In the winter of 2011, after learning and getting excited about what we were both up to through Facebook, we reconnected after about a decade apart. It was meant to be just a catch-up of old high school friends. What we didn’t know at the time was that not only would it be a rekindling of a friendship that had begun 15 years earlier in Minneapolis, Minn., it would be the beginning of a journey to launch a company that we hope will fundamentally change how we all approach fashion.
It began with a discussion of The Bootstrap Project, the nonprofit organization Maxine established to bring sustainable economic development and revive craft traditions in the developing world. While working together and learning more about the exceptionally talented artisans behind the crafts, we couldn’t help but think about the origins of the rest of the products that entered our lives. We passed articles back and forth feverishly as we began to fully understand the impact that our own fast-fashion ways had on the world.
More than 2.5 billion pounds of used clothing ends up in landfills each year. That is 67 pounds that each of us, on average, sends directly to the trash dump.
It wasn’t always the case, of course. Before fast fashion entered our malls and churned out new items every day at unimaginably low prices, we all used to pick our items carefully and curate our closets over time. We all had our favorite brands, to which we connected very personally.
Now most brands are just shell companies, lending their names to products made by third parties who further outsource the manufacturing to wherever the product can be made cheapest. Apparel is still an industry that requires the human hand, so the only way to provide such cheap clothing is by sourcing the lowest-quality materials, using only the most basic forms of production and, most significantly, manufacturing in places where workers’ rights, including livable wages and working conditions, are nonexistent.
Today we’re making more clothing than the world could possibly need. Eighty billion garments are produced annually worldwide, 16 billion of which are T-shirts. That’s nearly three shirts for every single man, woman and child in the world.
It was these conditions that set the stage for the tragic collapse at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 people earlier this year.
We decided to come together using our respective knowledge of supply chain and digital mediums to provide an alternative—a destination of beautifully curated products including womenswear, menswear and a collection of items for the home, where every single piece has both a traceable origin and a rich story.
Whether it’s T-shirts from Small Trades, made by a sixth-generation Pennsylvania mill; hand-stitched bags made by Rose in Zambia; or denim designed and made in the same place in Nashville, Tenn., by industry veterans who make sure no corners are cut on their perfect fitting jeans, every product on Zady comes with its own impactful story. So when you’re asked, “Where did you get that?” you won’t just have a label. You’ll be able to talk about Carrie and Matt, who made your jeans, or Beverly, the 64-year-old woman who has been working at the same Pennsylvania mill since the age of 18.
It’s all part of the movement of the “conscious consumer.” In the past decade, our collective buying decisions put enough pressure on the food industry to make major waves in revolutionizing it. Who would have imagined that now even Walmart carries organic food? We’ve opened our pantries for examination and have demanded better—now is the time to open our overflowing closets. We’ll look and feel better if we do.
This has been a very personal journey for both of us. Growing up together in Minneapolis, we were raised to treat people fairly and to seek out quality. We know it’s hokey, but these are the values we hold dear. As members of this generation, we also feel that together, consumers have an impact.
With our association with The Bootstrap Project, we are committed to highlighting beautiful craft everywhere it is found. Five percent of all sales on Zady go towards Bootstrap to help train new artisans, expand their programing to revive artistic traditions and create meaningful economic development.
Through the power of the Web we can connect to like-minded people. Together we can build a unique destination with products and stories discovered by Zady users across the world.
Welcome to Zady!
—Maxine Bédat and Soraya Darabi