It's one thing to create a brand that embodies a shift in various threads of industrial cloths. It's another, to actually incorporate this embodiment into a whole lifestyle.
Well, meet Alok Appadurai.
Co-founder of Tucson, AZ clothing boutique, Fed By Threads, Alok takes living organically, efficiently, and kindly as far as his lifestyle can breach.
He is an entrepreneur, father, author, poet, environmentalist, shop-owner, artist, and earthling (he described with pride).
Fed By Threads offers sweatshop-free, American-made, organic apparel. But amongst battling and going against the currents of the typical "profit-at-all-costs" clothing brands, they also conquer hunger.
Every purchase made at Fed By Threads helps feed some of the 46 million Americans facing food insecurity. To this day, the boutique has contributed to over 470,000 meals fed.
What inspired this? In short, Alok has been an activist long before the brand was created and has always aimed at making a difference in the world. But in November of 2011, a letter he received in the mail from the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona struck him.
At the time, Alok and Jade Beall (founders of Fed By Threads) rented a dance studio and began to curate ideas as to how they can get involved in helping towards this crisis. Community members suggested creating t-shirts for the dance studio. So that is what they did.
A month into the project, friends began to inquire about the shirts and where they were being made. Uncomfortable truths about cheap clothing began to arise and the unsettling discoveries caused second thoughts towards this mission to profit towards this hunger epidemic.
This was the start of everything that Fed By Threads embodies today.
Alok and Jade had to change themselves before they changed the world. They felt as if they only had two options: start over or end the project completely (and obviously they didn't want to give up on their vision to make a difference). The simplest solution they felt they had to avoid unfair labor practices was to switch to all American-made apparel.
"Your desires overshadow truths until you can no longer live that way," said Alok, "What I realized in something as simple as a t-shirt is that it touches the whole globe."
He described the process of making a simple t-shirt as being a story about the world and our place in the world.
"Your fiber is grown here (under who knows what conditions), the cotton has 25% of global pesticide uses to grow pesticide-based cottons... if you start looking into worker health who are involved in spraying, they just walk around and at every stage I'm just like 'oh!'
Then you look at the heavy metal dyes that are then just dumped into rivers and water waves. So you're polluting the air, you're polluting the soil quality, you're destroying worker health and you're polluting the water," explained Alok.
Gaining this knowledge was like an awakening. If they hadn't changed the origin of their apparel, they'd felt like the mission to help others was a failure.
"A lot of what happens [at Fed By Threads] is a dialogue about what people value and what they want to communicate out into the world about his or herself," commented Alok.
He doesn't fail to mention that he nor the company is perfect but that they're willing to have a conversation, an open dialogue about the good, the bad and the ugly in regards to the clothing industry and all else.
In all, Fed By Threads looks at life from the broader perspective. The founders thrive on making the world a better place through their apparel and creating a community of like-minded people.
But it doesn't stop in there. The founders take their brand as a lifestyle, a way of living.
So how does the Fed By Threads mission go beyond the boutique walls?
Right now, Alok is in the midst of releasing his own book titled "Good Elephant" (slated to release in July) and it revolves around his mission to change the world for his son.
About ten years ago he began to transform his life, starting with vegetarianism. That inspired him to weigh in on many other aspects of his life and reflect on what are the necessities rather than the desires.
He gained knowledge about various industries (food, clothing, etc.) and started seeing how everything comes full circle.
"How we think about fashion has to be how we think about food. They're connected choices. Likewise, housing. I've been downsizing the size of my house. I live in a very small home but I love it. It meets my needs.
"You live simply, you get rid of a lot of stuff and I started seeing how all these are connected," said Alok.
At this point, he is leading by example. He simplified his lifestyle and couldn't be more satisfied.
Eventually, the goal is to open more Fed By Threads boutiques in other major cities across the nation and expand the custom printing business as well. To ultimately end the sweat-shop shirt.
"I'm looking at it from the bottom up. I believe if I change consumers on mass, it's an unstoppable force. It won't matter what governments and other organizations do (I mean to some degree)," said Alok, "These things occur often because of consumer behavior."
So what advice would he give to someone who's trying to make a significant change?
"The first thing that I think is so important is to shift the mentality from thinking about it as giving up things. It's always this conversation about deficit and what I've lost. Just begin and then surround yourself with other people who think this way because you're actually gaining," explained Alok, "I'll speak for myself, I've gained so much. It starts becoming a whole exciting way of life.
"I think many people float through life not knowing what a satisfied life looks like. So another thing would be to begin defining what a satisfied life looks like."
His biggest accomplishment is being a father. He also shared his pride in cultivating the lifestyle he has now.
Alok said, "I didn't realize that clothing would be my way of helping a main street of a major city come back to life, reducing our carbon footprint, taking care of people and bringing manufacturing jobs back to life in this country.
"I don't have an issue with overseas production but there are people here that want to work. So many people want to donate to charities and all these organizations that do all these things in other countries when we have people that are struggling here. Take care of your own backyard!"