Last Thursday evening I met with David Dietz, Founder and CEO of Modavanti, a new online destination for socially conscious shoppers. While David shared his story, he showed me around the Modavanti headquarters, a lovely open live/work loft space in Dumbo. Read the interview below.
Tell us a little about yourself: Before Modavanti I was covering revolutions in the Middle East. My friends joke that I went from the Arab Spring to the Spring Collection. I love adventure.
Where are you from? When did you move to New York? I grew up in Indiana but went to school in and now call D.C. home. I moved to New York last June so I’ve been in the city over a year. I’ve got a ways to go before I can be considered a New Yorker.
You had some adventures before starting Modavanti. Tell us a bit about your travels: As I mentioned above I was reporting in the Middle East following revolutions. It’s an exhilarating experience to be in a square with several hundred thousand people all motivated by a belief that they can bring about authentic lasting change. In a weird way, what we are doing at Modavanti and the original aspirations of the protesters share similar threads: hope for a better tomorrow, balanced prosperity, a sense of shared ownership in our future.
What inspired you to start Modavanti? I wanted to start a business with a social impact. What we wear is such a part of who we are and how we see ourselves, yet there isn’t one trusted recognized destination for the socially conscious fashionista to find clothing that fits her style without compromising on style. The idea behind Modavanti is to provide a nicely curated site with quality clothing that maintains a commitment to sustainability. We also go beyond that by giving 2% of each sale to three of our impact partners that are working to improve the chains of production in fashion.
For a relatively new venture, Modavanti has a very polished look. Who is responsible for the look of the site? Our fantastic creative team led by our Creative Director Jesse Ayala Jr. and our graphic designer Colin Eadie. They set the direction for the site and are responsible for it looking so good.
Tell us about the Modavanti team: We are a young motivated team that all believe in our opportunity to build a site that can help our customers look good, feel good and do good in what they wear. We all came together through a mix of friendships, referrals and cold-interviews. As millenials we believe in our generation’s ability to do good.
What are the biggest challenges you faced when starting Modavanti? There is always a host of challenges but the biggest one in starting out is generating traffic and getting people to our site. That requires money and a lot of hustling, but we are getting there.
How do you find the designers and brands that you work with? Through tradeshows, eco-fashion sites and blogs and our advisory board which consists of several experts in the field. Now that we are live it’s easier finding brands as some of them already know us, but it’s still a lot of legwork.
I love that the sustainability badges help shoppers look for whatever aspect of sustainability is most important to them. How did you choose the topic of each badge, and are there any additional badges you would like to add? When we first had the idea for the badge system we asked each other, what is important to us and what are the main themes of sustainability. For us that is being eco-friendly and ethically-sourced. From there we analyzed all the different steps designers were taking, how much of an impact those steps actually had and broke it down further into subcategories. As more and more designers realize it’s important and cool to be sustainable we hear things like “We use only natural materials” But what does that mean? We chose the badges carefully to avoid greenwashing. We want a badge to signify impact.
One badge that we’d like to add is ‘Zero Waste’ which is currently under ‘Energy Efficient’ but deserves it’s own badge.
What are the minimum standards that brands on your site must meet? You can find them here on our site.
Why is ethical and sustainable fashion important to you? We are taxing our planet and our people at a scary and definitively unsustainable rate. The fashion industry is especially bad. It’s our future, let’s own it. Let’s make it better.
Will Modavanti ever include menswear? For sure. It’s definitely in the 3-year plan. We just need to focus and grow our women’s wear first.
What are your future ideal plans for Modavanti? I know this is generic but we want to be the trusted and recognized destination for sustainable fashion. The online fashion version of Whole Foods if you will.
How old are you? 25
What is the awesomest thing you have done recently? All my good stories are from reporting in the Middle East. Startups sound sexy but they are a lot of work. We try to get away but we are still so new and young that it’s a grind.
What are you proud of? The site. It’s awesome to work with so many cool brands and our impact partners.
What is your favorite spring recipe? My favorite spring/summer salad is a kale cesar salad with homemade dressing. When it’s hot nothing beats a fruit salad. Both are easy and refreshing.