Meet MADI Apparel, for every pair of underwear they sell, they donate a pair to a woman in need. Why? Because underwear is the most needed, under-donated item of clothing. MADI Apparel is a women’s undergarment brand with the dedication to Make a Difference domestically and globally. MADI was founded upon the principles of American manufacturing, self-sustaining fabrics/packaging and global impact through underwear donations.
MADI Apparel was developed around the core values of Heart, Confidence, Comfort, and Wear-ability. The styles were created with simplicity in mind. Each style is named after a woman – symbolizing the impact women can make in this world if they’re able to achieve their full potential. The goal at MADI Apparel is to create positive worldly change with the help of a garment everyone needs – underwear.
MADI Apparel does an amazing job in all aspects of their eco-system. The most impressive part of this eco-system is taking the time to develop a domestic manufacturing relationship. American made fashion has long been outsourced by major brands, who actually have the ability to set up domestic production, but choose not to do so due to profit margins and pressure from stock holders. It is so refreshing and exciting to see MADI’s approach out the gate to take on domestic manufacturing and impact local lives within her own community.
Below is a quick interview with the Hayley Besheer, founder of MADI Apparel.
Lets talk about how MADI Apparel was born. Take us through the idea process and when you decided to really launch your social enterprise brand.
The idea of MADI was born in New Smyrna Beach, Florida where my friend Molly and I moved on a whim after graduating from the University of Missouri. I had degrees in Journalism and Fine Arts and she was finishing her degree in Fashion Merchandising. We were both bartending at the time, really just living life after previously facing pressures to seek a corporate job that “fit our majors.” So, we both started talking about fashion and Molly brought up how her college professor gave a sermon on recycled fabrics.
That interested us, and upon further investigation, we came across the statistic that underwear is the most needed, under-donated item of clothing. Around the same time, a family member of mine revealed that over 30 years ago before her longtime marriage, she fell victim to domestic abuse in a previous relationship. Domestic violence wasn’t in the media much at this time, so I didn’t know much about it.
However, I did learn that survivors of domestic violence come in many forms – and this time she came in the form of a strong, beautiful, successful woman who was once manipulated by her abuser.
These two details were tied together after learning that underwear lands on the most urgent needs list at almost every domestic violence shelter and other women’s organizations across the country. We wanted to do something to fulfill a need and make women feel great. Because, after all.. It’s not just underwear — it’s dignity! Molly is no longer co-founder, but she organizes many of our donation drop-offs and has attended at least 10 with me.
MADI‘s products are made in Kansas City. how important was it and how difficult was it to get domestic manufacturing accomplished?
Domestically producing MADI was an important factor from the beginning. If we were going to make a cause based underwear line, we wanted every detail to literally “Make a Difference” as our name Make a Difference Intimate Apparel states. When I decided to open a storefront in Kansas City, MO and headquarter MADI there, I tried hard to find a Kansas City cut and sew team. We love our team and hope they continue to grow with us and with the evolving garment district and entrepreneurial hub in KC. We choose to manufacture MADI undies domestically for three reasons:
1) To support fair labor conditions/wages
2) To sustain and create new jobs in our communities
3) To reduce the carbon footprint that increases each time shipments are imported
Take us through the eco-system of MADI. Where and how are the products made? Who makes them? And finally, when a product is purchased what organization(s) does that impact?
Products are designed in-house by me, and are cut and sewn in Shawnee, Kansas! We purchase viscose from bamboo fabric and luxury laces from a US supplier, but they are the only goods we import. However, our fabrics are also a very important element in our cause-based structure.
They reduce our waste on the environment because of how long-lasting they are – this means less cycling through underwear and tossing in the trash. Our viscose from bamboo fabrics are high-quality, fast-drying, odor-preventing and durable – allowing the undies to be washed and hang dried overnight. Our original manufacturing team was in South Carolina, but last February we started production in the Kansas City area!
We wanted to find the best way to involve customers in the giving process. So, in addition to domestically producing MADI Apparel and using durable, low waste fabrics, we also donate a pair for every pair sold. TOMS shoes was the originator of this give back model. I owned a pair in college and became inspired by the donation + fashion elements. I knew this would be a giving model that customers would quickly understand.
As a social enterprise you sort of have to wear two hats. One hat is running a business and the other hat is making sure the social good aspect of the brand is staying up to par. How do you manage both aspects and do you find yourself concentrating on more on one hat than the other?
Frankly, this is the most difficult for me as a founder and business owner. My strengths lie in the cause of MADI – the giving aspect laid the roots and the inspiration for the business structure, and therefore this part comes easy to me! In fact, I took a strengths test in college and my greatest strength was “empathy” – kind of ironic that my career path evolved to this – must be fate as I see it :)! So, my favorite parts of MADI include interacting with the women on our dropoffs, listening to stories of strength and perseverance on roads to recovery, advocating for women in need and spreading awareness about highly under-donated underwear. I also have a creative itch and passion, I oil paint and sketch in my free time. One of my favorite memories was spending a summer in Florence sketching and painting the city. So, my strengths with MADI also lie in designing, envisioning growth and new ideas, creating a fun work culture, etc.
The part I struggle with the most is trying to balance those parts I love with the parts that don’t come as easily. I do my best to surround myself with team members who hold strengths and skills that I don’t have — like organization, budgeting, structure, etc. If it was up to me, I would exhaust all my time and energy giving my whole day to help people – even if that means no time for me at the end of the day. I am so proud and thankful for my team for leading the areas I struggle in and for picking me up with positivity when the hats I wear seem to pile up to the clouds!
As MADI continues to grow, do you plan on branching out to more products such as swimwear, bras, and more lingerie?
I don’t think we will ever make swimwear, but of course there is always a possibility! MADI stands for Make a Difference Intimates – and we intend to continue to branch out to more intimates. Another piece of MADI that makes us different is the design. We sell staple basics that make women feel great. We use the words simple, elegant, powerful to describe the line. Our goal is to add more intimate pieces like a sleep top (launching in February) and a bralette (launching later in the year) and more intimates to announce as I design them.
I constantly search my drawer for staple basics in my wardrobe that make me feel beautiful but that also don’t interrupt my day trying to tackle the world :). With comfort and long-day wear in mind during the design process, we dont use elastics, crazy colors or uncomfortable designs that pinch or are unflattering – just simple, elegant, powerful staple intimates that GIVE. Women will always need underwear – but before MADI I never owned a pair that actually felt powerful on my body and warm on my heart!
Grant is the founder of Causeartist, one of the most influential impact business platforms in the world. Since 2013, Causeartist has been read in over 200 countries. Grant has personally interviewed over 600 impact entrepreneurs from around the world, highlighting innovations in ethical fashion, climate change, ethical technology, impact investing, and sustainable travel.