Outland Denim's James Bartle on the jobs Meghan Markle helped to create for vulnerable women

By Jessica Pollack

As Meghan Markle establishes her role within the Royal Family, she's made it clear that empowering and supporting women will be a top priority - and this extends to her enviable wardrobe. While on tour, the duchess has been sporting a pair of black jeans by Australia's Outland Denim, and founder James Bartle told HELLO! that this has actually helped to create more jobs for the women he employs in rural Cambodia, many of whom have escaped human trafficking. "I never dreamed that the Duchess exposing us to the world would have such a dramatic impact, resulting in a minimum of 15 initial job openings" with the potential for 15 more. This is definitely something the royal mom-to-be can get behind!

Meghan first wore her jeans on a visit to rural Dubbo in Australia. Photo: © Getty Images

The "Meghan Effect" also extends to the company's sales, something that James was hoping would complement an increase in awareness. "My hope was for an increase in sales, of course, but more than that, it was for more people to learn about Outland Denim and the social change we are dedicated to," he said. "So far it has been nothing but successful." The company saw their sales increase by 1000% in just 48 hours, not to mention a 58% boost to their Instagram following and a "massive increase in awareness for the brand right across the globe!"

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Since 2011, James's ethical manufacturing practices have allowed vulnerable and formerly enslaved women in Cambodia to earn living wages while garnering employment skills, developing life skills and accessing education – tools that empower them to change their own lives. And while Meghan has influenced Outland in immeasurable ways, it was actually another famous face that first inspired him: actor Liam Neeson! In fact, A date night to see the film Taken was the catalyst for starting the label.

"The film shocked me and the idea that this kind of thing – human trafficking – really happened was mind blowing to me! I knew I had to do something to make a difference," the father of two explained, adding that he couldn't help but picture his own girls feeling this helpless, a thought he can't bear. "I believe in fighting for the women that have been oppressed by circumstances out of their control and know that if we can give the freedom to these women, the ripple effect will happen organically throughout local communities and, eventually, the world."

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Meghan mirrored these sentiments while addressing students at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, where she spoke to the importance of education for young women, especially in developing countries. "Providing them with access to education is the key to economic and social development. Because when girls are given the right tools to succeed, they can create incredible futures, not only for themselves but also for those around them."

She also sported the ethical denim while at an Invictus Games sailing event. Photo: © Getty Images

James has nothing but praise for the Duchess of Sussex. "Could you ask for a better woman to take on the good work of the royals?" he gushed. "She is an ideal person to head up the work she is doing. It's obvious she is very passionate and genuine." And she's sure to pass her beliefs on to her children.

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So did James know that the 37-year-old had a baby on board when he sent over his organic cotton denim? "Not before she made her public announcement," but the Harriet jean ($235, available at Holt Renfrew or outlanddenim.ca) was a good choice to accommodate a growing bump as their most popular design is both stretchy and comfortable with a high waist. But that wasn't the only draw for the duchess. "I think her feeling comfortable and knowing about the potential social and ethical effects were a factor in her choosing Outland Denim jeans. They are comfortable, look great and carry a much deeper meaning and message."

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If you’re reading this (a caption by a brand that prints ‘Made Different’ as its catchcry) it’s likely you’re the type to cringe at the phrase ‘it’s the way things have always been done’. Especially in today’s context where we are all learning how our choices as businesses and consumers impact the world around us. Which is why we’re proud to share that Outland Denim has joined the United Nations Global Compact Network. . The United Nations Global Compact is for businesses that can’t help but be competitive with themselves. Each year, members of the compact are required to report consistent and measurable improvements in the areas of human rights, labour, environment, and anti-corruption. . What we appreciate about this system is that it will challenge us at Outland Denim who, if you will allow us a moment to boast, have been described as the world’s most humanitarian denim brand, to push ourselves even further to reach the requirement of not just maintenance, but improvement annually. This report is published online, and will be made available to all Outland Denim stakeholders including you, our amazing customers and advocates. So, in August of each year you can expect our progress report to arrive in your inbox, or newsfeed, or on the Outland journal; and we look forward to sharing with you each year the innovative, impactful, and clever ways our team are doing things in ways they haven’t always been done. #madedifferent #zeroexploitation

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Having already worn her Harriets on four occasions over eleven days, it seems James has a convert in the royal. "Meghan may never know how deep her impact really runs. It will carry on through generations!" James explained. "She has an unbelievable amount of influence and I am just so excited to see her, and many other public figures, standing up on this issue. Her support of Outland Denim means the world to every person in our company."

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