MADI Apparel is a sweatshop-free, locally made, sustainable intimates line with a buy one, give one business model. Here. below, MADI’s founder Hayley Santell talks to us about what inspired her to start her company, and what it takes to maintain it.

  1. Hey, Hayley! So, let’s start by getting our Haul readers up to speed on MADI Apparel. Tell us a bit about your underwear and your company’s ethos.

MADI Apparel stands for Make a Difference Intimate Apparel, and we’re dedicated to positively impacting the intimates market in every way. Our products put environment, quality, and social impact above all else. We say no to sweatshops and instead create jobs in the town where we’re headquartered, Kansas City. We’re also committed to sustainability and our intimates are made from cloud-like, long-lasting bamboo fibers.

And because underwear is the most under-donated item of clothing, if you buy any of our robes, sleepwear, undies, &/or bralettes, we’ll donate a pair of our sustainable underwear to a woman in need.  

 

  1. Can you chat a bit about MADI’s inception? What inspired you to start an intimates line?

I founded the company in 2013 after learning that underwear is the most needed item of clothing for those in crisis. I had a pair of TOMS shoes, so I knew people understood the concept of buy one, give one. I thought, “if underwear is so under-donated, let’s include a pair to be donated in the cost of each customer’s purchase.”

Around that same time a family member revealed to me that she had once been a victim of domestic violence. It really opened my eyes to the fact that domestic violence (and rape) can hit anyone. So I started calling around to shelters, asking if they could use new underwear. Every shelter basically screamed with enthusiasm. Underwear is the one thing they always need because they can’t take them used, they must be donated new. So, I formed a business centered around intimates that give back.

  1. You’ve just completed construction on MADI Mobile, “the tiniest underwear shop on the planet,” and will be taking your show on the road this fall. What motivated you to build a mobile boutique?

MADI has seen a lot of growth since we launched sales in 2014.  I started the company in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, with a friend in 2013, launched sales in 2014, opened a flagship store in Kansas City in 2015, and subsequently entered over 20 boutiques across the US and Canada, including the department store chain, Von Maur.

We started out with six black styles of underwear, and as we grew, I designed and launched robes, sleep tops, sleep shorts, and bralettes. After that, I felt we were ready for more growth. I’d considered opening another storefront, but didn’t necessarily want to be tied down to an additional physical location. One night, on a whim, I typed “trailer” into the Craigslist searchbar and immediately landed on a 1956 vintage Ham camper. Suddenly, I was struck by the idea for Madi Mobile. I bought the camper and my husband helped me renovate it.

  1. Your undies are made in Kansas City, where MADI’s HQ is also located. Can you talk a bit about why you wanted to keep production local?

I’ve always wanted to keep production in the US. When I moved the company to Kansas City, I tried hard to make connections with local cut and sew teams. My goal was to create and sustain local jobs while ensuring fair labor and quality garments. As a designer, I’m able to work one-on-one with our pattern makers and our cut and sew team. Recently we’ve created a new program under our non-profit arm called MADI Makes. We’ve raised funds to train local, at-risk women to sew our intimates. Once trained, we can employ them. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”  This is our goal with MADI Makes.

  1. For every item purchased, MADI donates a pair of brand new undies to a woman in-need. How do you choose the individuals/organizations that you donate to?

We receive requests from all over the world and do our best to fulfill them. One of our favorite donation drop-off trips was to Haiti in partnership with Circle of Health International – a non-profit that reached out requesting underwear donations. They have a program helping mamas and babies in a remote birth clinic. We’ve also donated to a refugee camp and a mountain village. Sometimes we donate to orphanages, hospital rape clinics, disaster relief, homeless shelters. It all depends on where the need is. And when we sell wholesale to a boutique, we donate the matching amount of underwear to a local organization of their choice.

  1. What is your hope for MADI, in terms of future growth & expansion?

There are millions of women facing various hardships right now. They’re vulnerable and don’t have the simple “luxury” of nice underwear. My goal is to make sure that every woman has access to clean undergarments, and that she feels dignified, secure, and comfortable. I’d also love to reach potential customers that are seeking out well-made, sustainable intimates and sleepwear, and show them how powerful their purchases can really be.

Talk to us!