Fed By Threads Settles Into Their New Downtown Digs
June 4, 2014
by James J. Jefferies
When we last checked in with Alok Appadurai, CEO and co-proprietor of Fed By Threads, he and his partner, renowned photographer Jade Beall, were hustling a whole lot of ethically-manufactured clothing in and out of an existing dance studio space that was basically bursting at the seams from the sheer number of things it was being used for. Months later, they are firmly ensconced within their new retail location, sitting right in the eye of the Downtown renaissance at 4th and Congress across from The Cadence student housing development.
Appadurai himself comes across as a pony keg of energetic exuberance, whether discussing the underlying mission of FBT, or any number of narrative tangents that inevitably arise when engaging someone so quick to laugh about the ins and outs of starting a retail business amid such a lively and evolving story as that of Downtown Tucson.
“A lot of people thought we were crazy to be starting a store at this time, given the heat, the absence of students, and all the growing pains around here,” said Appadurai. “Fact is, our clientele from (the old shop) came along for the ride, and our opening day here was better than any non-December day we ever had in the old location.”
Of course, on the heels of such a pronouncement that would seem to bode well for the new store in terms of potential profitability, it has to be noted again, a look at the story of Fed By Threads means looking at the real goals for the company, only one of which actually happens to be supporting itself. A look around, at the different kinds of signage, and particularly at the art which adorns the space directly behind the register, makes no secret that this is a clothing shop with a very different outlook on the world.
“When people come in here,” said Appadurai, “even if they don’t buy a single piece of clothing, we have all this information on the walls, and it may raise some questions with customers, things that they otherwise may have never thought about.” There’s a long laundry list of questions about factory worker safety, use of formaldehyde, where the materials are sourced from, the kinds of dyes that are used, and it’s really thought-provoking when begin to pick the very idea of buying a single piece of clothing apart, and begin to relate it to where you may have made your last clothing purchase. Even the hangers at FBT are custom-made from recycled cardboard.
“Ultimately,” said Appadurai, “I’m just trying to get that conversation going in people’s minds. If they leave here, and go to some kind of big box store, and even ask one question about where that merchandise came from, and the processes that produced it, I’ve done my part to help advance that discussion.”
In the same way that some of the other notable Downtown merchants are doing their part to elevate not just the quality of what we eat, but also consciousness relating to where the food came from, in expressing the concept of ‘farm-to-fork’, Appadurai is intent on doing the same thing for our duds, calling it ‘seed-to-garment’.
Of course, the incremental mind revolution Appadurai has in mind doesn’t just stop there. His partner Jade is known for her photography which has become celebrated within the body positivity/acceptance movements, and even the dressing rooms at FBT are up for grabs. “For some people, a dressing room isn’t a big deal. For others, it’s absolutely the worst part of shopping, and a place where a lot of self-hate is generated,” said Appadurai.
So part of their ongoing plan is to engineer dressing rooms that will allow shoppers to feel good, and kindly remind folks that a key part of actually feeling beautiful is accepting the shapes they’ve been given. It’s a lot of food for thought, and from just getting a look around the store, it’s a very different, relaxed, and informational experience than your typical department store or major chain clothing outlet.
Fed By Threads is open for business at 345 E. Congress St, located across from The Cadence/Gio Taco. Check them out on the web here.