The days of new e-commerce fashion start-ups launching without a conscience might be a thing of the past. Consider Everlane, Durated or new sustainably minded retail start-up Zady launching August 27th. Curated, edited down and ready to tell their story through attractive images and well-made products, Zady hopes to make a typical shopping experience less about buying something new and more about what’s authentic.
Some of Zady’s launch brand partners include Nashville-based denim designers Imogene + Willie, L.A.-based handbag designer Clare Vivier, Madrid’s innovative recycled material-friendly Ecoalf, Massachusetts-based pea coat manufacturer Gerald & Stewart; and Detroit-based leather handbag designer Karmo.
Five percent of the proceeds from every sale will benefit the company’s nonprofit partner, The Bootstrap Project, which works to promote and retain centuries-old crafts and customs from around the world. Zady co-founder Soraya Darabi says for each product on the Zady site, they will have the brand sign a certificate stating where their headquarters are, where the manufacturing of that product was done and from where the materials were sourced. Both Darabi and co-founder Maxine Bédat see this as a critical first step in their quest for complete transparency.
The Zady founders will also be writing in-depth articles for every product on the site. which will tell you about the origins of each brand. For instance, the imogene + willie story begins when the co-founders, husband and wife Matt and Carrie, meet for the first time in the 3rd grade at a pool party.
“When you feel connected to a product through its story, it becomes that much more special,” says Darabi.
The site will also provide an Origins Map that shows shoppers the roots of all the products sold on the site – hence, their slogan “Let’s get to the root of things” and “badges” corresponding to whether products are locally sourced, handmade, made of environmentally conscious or raw materials, made in the U.S. or supporting The Bootstrap Project.
We caught up with the co-founders of Zady to field a few questions about in a sea of burgeoning conscious e-commerce sites, what their plan is to rise above and stay afloat.
How is Zady different than other “conscious” e-commerce sites?
Soraya Darabi: Upon launch, Zady will be a destination for consumers to purchase high-quality, luxuriously made goods that are timeless in style, from designers and brands that offer complete manufacturing transparency.
Clicking on a product icon on our map shows you the history of an item through lines. A Gloverall Duffle Coat, for instance, will have a line that appears showing that the wool for the coat comes from Italy; another line will shoot out to England, showing that the brand is headquartered there, and that manufacturing also takes place in the UK. We try to make the supply chain of great products as transparent as possible.
We are also a team of digital natives and want to bring our readers and shoppers as close to ZADY as they can possible get. We’d also like to connect them closely to the brands we sell – and they love. So social media is a strong component of our website, and a strong component of our own messaging.
Do you think the tragedy in Bangladesh struck a chord with mainstream consumers and in what way?
Maxine Bédat: The horrific tragedies that have taken place recently at sweatshops overseas have been a real wake-up call to consumers who are beginning to see the impact that our current buying habits are having. The Rana tragedy was particularly eye opening for the consumer, because we all saw that many of the brands we’ve been purchasing came out of that exact factory. Mainstream consumers have also been seeing the aftermath, particularly how much of the fast fashion industry has been dragging their feet on reform in the region.
The backlash is all part of the zeitgeist, and we want Zady to play a helpful part as a resource – for people who already know the origins of the food they eat, they exercise regularly to feel good and healthy and now they’d like to feel equally healthy about the products they place on their bodies.
Tell us about your rating system. There are so many certifications and conscious guides out there, will it be easy for people to understand yours?
Darabi: We use badges as iconography on Zady for that customer who is quickly browsing our site, on their computer or mobile phone, and may not have time to dig into our stories. For those on-the-go shoppers, we offer six badges—eventually, there will be more—to help bring transparency into how that product was made.
Between the both of you there’s a whole lot of shared knowledge about conscious consumerism. How have your experiences in both the food industry and The Bootstrap Project influenced Zady?
Bédat: It was really because of our backgrounds in these respective industries that Zady came together. My experience meeting artisans through Bootstrap and learning for first time how things are actually made, made me turn to other facets of my life, starting with my closet. Likewise for [Darabi], her experience hearing and telling the story about how food is made, left her wanting to feel connected to the other products she engaged with in her life.
Having come from different backgrounds, we landed in the same place. That seems to be symbolic of where we are at as a society. We are constantly being bombarded with what is new- a new spin on an old story, a new collection, all this newness is actually getting old. Its seems we are at a time where we don’t seek out what is new, but rather what is true and authentic.
Do you think knowing the stories behind what we buy can have a greater influence on how we shop in the future?
Bédat: Absolutely! Think of the things in your home and your closet that you just refuse to give up. Generally it’s the story about the product that makes you want to hold on to it. Just imagine how great it would feel if our closets only contained those type of products.
We have seen in ourselves and with our team how our own behavior has radically changed. Even walking through the streets of New York where ads are constantly telling you to buy, buy, buy, we are no longer tempted. It’s almost impossible for us to buy something where we don’t know the origin, so we tend to buy a lot less and the pieces that we do purchase we view as investments. Our closets are leaner, but do more work for us. We have pieces that we can dress up or dress down, but either way we feel great in them, because we know exactly what makes them so special.
What are you most relying on to sell product from your site?
Darabi: We are both digital natives with a great appreciation for how online storytelling can enhance the shopping experience. We will rely on social-media to connect closely with our customers, and to connect them directly to the brands. We have great hope for the origins map. We’d like our customers to love shopping the globe, because it’s so cool that we finally can!