Tim Arnold

Documentary Director

MADI Apparel

MADI Apparel


MADI Apparel

“For every set of underwear we sell, we donate one to someone who doesn’t have any”

If you want to know what underwear is worth, ask someone who doesn’t own any. One ethical clothing brand has taken this idea to heart, and dedicated itself to helping make sure women in crisis can get a change of clothing.

MADI Apparel, makes simple high-quality underwear and other essentials, mostly in unshowy designs and muted colours. The name MADI comes from “Make a Difference”. “Everything we do, we focus on making a difference,” says Santell. Fair pay for the people who sew the garments was “non-negotiable from day one”, she says, putting them among an estimated 2% of fashion workers globally who earn a living wage. Products are manufactured locally, using long-lasting biodegradable fabrics, with minimal waste, and half of it ends up getting donated. It’s also about educating customers: if they didn’t know about the issues that it tackles when they arrive, hopefully they’ve learned a little by the time they leave.“Our intention is to get customers to take a step back to slow down and to think about, what are you putting on your body, what’s the fabric made of, whose hands were behind the cutting and the sewing and the dyeing,” says Santell.

“Our customer is someone who cares about sustainability, cares about a cause, cares about fabrics”

Over the years MADI Apparel has donated more than 9,000 pairs of underwear to 60 nonprofits in the US and as far afield as Haiti, Ecuador, India and Mali. MADI’s commitment to ethical standards and donations means costs are always high, and margins tight. Have there been difficult times? “Oh, every day,” says Santell. But she has also learned that courage pays off. That Christmas Eve, Santell made herself “as vulnerable as I could possibly be”. And she was met with open arms and open minds. People listened, and people donated. “I’d say nine people out of 10 were very accepting and made me feel really less scared,” says Santell. “Maybe 10 out of 10.”

Words: Robert Langkjær-Bain
Full article: https://fivemedia.com/interview/for-every-set-of-underwear-we-sell-we-donate-one-to-someone-who-doesnt-have-any/
More about MADI Apparel: https://www.madiapparel.com/