You know that feeling when you walk into your first day of class or work and right away you see someone you know you just have to be friends with? That sort of childlike excitement? That’s exactly how I felt when I met Soraya Darabi and Maxine Bédat; founders of Zady.
I met Soraya and Maxine this April when the Zady team hosted a brilliant event in partnership with Whole Foods New York. The theme of the evening’s discussion was, “Food, Fashion and the Future: Where Will Conscious Business Take Us Next?” Both Soraya and Maxine spoke on the panel along with Elizabeth Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and Summerly Hornig of Tau Investments, which aims to strengthen ethical businesses globally.
ZADY CO-FOUNDERS WITH SUMMERLY HORNIG OF TAU INVESTMENTS
I had plunged headfirst into the deep murky waters of sustainable fashion. I knew kicking my Zara #OOTD habit was going to be tough and that I needed a support system. Up to this point I had no idea where I was going to get it. I’d heard whispers about two high school friends, Soraya (who happens to be known as a digerati darling in New York media circles) and Maxine (a soft-spoken philanthropic powerhouse). They had joined forces and I should seek them out. So I did.
The day before the event, they took a stand and took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal! Sweet relief, I’m not in this alone. These kick-ass women are putting sustainable fashion front and center. They are raising awareness and most importantly offering an alternative. Now when I find myself dangerously close to an impulse buy I head over to Zady and start reading. They share stories of the artisans and designers behind the brands they carry. They connect to clothing by revealing its origin. This repairs the broken link between consumers and craftsmanship. The relief I felt after meeting Maxine and Soraya came from knowing I was part of a community and that together we really can make a difference.
I guess I’ve always been pretty conscious when it comes to food. I’ve been blowing “whole paychecks” at Whole Foods for a while now. Maxine’s perspective on why it’s taken us so long to come around on fashion really resonated with me. She broke it down: “It’s a much more complicated supply chain…clothing. There are so many stops along the way. That’s why I think that the food movement has happened first – because it’s a little more obvious, it could be explained a little bit easier. But now that we’ve gone from eating at Whole Foods, eating organic food, going to yoga, meditating and being really mindful as a generation, we want to be mindful across categories and so clothing just seems like the natural next step.”
Pumping the breaks on your next “fast fashion” purchase is so much more than just saving your pennies by shopping your closet instead of spending mindlessly. Those impulse purchases (especially the low quality ones that we buy on sale and know won’t get worn) are causing a lot of problems. On the environmental front, they are taking up precious space in our closets AND landfills. That polyester shirt that is already unraveling after one wear is going to outlive you – this is going to be our legacy if we don’t “slow the machine down” to quote Cline. Because we are the cool kids, others follow our lead and as developing countries try to keep up with us – all of those billions of outfits of the day (OOTD) are going to end up in landfills too. In addition to shopping for beautifully constructed goods created with craftsmanship and artisanship through retailers like Zady, think like your primary school self and “reduce, reuse, recycle.”
Elzabeth Cline explained, “We have an outdated idea of what donating clothes is about. We think of it as charity and really we need to rethink it – you’re being a good environmental steward. It’s an act of conscientiousness on an environmental level if you donate clothes. Donate or recycle all clothing and all textiles. Get bigger companies to up-cycle and recycle into new product.” It is up to us, our community, to put pressure on the industry to change. I truly applaud the founders of Zady for putting their money where their mouth is. They are disrupting the industry and raising awareness with both consumers and industry decision makers through The Wall Street Journal and op-eds in trades like The Business Of Fashion.
The consequences of our fast fashion habit go beyond environmental concerns. In order to keep prices unreasonably low and turn around trends at dizzying speeds mass retailers sacrifice ethics and human rights. The terminology, “fast fashion” mirrors the path that food has taken. “Fast food” alternatives like Whole Foods provide a guidepost for social entrepreneurs like the Zady co-founders to look to as they bring conscious consumerism to a new category. Drawing these parallels to food makes the road map seem obvious, although for some reason it takes a bit longer to come to terms with the fact that chemicals in clothing seep into your skin and can cause as much damage as those we ingest via our food. Either way, the outcome of awareness has to be action. This calls for a return to “the idea of purchasing goods from brands and designers who know where their raw materials come from and exactly how their items are made”, a practice Soraya and Maxine refer to as “Shopping Zady.”
Quitting “cold turkey” is hard. Thankfully there are amazing alternatives like Zady to get me thorough my breakup with cheap trendy clothing. There’s also a support system of like-minded bloggers, disrupters and social entrepreneurs like Maxine and Soraya that provides inspiration, support and momentum for our community and our “conscious consumer movement!”
Check out Zady and don’t forget to follow them on Instagram: @Zady.