by Ashley Brown
Zady.com is hardly just another online retailer. Described as a collaboration between friends, co-founders Maxine Bédat and Soraya Darabi have created a place where fashionable consumers can find exquisitely made products that are both stylish and sustainable. The key to the success of Zady is that they must be both. As a point of pride, the items offered through the site must be both elegant by design and sustainable by manufacture.
Each of the accomplished co-founders brings a great deal to the table. Maxine, with a background in international law and Soraya as the former Social Media Manager of the New York Times, have created Zady as a platform to encourage craft and traditional design techniques, both domestically and from abroad. As such, they have partnered with The Bootstrap Project, a non-profit organization that provides funding to artisans in developing nations in an effort to grow their businesses and preserve their design traditions.
Though some of those accustomed to fast-fashion price points will no doubt have a bit of sticker shock upon entering the site, the founders encourage consumers to think about the price of an item based on a per use basis- these are items that have a long and stylish life ahead of them. The breadth of goods available through Zady includes everything from clothing (for both men and women), to jewelry and leather goods, to home accessories and gifts, each category rounded out with unique and beautiful offerings all with a handcrafted feel. In addition, the site has a great features section that contains editorial content about everything from ‘how to find the perfect vintage piece’, to unique profiles of the brands and people that they work with, to features about: art, film, culture, travel, and more.
Maxine and Soraya were kind enough to answer a few of my questions regarding the Zady business model, as well as the larger movement toward sustainable fashion.
1. Why should consumers be concerned with the concept of “fast-fashion”?
Fast fashion, like fast food, has consequences across its supply chain. With fashion fads changing by the week and fast-fashion retailers straining whatever factory will produce their knockoffs fast and cheap enough, major issues of worker safety come into play. From slave labor to shadow factories to entire building collapses as was seen last year in Bangladesh, worker issues are rampant in the underworld of fast-fashion.
Fast-fashion also has extremely dangerous implications for our environment. Harsh chemicals and dyes are used to create the unending churn of fast fashion. So much so that environmentalists will note you can tell what the latest runway color fad of the moment is based on the color of the rivers in China outside factories producing garments for the Western world.
Finally, fast fashion garments are actually produced to last only three to four washes. They are so low quality that donation centers must send much of it to the dumpsters instead of being given to those in need. In fact on average each of send over 60 pounds of clothing, every year, to the garbage dump.
2. How are you trying to change the landscape of on-line retail?
In contrast to the above, Zady focuses on conscious consumption. We search the globe to provide consumers with high-quality products that are timeless in style from ethically-minded designers who are able to verify where and how their products are made, down to the raw materials. We believe in craftsmanship, in ethical production, in environmental conscious production and in giving back. 5% of Zady proceeds are given to The Bootstrap Project, our sister non-profit aiding artisans in the developing world. We believe our generation is ready for a brand that stands for something. We aren’t trying to change the landscape of online to offline retail. We are trying to encourage consumers to own timeless style, meant to last for years to come – and to allow them to feel good about each and every purchase.
3. Can you describe your idea of quality and value?
The Selection Process: We keep an eye out for only those pieces that are timeless in style. We’re searching for those pieces that are made with the finest material and crafted to last for years to come.
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 our “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.
That is our quality control process in a nutshell.
4. How does Zady communicate it’s marketing message and mission to potential consumers?
Through storytelling. We seek out brands with an incredible story behind their product, and all of our designers do. We tell their story using multi-media, and by scrolling down any product page on Zady you can find the story of that brand – and share it widely across social media. We have stand alone features on www.zady.com/features which speak to the lifestyle of being a conscious consumer. Truly, the entire Zady shopping experience is editorialized because we feel consumers appreciate products more when they have the an understanding and appreciation of where their products come from.
5. What are some of your favorite items on the site?
We love imogene + willie jeans, hand-crafted in Nashville, Tennessee by a husband and wife duo (Matt and Carrie) who met in the third grade. We wear them daily. We also love and own quite a lot of jewelry from Odette, by a Brooklyn designer named Jennifer who uses wax carvings to mold beautiful designs made from recycled brass that looks like gold. Apolis is a great seller for us on Zady and we are incredibly excited about a brand we will debut on Thursday, Stone + Cloth backpacks from Los Angeles, California. Stay tuned for our Spring collection which is rolling out soon….
About Ashley Brown
I am an art and fashion writer based in New York. Graduated from Hunter College with a degree in Art History. Written for such publications as the Phillips de Pury Catalogue and LT-Insider.