Those of you who have followed Chasing Unicorns from the start know that we favour a few incredible models, Montana Lower being one of these gorgeous women. What a lot of you don’t know is that this model is so much more than just a beautiful face, in fact Montana is not only a civil and environmental engineer, awesome creative, talented artist and all round gem of a human being but she is also currently working on a phenomenal project responsible for changing women's lives in third world countries. We thought we would share with you the story of Montana, Outland Denim and how fashion can not only be the problem but also the solution.
A year ago, and in the final stages of her honours degree in civil and environmental engineering, Montana was sitting in the make up chair being prepped to model for an Outland Denim shoot when a conversation with Outland Denim founder James struck a concerted chord in her heart and soul. Having focused her studies on the environmental impact of fashion and humanitarian engineering in developing countries she couldn’t help but sit up and listen when James explained how he had spent the last seven years journeying to Cambodia where he was working with NGO’S to develop an aftercare program that would protect the women they had rescued from human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Thus Outland Denim was born as this aftercare program. Through Outland, James wanted to create a concept with longevity, one that would not only improve the lives of the women while they were attached to Outland but also offer them skills and support for whatever life they chose outside of it. He yearned to create real social change through opportunity, training, education, living wages and holistic care.
What does Outland denim actually do? Outland takes women from unskilled backgrounds and provides them with counselling, skills training, a living wage, self-defence courses, family security and budgeting lessons, and so much more. The end result is not only an ethically and environmentally sound pair of jeans but a proud and empowered woman. The jeans are then fed back into the fashion industry via retail and the women are given a chance at a second life and for many, the chance at a first, one they may have never otherwise have had. This profit for purpose model is what enables the Outland dream to continue with security and longevity.
You're probably wondering just how does a model/engineer fit into this dream? The answer is that James’s story, dream and goals resonated so strongly with Montana that she accepted a role as the projects Environmental Systems Engineer. Realising that there were three key elements to sustainability – social, economic and environmental, Outland and Montana knew that in order to truly save people's lives they also needed to think about the environment they lived and produced in. The fashion industry is a major contributor to greenhouse emissions and producing denim is perhaps one of the largest contributors to this. It takes 6800 litres of water to produce one pair of jeans from farm to store not, to mention the energy and waste aspects that emerge from the process. Fast-paced, mass-produced fashion has led to an industry void of consideration for these three oh-so-critical elements of sustainability. We are all happy to assume workers are being paid fair wages, work in humane conditions and that the waste products of production are disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner…but sadly that just isn’t the case, and so it became Montana and Outland Denims ultimate goal to create a solution to this problem.
In her role as Environmental Systems Engineer, Montana is responsible for mapping the environmental impact of Outland Denim – from organic cotton and plant based dying to water and waste quantities. Her goal is to achieve a closed loop system where every component that goes into making a pair of Outland Denim jeans feeds back into each other. Thus allowing the system to continue to run all whilst significantly reducing our impact on the environment and most importantly pioneering a change of practice within the fashion industry.
Montana's work for Outland is groundbreaking here in Australia as there are not many precedents to look to in terms of ideas and knowledge. She is researching and striving for answers to concepts such as alternative waste options including using mushrooms to eat leftover fabrics or repurposing fabric scraps into building materials, recycling materials such as buttons and zips and exploring alternatives to plastic packaging.
On a recent trip to Cambodia, Montana got to meet the Outland seamstresses and see the program in first-hand action. A humbling experience as woman to woman the seamstresses shared their past and present stories with Montana. The past stories filled with heartache but the present with pride and power as the explained how they were women building lives, homes and businesses that they had never dared dream were possible in this lifetime. No longer the victims, they were the survivors. Whilst on this visit, Montana had the chance to visit some abandoned garment factories and to experience the sheer volume of waste left behind by the rapidly moving monster that is fast fashion…it is a truly disposable, bottom dollar-based industry. Montana states that as she stood there and took in the waste of this one abandoned factory, the swings tags, loose threads and scrap cloth left behind that only then did she realise the true magnitude of the problem. Not being one to walk away when the going is tough (she is a Chasing Unicorns woman after all!) she was motivated to instead say "I CAN FIX THIS- I can use my voice as a model and as an engineer to create and support positive change in the fashion industry socially, economically and environmentally".
At Chasing Unicorns we are often asked why we use only a few favoured women as the faces and models of our brand… the above story is why. Montana is not only an exquisitely beautiful face but her values, ethics and mindset resonate with the very fibre of the Chasing Unicorns ethos. She is everything the Chasing Unicorns woman stands for heart, soul, mind and so much more.
Please read our Returns Policy here to familiarise yourself with our store rules regarding returns.