it can break down.

Our vision is to take textiles that cannot be recycled, textile scraps from production, unfixable post-consumer clothing, and garments that were not in appropriate condition for thrift stores to sell and dispose of them in a way that is a) environmentally safe and b) does not disrupt communities, all while putting Australia on the map as a leader in this space.

It’s been a wild two years for us all, and you’ve not been able to visit your teams in Cambodia. Can you tell us a bit more about the Floor + Field 24/7Transparency technology that allows you to keep working standards and safety high and how you manage to not make it feel like Big Brother for your workers! 

This is a really good question, how do we as an industry embrace thorough supply chain due diligence that identifies issues like exploitation or safety concerns, while still respecting the privacy of workers and as you say not come off like Big Brother!

Firstly, to provide some context on the program, currently the industry relies on audits, site visits and certification programs to evaluate the practices of supply chain members. But while these programs are valuable and necessary, they provide information on only one snapshot in time, and therefore are only one piece of the overall accountability puzzle. The industry has recognised the inadequacy of audits, site visits and certification programs, to accurately identify and respond to human rights violations. With travel restrictions currently in place, businesses must think outside the box for new solutions to assure due diligence is undertaken for their supply chain. This is where 24/7 Transparency by Floor and Field comes in.

Floor and Field’s world first 24/7 Transparency technology meet the highest level of veracity for compliance with anti-slavery laws, as well as providing environmental, safety, and efficiency benefits. This technology was installed in our production facilities two years ago as a pilot program and provides us with instant insight into areas to improve safety measures, detailed data on environmental impact, and offers a new level of accountability to ensure employee rights are upheld.

Even with frequent trips to our facilities pre-covid, we’ve found that this technology has provided more consistent monitoring and a higher level of transparency for our brand and stakeholders. The data cannot be manipulated at any stage avoiding any form of ‘greenwashing’ heightening our accountability and transparency far beyond what is possible from traditional audit processing.

To answer the second part of your question, privacy and security of our employees is paramount. Many of our team members have come from exploitative backgrounds and so it is our priority that they feel safe at work and that we are transparent with them regarding the use of this technology. The Floor and Field team do not use controversial methods such as facial recognition and they receive advice from Australian lawyers that have experience working with devices in SE Asia. Our partners at Floor and Field have experience with General Data Protection Regulation compliance, AI ethics, and security best practice, which allows Outland Denim to have regular discussions and receive expert advice on privacy and security topics.

When it comes to Outland Denim, what are you and your team proudest of?  

There are so many moments to celebrate. But the reason we started Outland is for impact, so 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'.

We are on a regenerative journey, as opposed to sustainable. What does sustainability mean to you and how are you moving to a more regenerative/circular model? 

We consider true sustainability as social, environmental, and economic. We also really identify with the first part of your question, about being on a regenerative journey. Regenerative is the goal - to reverse, repair, or build in reparation for the harm done. In the micro we do this through circular-informed design of our products, but we also recognise that one really thoughtfully made pair of jeans won't reverse global systematic harm. So we also invest heavily in technology, such as the textile waste project mentioned above, that we believe can have the power to transform garment end-of-life for the whole industry, not just us as a brand.

How has the jean making process changed since 1871, or is it pretty much the same since they were invented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis?  

It has changed a lot; you could write an essay on the ways from design and commercialisation through to the retail floor. But I'll zoom in on the wash and finishing process - where wash, colour, and characteristics like distressing are applied to your denim. This stage is conventionally one of the most harmful due to intensive water, energy, and chemical use as well as methods that can be harmful to the health of workers. This is why we have established our own wash facility to have further control over our environmental footprint. By equipping this facility with innovative technology, we are able to finish our denims with zero harmful chemicals, up to 86% less water, and up to 96% less energy.

Bust this myth for us – does putting your jeans in the freezer mean you don’t have to wash them as much? 

No, I'm pretty sure I read recently that scientists have debunked that myth. But it is true that denim does not need to be washed as much as say your t-shirts. Plus denim will age better when washed less - we recommend once every 10 wears. But hey, if the freezer method works for you, who am I to stop you!

Cotton is known for being a  heavily sprayed crop . What was it about the organic cotton farm in Turkey that made you choose them, given the impact of transport?  

Bossa Denim mill based in Turkey was our pick as Outland's primary denim supplier owing to their commitment to social and environmental sustainability, and investment sustainability initiatives and technology. Forming a long-term partnership with them we have been able to continuously improve on our denim over the years while also joining forces on projects such as the Supply Network Intelligence system which works to protect and support cotton farming communities. Precision Solutions Group and Nudie Jeans are also fellow partners in this program.

We selected organic cotton for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is farmed with zero use of agrochemicals which are known to reduce soil quality, contribute to water pollution, and severely affect the health of farmers. Organic farming also helps to reduce environmental impacts and enhance social responsibility while potentially saving water and helping to meet select UN Sustainable Development Goals. Textile Exchange links the growth of organic cotton to Poverty Reduction (SDG #1), as farmers can earn more and spend less on inputs; Zero Hunger (SDG #2), as organic cotton is usually grown alongside food crops; Good Health & Wellbeing (SDG #3), as cotton farmers and their families are not exposed to harmful chemicals; as well as SDG #6: Clean Water and Sanitation, as it does not cause contamination to local water sources. Organic soils are also shown to sequester more carbon than conventionally farmed soils. In selecting our raw materials we also recognise that sustainability is far from black and white, and so it's about balance and finding the most sustainable option available today while investing into even better solutions for tomorrow.

You’re heading out the door to catch a flight to see your team of seamstresses in Cambodia. What are your top five travel essentials and what Loving Earth chocolate bar are you taking with you to snack on during the flight? 

This is surprisingly the most difficult question because as a minimalist I probably only have 5 things in my bag. I guess headphones, laptop, charger, phone, plenty of denim, and the 72% dark chocolate bar.


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