When Soraya Darabi speaks, you wonder if she can play poker. She has a soft, gentle voice and unassuming demeanor. The co-founder of Zady, the “ethically fashioned brand,” was at the Startup Grind last December 3 talking to host Peter Crysdale at the Pivotal Labs in midtown Manhattan.
Even over a year in her startup with co-founder Maxine Bedat, Darabi still feels like she’s just starting. “It feels bipolar. It doesn’t go away. I (may) wake up at 2 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep till it’s 4 a.m.” Is she bluffing us?
Having worked in a big organization like the NY Times and a small startup, drop.io, afterwards, Darabi likes to say that there are “no passive aggressive newsroom journalists,” but at the startup later where she was only one of two women, she smiles talking about how its culture likes to wear “hoodies.” She smiles briefly when telling this part of her life.
Nowadays, she focuses on being both a tech-savvy and eco-conscious fashion brand. “We want people to look at a product and know how it came to be.” She likes the process that goes into crafting fashion wear, equating it with luxury products and their craftsmanship.
Darabi also likes her clothes to be all made in the U.S., with 5 percent of proceeds going to charity. She admits that she cannot compete in terms of pricing. At the interview, she was wearing her wool sweater priced at $160. It’s reportedly made from all-natural materials, including wool from Shaniko, Oregon, a farm that uses a conservative management plan to make sure it has a positive impact on the environment.
Beyond price considerations, she likes how her clothes have important stories to tell in contrast to other garments. “Landfills are filling up with T-shirts.”
If you think you need to be very persuasive to be an entrepreneur, Darabi doesn’t show that. If you think you need to stick to your industry, like her being a digital marketer, think again. Neither Darabi or Bedat have fashion backgrounds—and yet, that’s where they are now.
Come to think of it, though. Both founders are looking at this business beyond fashion; they aim to help consumers better understand the origin of their slow-fashion product line, especially with their own line.