Maxine Bédat is a co-founder of Zady, a sustainable clothing brand run by a small team of eco-conscious individuals that’s single-handedly tackling the problems of pollution and labor in fashion. Zady’s mission is to create a new standard for clothing by putting out timeless pieces—not trendy fast-fashion—and making sure every level of their supply chain is good for the Earth and the people on it, from the farms and mills to the final cut-and-sew process. We talked with Bédat about the problem of fashion trends, how to shop sustainably, and what we all as every-day consumers can do to help drive a change for the better.
Q. What experiences drove you to want to start a company like Zady?
“It started out with travel. I was working in Tanzania, and I would spend my free time exploring markets. In one of the markets I found these beautiful baskets, so I went to track down the town that was known for them. I will never forget—I arrived at the main road, and on the right side of this village it was all baskets, and on the left it was all dried fish. I thought that was so weird: Why would a town ever be known for dried fish and baskets? But I discovered that the town was by a river, so the baskets were made from the reeds that grew by the river and the fish came from the river.
It was this ‘aha’ moment for me that I felt, I guess, shouldn’t have been an ‘aha’ moment. Growing up with fast fashion—trends that change quickly and seasonally—and being a Millennial, I felt really disconnected from how things are made. I was so enthralled with seeing these craftspeople…it just looked like magic to me.”
Q. Why is sustainable fashion important?
“The fashion industry is the second biggest polluting industry in the world. It’s one of the biggest employers of slave and child labor, but it’s all kind of being hidden from us. That was the impetus to create Zady. The thinking was, Can we come up with an alternative to that world and be able to come back to that amazing sense of craftsmanship and what luxury and a brand are supposed to be?
Brands universally don’t really know their supply chains. Even a cotton T-shirt will go through several different processes to get from a cotton plant into a shirt. The problem compounds throughout, so when you add it all up the end result is that the apparel industry, in terms of CO2 emissions, is second only to the oil industry.”
Q. How is Zady contributing to the sustainable fashion movement?
“We wanted to come up with a supply chain that is transparent, but also one that tackles those huge issues in the apparel industry. And we’re just as much an educational resource as we are a brand, because we go and we explain what the issues are and tell the stories of amazing people who are doing things right. We have a feature section on our site that really delves into those stories. Our product pages detail our entire supply chain, and when you get the product, the packaging is one big beautifully made infographic that details the supply chain as well.”
Q. What can the average consumer do to shop more sustainably, or promote sustainable fashion?
“For someone who wants to shop ethically, the first step is showing the brands that they care, and that they want to know where their clothes came from. That can provide a lot of energy for the brand to take this seriously. So that’s one way, to take to social media to ask the question.
The other thing thing that you can do as a consumer is just turn the clothing inside out before you buy it to see that it’s well made. It sounds so simple, but a lot of brands are so focused on price, and getting the lowest price for themselves, that they neglect the most basic sense of quality. The consumers and the laborers are both getting short-shifted.
And then finally, buying things that you really love. One of the biggest problems is that brands have just produced so much more clothing than we need. We have about 7 billion people on the planet, and the industry churns out about 80 billion units of clothing every year. It’s totally nuts. So if you want to be more sustainable, it’s not not buying clothing. It’s just slowing that pace down and investing in a great piece instead of getting something that’s super cheap but buying lots of it.”
Check out ZADY’s sustainable clothing line at zady.com.