"Transparent pricing and ethical manufacturing are part of our core values as a company because we believe they lead to the best products," he said.
In turn, he says, it's better for his customers.
Some call it slow fashion, ethical fashion or conscious consumerism. Brad Bennett uses the term "honestly crafted" to describe the goods featured on his site, Well Spent, which started in 2009 with the goal of promoting products that are "attractive, affordable and made in the U.S. or similar first-world/non-sweatshop conditions."
When Bennett started his website "going green" was still the big trend, he said. Today, people seem to care less about the eco-properties of the goods they buy and more about where they're made. That's why some big-name brands, including Apple, Motorola and Levis, are starting to make some products in the United States, he said.
"I think the fact that sites like mine are able to thrive is proof that there's a demand for ethically made goods," he said. "More and more people want to know the story behind their clothes, and they're turning to the Internet to find it."
Finding stories of uncertainty
This month, Bedat and Darabi piled into a car with Small Trades founder Robin Weiss to visit Mohnton Knitting Mills.
Dressed in clothing and jewelry from Zady's partner brands, including Small Trades shirts, they greeted owner Gary Pleam outside the main office, where a 1950 black-and-white picture of the mill's staff hangs.
When it launches this week, Zady will include information on where products are made, the raw material sources and a story about each brand's origin. Zady also assigns each brand badges of "criteria for sustainability," such as locally sourced, made in the United States, environmentally conscious or handmade.
Factory and workshop visits are part of Zady's vetting process, although it hasn't completed visits for all of its 45 partner brands, especially those based in Europe. In those cases, it relies on documentation vouching for the company's commitment to creating quality products using sustainable methods.
Pleam walked them through the process of making garments, while Bedat, a former law clerk at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, took notes about cotton sourcing and how knitting machines work. Darabi, a digital strategist who worked at the New York Times and co-founded the app Foodspotting, tweeted images from the tour and posted photos to Instagram: awards hanging from Pleam's office walls, a picture of his great-grandfather Aaron Hornberger, bundles of waffle knit fabric, calendars hanging from work stations. They shot video of Adnan Azar as he cut patterns for shirts and Beverly Deysher as she sewed striped shirts.
Over a pizza lunch in the employee break area adjacent to the sewing floor, Pleam recounted the business' struggles over the past decade. The last good year was 1998, Pleam said. Since then, he's laid off most of his workforce and cut their benefits, although he tried to make up for it by increasing hourly wages by $1.50 so they could pay for their own insurance. Today, the mill employs 20 full- and part-time workers, including his son.
If Pleam could do it again, he'd do it all the same, he said, because business was good most of the time, and they've had a lot of laughs at work, staff picnics and Friday hot dog lunches.
As they rode home, Darabi said the visit was uplifting, but sad. They'd found a "hidden story" at the factory, something genuine and kind. But it was also a story of struggle and uncertainty.
"It's just so tough," she said. "The fact he isn't sure of his future, his son's future..." she trailed off. "It just gives us our drive and motivation to make Zady work."
"It embodies what we're trying to do," Bedat added, "bring prosperity to heritage and share their stories."