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December 18, 2017
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Maxine Bédat and Soraya Darabi, founders of Zady.com. Source: entrepreneur.­com

Old high school classmates Maxine Bédat - a former lawyer - and Soraya Darabi - co-founder of Foodspotting and the former manager of Digital Marketing & Social Media at The New York Times -were mutually united by the idea of conscious fashion after performing in-depth research on the fashion supply chain.

Together, the women created Zady, an e-commerce concept based on sustainability and transparency as a revolt against the fast fashion industry. Since its inception in August 2013 the e-commerce site has gained a loyal following and online presence while also curating a veritable collection of clothing and accessories for men and women.

It was recently named one of The World's 10 Most Innovative Companies in Retail (2014) by Fast Company. The Genteel sat down with Maxine and Soraya to find out more about Zady and the conscious consumer movement that it has established itself within.

Classic blacks from Zady's website
Classic blacks from Zady's website. Source: zady.com

1. You both come from extremely diverse backgrounds, and notably neither are in fashion. Maxine, you went to law school and Soraya, you have a vast background in digital marketing and social media. How did you two meet and why did you both decide to start Zady?

After first meeting in high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota we reconnected years later via Facebook, and got together for tea. Maxine was in law school at the time and Soraya was just wrapping up work with Foodspotting. We both really admired what one another was doing.

We first started talking about The Bootstrap Project - a non-profit [project that] Maxine was working [on] while in law school, [which] works with artisans in the developing world to help revive beautiful craft traditions. We began to work together on the project, which lead us down a research path on how our clothing is made.

What we unearthed from that research was terrifying. We're at this stage in society where we are conscious of the health and environmental issues related to our food, but have been completely in the dark about our apparel.

Over the last five years, there has been a huge shift in the fashion industry towards fast fashion. Instead of people turning towards mid-priced products made with high-quality materials and techniques, the trend has become focussed on impulse-buying low-priced items made from cheap materials and labour.

As an alternative to the current state of fashion, Zady is addressing the vast and growing market of people who want a stylish alternative; people who want to support the slow fashion revolution and invest in timeless pieces made to stand the test of time, which [also] minimises pollution and treats workers fairly along the way.

We're at this stage in society where we are conscious of the health and environmental issues related to our food, but have been completely in the dark about our apparel.

2. What makes Zady so different from other ethical/sustainable fashion e-commerce websites like Honest By, for example?

We believe the brands dedicated to radical transparency are all in this together. Europe's Honesty By, for instance, has a strong focus on fashion pieces and Bruno, the founder, emphasises environmentally friendly practices over most else. It's a great brand.

Zady uses iconography to emphasise our judging criteria for the brands and items we select. We have badges for when products are environmentally friendly, and also when products are made by hand, when they are composed of the highest quality raw materials, when they are sourced from our artisan projects at The Bootstrap Project and finally, when products are Made in America.

At Zady we are dedicated to detailing - for every item - the full story of the brand. We profile the makers, interview them twice and show our community (using a map of the world) where our items come from down to the raw materials. It's a radical change from [the] slick ad campaigns concealing horrific worker conditions and environmental abuses.

3. Do you fear competition as an increasing number of ethical/sustainable fashion businesses are starting up both off and online?

New companies popping up who look like Zady serve as reinforcement that a movement is happening; that we are on the verge of something huge and that a global shift is occurring. Fashion is a three trillion dollar business and there is room for each of us to disrupt the status quo. We should be doing it banded together.  

Bracelets from ZADY
Bracelets from Zady. Source: zady.com

4. How do you choose your brands? What is the process and criteria?

Style is the first and foremost important thing we look for when deciding which designers and products to carry. We seek out items that are well-made and timeless in style. Currently on average we throw away 60 lbs of clothing every year. And even if we're consistently giving away our clothing, much of it ends up getting sold to the African continent where it severely disrupts the local textile trade. 

We only work with designers who are able to verify the following: where the company is headquartered, where the products are manufactured, and where the raw materials come from (this is demonstrated by Zady's "Origins" map view, which allows consumers to essentially shop the globe).

Lastly, we look for products that meet any of the following criteria (identified by badges on the site): high-quality raw materials; raw materials were locally sourced; made in the USA; made in an environmentally conscious manner; handmade; or from a Bootstrap Project artisan.

We also love when there is an incredible story behind a product, and all of Zady's designers have a wonderful story to share. 

5. Why do you think consumers really care about the origin or story behind how their article of clothing/accessory/jewellery was made nowadays?

Just as Whole Foods sparked a movement based on the belief that we should question where our food comes from, Zady is at the forefront of a movement, known as conscious consumerism, which demands transparency for sourced products.

Moreover, horrific tragedies that have taken place recently at sweatshops overseas - such as Rana Plaza - have been a real wake-up call to conscious consumers around-the-globe who are beginning to see the impact that our current buying habits are having [...]

Related: Eco-fashion: Trendy or Timeless?

Related: How Designers Are Helping Save Tribal Textiles

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