Zady is setting a new standard for sustainable fashion. The company, which is spearheaded by Maxine Bédat and Soraya Darabi, began with a grand vision: to combat the fast-fashion craze by providing a platform for companies that care about timeless style and solid construction.
Since its inception, Zady has quickly evolved into one of the world’s leading fashion brands for the conscious citizen-consumer. I recently sat down with Bédat to talk sustainability, the brand’s new partnership with actress Emma Watson and what’s in store for the future of fashion.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background and the story of Zady? What was the spark that set you on the path to where you are now?
Zady launched three years ago and it feels like an entirely different company because a year ago we went into our own clothing line. We started with the idea of telling the stories behind our products and have held on to that idea to this day.
I’m from Minnesota. In my childhood, I saw the way that things were sold to me – from big shopping malls to Target, which is headquartered there. It was all about consumption.
Then, I started working as a lawyer in Tanzania. This was the first time I was actually able to see the way that products were made. I felt so connected to the process. I fell in love with the process. I saw artisans who knew from memory how to weave the most beautiful baskets. This was the inspiration behind Zady, telling the story behind all of our products. Once we know their stories, we’ll find a deeper connection to them.
We took clues from Whole Foods and how they launched this conversation about food. They made this great destination connecting us with our food. We started to learn more about the fashion industry. We learned that it’s the second most polluting industry in the world. We learned that 98 percent of its women employees weren’t making a living wage. Nobody was talking about these things.
That became our impetus to do things in the right way. What would that look like? Not just slapping the word on it.
The word ‘sustainability’ is thrown around a lot these days to the point where it becomes meaningless. Our collection, The New Standard set out to apply science to what sustainability means. To many, it’s like 10 percent organic cotton and 90 percent polyester and they’re calling it sustainable.
We don’t use the word sustainable when we talk about fashion. That’s because we want to move away from the distinction between fashion and sustainable fashion. There is starting to be a change to the way we put value to clothing. We can move in a direction in seeing value in the process of clothing.
We want to help the industry move in that direction, beginning with design. One hundred billion new pieces of clothing are produced each year. The average woman is wearing an item of clothing only seven times before getting rid of it. So much is produced without any thought to the longevity.
Everything we do is slow and considerate in every way. Instead of focusing on trends, we keep the collection tight. We’re only producing what we’re really excited about and want to wear.
How did the partnership with Emma Watson come about?
From the very beginning, we’ve always talked to the modern woman. We designed for the modern woman. When we started to ask ‘who is this modern woman?’ Emma Watson was at the top of our minds. As a celebrity, she uses her platform to do something really remarkable. She’s thoughtful, smart and has a classic style. (Not to mention, a UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador)
We saw that she was already wearing some Zady pieces and asked her for a meeting. She said this issue was really important to her and we discussed the connection between fashion and feminism. Making women feel insecure and as if consuming more will make us feel whole, while on the other side of the world there are women making our clothes who aren’t being paid a living wage. As women consumers, we are the ones who are in control of where our planet goes and can say enough is enough.
We designed a collection inspired by her beauty inside and out. We developed a mood board of women throughout history who have always stood for something and have used their platform for good. From there, we designed a capsule wardrobe for women who want to feel like themselves. We wanted to create pieces that women can wear to work, on the weekend, or speaking at the UN.
What is the future of Zady? What things are you most excited about?
We continue to get excited about sharing this knowledge that we have and sharing the stories, building that very human connection. And, as we continue to evolve aesthetically, we will only share products that inspire and feel like they are reflections of ourselves.
We want to change the language used in speaking about fashion, we use the word consumer. To us, the word consumer is too focused on consumption. I am not a consumer, I am a citizen – a human being. As a human being, what am I going to purchase? As a woman, what am I going to purchase? That can change the conversation – where we have a sense of humanity beyond the simple purchase. If we can change the language we can change the future.