Fed By Threads Extends Socially-Conscious Clothing Brand to New Downtown Location
March 3, 2014
by James J. Jefferies
Doing something positive to impact your world is something that crosses everyone’s mind. For most of us, it gets relegated to a relatively small contribution. Perhaps you throw a few bucks at a favorite charity every year, or maybe you actually pay attention to the items you toss into the recycling bin. By and large, we generally fall pretty short of our ideals for getting involved.
Some time ago, the driving force behind Fed By Threads, Alok Appadurai, pondered what he knew about the mass-market clothing industry. “I knew about sweatshop labor, and the harsh industrial processes that are terrible for the environment, but for a long time, I just figured if I bought one less shirt here and there, I’d be helping out,” said Appadurai.
As time went on, Appadurai, who operates FBT along with his partner and co-founder, Jade Beall, began to connect more dots relating to the clothing he was purchasing for himself before, and the larger picture of economic dysfunction here in the United States. “Your choices really do directly impact the jobs base in America and the environmental quality here,” said Appadurai. “Fast-fashion means low-prices and exploitation.”
Fed By Threads was originally conceived as a means of making and marketing an environmentally sustainable line of American-made clothing completely free of animal products or suffering generated by their creation. The effort also functions as a means of raising funds for (and communicating awareness of) hunger.
What began as a small project inside the vault at their existing yoga and dance studio on Ninth Street slowly began to occupy more and more of the storefront, and has now manifested in the current plan to move into a brand-new space beneath The Cadence student housing at 4th Avenue and Congress.
There’s been a rapid rise in awareness of FBT right here in Tucson, as 80% of their sales are still directly from their location in town to foot-based traffic. Starting small has allowed them to challenge even the most basic details of their operation, now using hangers that are made of repurposed cardboard, and even adopting recycled shipping labels.
Along the way, though, the challenges have been numerous, primarily stemming from the mindset of people they discussed the venture with. “Most people I talked to were really skeptical of what I wanted to do,” said Appadurai. “Over and over, people would say, ‘Oh, you’re not gonna find that. Those elements have died within the US economy.’”
While it was a lengthy search, Appadurai did eventually find collaborative partners willing to make products with sustainable materials in California, Pennsylvania, Alabama, and North Carolina. The even more exciting news is that FBT will soon be creating apparel in small batches right here in Tucson.
As for fighting hunger, thus far, proceeds from garments sold from Fed By Threads have generated enough revenue to pay for 116,924 meals, through their alliances with Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, and Feeding America. It’s been a rewarding ride, but even with the new location, the focus remains the same.
“We’re not going to do a fancy build-out,” said Appadurai. “We’re trying to create the kind of clothing shopping experience I’ve never been to…as much of an educational opportunity as a shopping trip.” Given the emergence of a socially-conscious new breed of Downtown Tucson entrepreneurs, who blend the passion for their trades with sincere commitments to the community, it looks as if Fed By Threads is among friends in the neighborhood.
Fed By Threads will celebrate their grand opening on Saturday, May 17th from 12-6pm at their new location, 350 E. Congress St. FBT can be found on the web here.