Zady Co-Founder Maxine Bédat Discusses Fashion Revolution Day

If you learned that child laborers in Bangladesh manufactured the clothing you are wearing, would you still purchase them?

Savar building collapse, Bangladesh. On April 24, 2013, in the Savar Upazila of Dhaka, Bangladesh, an eight-story commercial building named Rana Plaza, collapsed. (Photo Credit: rijans / Flickr)

Savar building collapse, Bangladesh. On April 24, 2013, in the Savar Upazila of Dhaka, Bangladesh, an eight-story commercial building named Rana Plaza, collapsed. (Photo Credit: rijans / Flickr)

On April 24, 2013, the Rana Plaza collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Rana Plaza was a shadow factory, an illegally-constructed building with ties to major brands like Mango and Benetton. When it collapsed, it injured over 2,500 people and killed 1,134. To honor the memory of those slain, and ensure such a disaster does not happen again, fashion designers Carry Somers and Orsola de Castro started the Fashion Revolution. The movement is committed to finding the answer to the question, “Who Made My Clothes?”

With the goal of enforcing transparency in the fashion industry, Fashion Revolution partnered with Ethical Consumer to publish the Fashion Transparency Index. The findings from their research demonstrates “how much brands know about their supply chains, what kind of policies they have in place and importantly, how much information they share with the public about their practices and products.” Brands like Chanel, Prada, Forever 21, LVMH, Michael Kors and Hermes received low rankings.

“These companies have little to no information about their supply chain practices available to the public,” the Index reported. “Many of these companies seem to do little more than have a Code of Conduct in place—whilst this might have been best practice in the 1990s, Corporate Responsibility has moved on a great deal in the last twenty years. These companies appear to be those at the beginning of the road towards best practice and transparency.” An area that needs the most improvement is tracking and traceability.

Photo via shebrand)

Maxine Bédat. (Photo via shebrand)

On Fashion Revolution Day, commemorated on April 24, 80 countries will participate in challenging brands to demonstrate a commitment to transparency. Among the coalition of leaders is Maxine Bédat, the U.S. Chair of Fashion Revolution Day and the founder of Zady, a clothing and consumer goods company that emphasizes ethical consumerism.

In August 2013, Bédat and Soraya Darabi founded Zady, an online shop with a sustainable in-house line, The Zady Collection. The partners set out to create a line that celebrates the farmers, materials and craftsmanship of clothing. They are committed to using luxury natural fabrics and quality and ethical craftsmanship while setting the industry standard in sustainability.

During a panel discussion in New York City, Bédat spoke on the subject of “fast fashion,” or the accelerated disposability of apparel. “We are wearing our clothes an average of only seven times before we are getting rid of them,” said Bédat, who is also a lawyer. “With Zady what we’re working on is, ‘what’s the solution?’”

She added, “How we’ve approached it is first to do a lot of research. There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there in the fashion world about what it means to be sustainable so it’s about creating clothing that is timeless, things that you’re really going to love, and hold on to, to cut down on that seven times, move that average up. Working with natural, organic, and low impact fibers—fibers that when you put it back in the ground it could compost unlike polyester which takes over 200 years to decompose.”

Bédat went on to explain that the apparel industry is the second most polluting industry. “It contributes 10 percent of our global carbon footprint,” she said. To put that into perspective, the aviation industry contributes two percent—fashion is five times more than that.

In addition to creating a collection that takes accountability for its manufacturing practices and materials, Zady brings together other brands, including accessory lines and home goods that uphold the same industry standard.

Silk sleeveless blouse from the Zady spring collection. (Photo via Zady)

Silk sleeveless blouse from the Zady spring collection. (Photo via Zady)

One such brand is Winden Jewelry, founded by Rebecca Mapes. Mapes, who was among the panelists, explained that the supplier of her company does not purchase mined metals. Instead they reuse materials and recycle scrap metal to make jewelry. Through an SCS certification process, they are able to guarantee that their precious metals are 100 percent recycled.

Among the many takeaways from the panel discussion was the adage “less is more.” Bédat explained that the ultimate goal is to recycle, reuse, and reduce. While the fashion founder would love to see the $1.5 trillion apparel industry not make clothes from scratch, she thinks the first step is to reduce. In other words, put extra care in considering how often you will wear a piece, and how long it will last. In many ways, she said, sustainable fashion is synonymous with quality fashion.

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