ONE-CLICK ORDERING has made it so easy to shop online that, most of the time, we go through the motions without even thinking about what we’re actually ordering. We live in an instant gratification, I-want-it-now-Daddy (a là Veruca Salt) society, and because the Internet has made purchasing whatever we want at any hour we want so easy, our sense of social responsibility has taken a back seat in favor of satisfying our need to burn our digital cash. Thankfully, Maxine Bedat and Soraya Darabi have joined together to create Zady, a socially-responsible one-stop fashion shop where all products sold are sourced and manufactured locally. Bedat and Darabi spoke with Lady Clever about Zady’s mission of providing transparency when it comes the manufacturing process and quality of their materials, with a commitment to honesty and integrity at the core of its being.
What inspired you to start Zady?
Soraya: We grew up knowing why it was important to eat healthy, organic food and felt it was time we knew the origins of the clothing we put onto our bodies as well. As Minnesota natives, we believe in brands that stand for something – mission-driven brands that elicit support through community engagement. We wanted to build a mission-driven brand for the next generation of conscious consumers.
How is Zady different from other locally-sourced clothing and accessories manufacturers?
Soraya: On our website you can see we detail, down to the raw materials used, the origins of the products we make – and the products we sell. We believe in true transparency. Our motto is: “Process Matters. Quality Matters. Honesty Matters.”
How do you find these goods and verify their sustainability?
Maxine: We began by going to trade shows and speaking to experts[…] who love fashion but believe the industry is damaged and needs reform, badly. Through those expert advisors we met our earliest brand partners, and through word of mouth (and a lot of research) we started to meet more and more mission-aligned brands. To verify their sustainability, we ask them to detail where they make their products, in what factories, using which materials. We support the brands who believe in process, honesty and quality as much as we do – then we tell their stories on our website so the world can be introduced to them as we first were: as champions of craft tradition. This is the start, the important piece is that we are asking the questions.
Why do you think it’s important for consumers to start shopping this way?
Maxine: 20% of the world’s water waste comes from the textile and apparel industry. 1100 people, mostly women and children, died in the  Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh while they were making clothing for the Western World to wear. It’s time we woke up to the environmental and human rights dangers associated with the apparel industry’s supply chain. It’s time to own fewer but better-made items. We will vote with our dollars to support the right kinds of brands and change the world one purchase at a time.
How do you balance your creative duties with the business side of your company? Does one side tend to overtake the other?
Soraya: It’s a constant challenge to remain creative while thinking through the key priorities of a company. Every day our challenges shift and morph, and we must morph with them. The best way to deal with this challenge is to set aside time for yourself to breathe, to exercise, to walk to work. During these times, creative thoughts flow and can be brought into the office for team discussion.
Is Zady your first entrepreneurial endeavor? If not, what were the lessons you’ve learned from previous experiences?
Soraya: Zady is the third startup I’ve worked for. I co-founded an app called Foodspotting, which helps people discover wonderful dishes around the world. From Foodspotting, I learned the importance of community. We built a community of millions of users who were avid fans of the application, mainly through social media and partnerships. At Zady we believe strongly in the power of both.
Maxine: I founded a non-profit called The Bootstrap Project after working as a clerk for the UN Rwandan Criminal Tribunal and coming across incredible artisans, whose craftsmanship was being threatened by globalization instead of supported. We work to preserve this heritage craftsmanship in the developing worlds. The Bootstrap Project was very much one of the starting points for Zady and it remains a sister non-profit company to our business today with 5% of every Zady purchase benefiting TBP. Zady also sells many products from Bootstrap artisans as well.
What has been the biggest challenge starting and running Zady?
Soraya: The constant challenge is that we are creating a movement as well as a brand. It takes time to build both. It’s also challenging to find time in the day to be supportive of your team, to listen to their needs while getting through an epic to-do list. I’m proud of how well Maxine and I have been able to do this over the past year and a half, but it takes work to stay focused and connected.
Have you found that you balance one another’s strengths and weaknesses?
Soraya: Absolutely. We have weekly founder meetings, and the last one began with a hug. We both know we couldn’t do this alone and it’s so much fun to build a company and a brand with a friend. We pick up the rope when the other one needs to hit pause.
What is one piece of advice you’d offer female entrepreneurs just starting, either that’s been passed down to you or from your own experience?
Soraya: The best advice any woman can receive — entrepreneur or otherwise — is to learn how to say “no.” Say no and book yourself time to think, time to read, time to meditate, and time to enjoy your friendships.
Passion Matters. Quality Matters. Honesty Matters. That’s a trifecta we can get behind!