For this Arizona company, garment decorating is about more than fashion; it’s a platform for socially responsible business.
Sustainability and responsibility have always been key at Fed By Threads. The Tucson, Arizona, custom decorator has dedicated itself to providing American-made, earth-friendly apparel, while at the same time helping to feed the hungry and supporting non-sweatshop manufacturing – even as it’s gone through a number of shifts in its business model.
“We have the potential for huge growth and to turn a small idea into something much bigger,” says Skya Nelson, creative director and COO. “Our ultimate goal is to generate enough sales to show other, larger companies that there is money to be made in sustainable, responsible manufacturing and get them on board. That’s the win.” The key to making it happen lies in keeping the company focused on its foundational tenants and building on them, says the 30-year industry veteran.
Fed By Threads seeks to align inspirational garment designs with an inspiring way of doing business. Every aspect of production is closely monitored for its impact on the planet. Images courtesy of Fed By Threads.
When the business got its start in 2012, founders Alok Appadurai and Jade Bealle were selling T-shirts with positive, uplifting designs at their dance and yoga studio. Quickly recognizing that “cute and cheap” shirts purchased online and likely produced with sweatshop labor were at odds with its core values, the company determined to begin changing the impact of garment production on people and the planet. It switched to offering only responsibly produced, American-made, organic clothing free of heavy metal dyes, pesticides, formaldehyde, and other harmful ingredients. And in addition to “feeding the earth” by using sustainable materials and helping support living-wage garment jobs, Fed By Threads began donating a portion of each sale to provide meals to the disadvantaged.
Before long, the company branched into selling custom-decorated shirts from the studio, and later online, contracting out the printing. In 2014, Manish Shah entered the partnership, helping to boost apparel sales with his retail and marketing expertise. Despite solid response, particularly from millennials strongly identifying with Fed By Threads’ values, refining the operation and its approach to marketing and production remained a challenge.
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