If experiences truly beat objects as a path to consumer happiness, the next obvious step in retail is translating objects, as much as possible, into experiences. The approach was spearheaded by the sustainable consumer, for whom to trust is to verify. Increasingly everyone from Whole Foods to Etsy to Chipotle is seeking to provide maximum context on the organic, artisanal, and fair-trade bona fides of their offerings.
In the retail and home goods space, marketplace-style startups including Madesmith, Roozst, are taking the story-based or cause-driven approach, where each item is associated with some positive values.
Now comes Zady, a new “conscious consumption” online retail company, founded by two women on the cusp of 30, Soraya Darabi, a startup advisor and cofounder of Foodspotting, with her high school friend Maxine Bedat, who founded the nonprofit, fair-trade direct sustainable home goods business Bootstrap Project and whose resume also includes a turn as a law clerk at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Their goal: to move from a world of fast fashion and Bangladeshi factory collapses, to one of products made with integrity to last.
“If you take a step back, it’s easy to realize what a black hole we live in when it comes to our clothing,” says Darabi. “And yet what we wear on our our body every single day is so integrally linked with what is happening with the domestic economy, the global economy and our environment…So we decided to create that resource: the one stop shop for all of us who believe in quality and timeless style over forced seasonal fashion with dubious origins.”
They are working with about 40 retailers of apparel and home goods to start. Each item for sale in their online store includes classifications such as “durable and sustainable,” “Made in the USA,” or “Made by hand,” original photography and a reported narrative about their goods and information down to the carbon footprint. For example, Imogene + Willie black skinny jeans are designed and made in Nashville by a husband and wife couple from cotton grown in the USA and processed at Cone Denim Mills in Greensboro, North Carolina.
To ensure the experience remains seamless from browsing to buying, Darabi and Bedat are forgoing drop-shipping, trading all of the goods physically through their New York offices in order to maintain the same level of service as a brick and mortar boutique.
This maximum-information approach to consumerism has already been satirized in the episode of the sitcom Portlandia where dubious restaurant diners followed their chicken all the way back to the farm. It’s hard to imagine taking this heavily curated route for every purchase made by, say, a busy family. Still, as retail concepts go, who would argue with buying less and buying better?