Matt Scanlan, an ex-qualitative-analyst-turned-humanitarian, accidentally starts Naadam, a line of ethically manufactured luxury clothing, with a friend after drinking goat’s-milk vodka together in a yurt in Mongolia.
The full story:
When the spontaneous travels of Scanlan and good pal Diederik Rijsemus left them somewhat stranded in the Gobi Desert for a month with a cashmere goatherd, they experienced first-hand the profusion of ethical disturbances at the fashion industry’s core.
Although cashmere is one of the world’s most expensive textiles, the herders who battle harsh climates to cultivate the raw fibers from their herds receive only a fraction of the spoils, while traders and brokers make off with a much larger percentage. Thus, in an effort to repay their Mongolian host family for their generous hospitality, Scanlan and Rijsemus endeavored to help the herders retain a larger share of their cashmere sales. By launching Naadam, a start-up that essentially serves to collapse the traditional supply chain (read: takes trucks filled with cash into the Mongolian Gobi) by bypassing third-party brokers and purchasing cashmere directly from the herders themselves, the founders ensure that the goatherds are receiving more appropriate compensation for their toils.
However, when Naadam bought a mountain of fair-trade cashmere, it became the proud owner of a mountain of fair-trade cashmere. Naturally, the next step in the company’s evolution was to transform said cashmere into a marketable product, and it was then that the company’s do-gooding founder – who admits to not liking clothing very much – found himself at the helm of an emerging fashion brand. After some trial and error (and partnering with seasoned designer, Hadas Saar), they successfully produced a line of sweaters and accessories that are humanely manufactured, and priced well below those of equal quality (two concepts that rarely intersect). Perhaps even more importantly for the founders, a portion of Naadam’s earnings are funneled into its non-profit branch, which invests in fencing for grassland management and veterinary services for the Mongolian herds.
The end result: 50% more profit for the goatherds; healthier animals and grazing lands; ethical and chemical free manufacturing; and cashmere products that stand toe-to-toe with the finest in the world, but retail for a fraction of the price. Who knew cashmere could feel so [Naa]dam good?