You can help in rebuilding demand for American organic farmers, mills and tailors by supporting Fed By Threads on Indiegogo.
At Wesleyan, Alok created his own major combining History, Economics and Literature. He studied the evolution of race, income inequality and social injustice. In addition to his work on Fed By Threads, he works as a public speaker, business coach and animal advocate.
WESCONNECT: Where did the idea for Fed by Threads come from? Has anyone in particular inspired you?
ALOK APPADURAI: Fed By Threads was born on a lark: we received a letter from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona that laid out the stark statistics about the hunger epidemic plaguing 50 million Americans including 17 million American kids and we knew we had to do something. So we came up with a simple doable idea: we'd cover the costs of 12 meals every time someone bought a dance shirt from our dance studio in Tucson, AZ. The community loved the idea and encouraged us to keep going, and so Fed By Threads has continued to bloom.
I have been inspired by the Ashoka Foundation which has been supporting and training social entrepreneurs for decades. I have always admired Ashoka's dedication to finding people who believe that business can be a vehicle for change. Also, Tom's Shoes, which showed social entrepreneurs like me that our dreams can have an national if not global impact. We're proud that, in fact, we've actually further than Tom's in that we use sustainable materials and manufacture here in America. But nonetheless, Blake is a huge inspiration to me.
WC: All stages of Fed by Threads’ garment production are on American soil. Why is this important to you?
ALOK: To clarify, we are headed towards all stages of production being on American soil. In November 2012, we had our first supply chain metamorphosis from using foreign-made pesticide-cotton T's to only using tailors in America working with sustainable organic fabrics. But we learned that even those fabrics often crossed borders. So now in our Indiegogo campaign, we are raising funds to go through our second major supply chain overhaul and shift to 100% American organic cotton that is grown, spun, knit, dyed, cut & sewn in America.
This is a milestone for us and represents our belief in rebuilding the nation's manufacturing base, supporting jobs at each stage of production, which in turn supports families across the country, and creates stable economic growth that positively impacts people not in the top 1%. It's truly a dream come true.
WC: From conception to completion, how long has it taken to get this idea up and running?
ALOK: The idea was born in November 2011 when my partner and co-founder Jade Beall was pregnant with our son, who was due in February 2012, so in sense we had two births occur. We officially formed the company in May 2012, and have been rocking and rolling ever since, taking baby steps, learning a huge amount, and building great relationships.
WC: You hope to sell this “All-American” fabric whole-sale. What industries and products do you see benefiting from this?
ALOK: We know how hard it was to find seed-to-fabric organic fabric that was made in America, and we receive calls from people asking us to supply them! They range from designers, clothing companies, and craftspeople.
WC: What is your best memory of Wesleyan? How has the University shaped your journey?
ALOK: My best memories at Wesleyan were those shaped by the tremendously talented group of friends I was surrounded by, who have all gone on to do important interesting work. I was blown away by the caliber of thinkers at Wesleyan. The university prepared me to problem-solve, to seek solutions, to research challenges, and to value people, the planet, and seek to build a more equitable society. Since leaving Wesleyan, that has extended to include animals, as I shifted to being a vegetarian. Activism can take many forms, that was Wesleyan's great gift to me.