Who Made Your Clothes? Meet Tiare from Our Ethical Manufacturing Factory
Thanks to your support of MADI Apparel, we're now able to employ six women in our ethical manufacturing factory to sew our products just a few blocks away from our flagship store. These six sewers are on our payroll and earn a living wage to make our sustainable clothing and home goods. What is the difference between a living wage and minimum wage?

A living wage is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living. The living wage calculator had Jackson County, Missouri at $12.50/hr in 2020. In 2021, the living wage in Jackson County increased to $13.75 per hour. So, this year, any of our employees making $12.50/hr got a raise! Our payroll employees all make between $13.75 and $15 an hour as their BASE pay.

A worker making the 2021 Missouri minimum wage of $10.30 per hour would be below the poverty level and may not be able to maintain a normal standard of living.

In 2017, we started a job-training program through our non-profit arm called MADI Makes.

The MADI Makes program trains at-risk women in our city to sew through our free non-profit seamstress training program. Once trainees learn and master a lifetime job skill and then graduate from our program, our for-profit MADI Apparel hires the women to regularly sew our sustainable products as part-time payroll employees, and they're paid a living wage.

Timeline detailing how Tiare joined our program:
  • October 2019, you, our amazing supporters, helped us raise $50,000 to put two new trainees through our MADI Makes non-profit job training program.
  • December 2019, Tiare and Judonna entered our program to learn how to sew on commercial sewing machines.
  • In March, just as they were nearing graduation, Covid happened! Our sewing studio for the program was too small to re-open for safely distanced sewing, so we searched and searched to find the perfect new spot. We found a factory space just five blocks from our storefront and joined forces in a lease with our head sewer who's been making our products for over six years.
  • In August, the women were back to work!
  • After five weeks of re-training and clearing the rust, we felt confident that our amazing trainees were ready to graduate and gain part time payroll employment through MADI Apparel.
  • Tiare has been on our payroll earning a living wage to sew our products since October 2020.

Tiare and her co-graduate Judonna have earned every bit of this. They earned certificates on graduation day in September 2020 showing off their sewing skills as they transition into payroll employees. By keeping our ethical manufacturing factory in the same city as our headquarters, we are able to oversee and ensure that workers making our products are paid a fair wage, that environmental standards are met and that child labor and abusive labor is eliminated.

Learn more about Tiare, one of our payroll sewers:

What is the meaning of life to you?

Life is when you sit in a field and take in all the beauty around you. It's looking for what makes you truly happy! It's waking up knowing the choices that you make each and every day have an impact on not just your own life, but also in the lives of people you surround yourself with.
When you wake up in the morning, what motivates you? Every morning when I start my day off thinking of how can I wake my kids up with a smile on their face? I think that's what motivates me, starting off thinking of positive ways to make the ones I love the most help keep things going in a positive direction.

Who is your biggest role model and why?

I think this is a tough one, my life has been impacted by so many strong and driven people that it's so hard to narrow it down to just one person. If I had to choose, I would have to say my mother Betty Tonga. My mother has always never been big on words, not when it came to me. She has always been a women of action. I watched my mom go through some tough obstacles in life and always found a way to keep pushing on. When I felt the most alone in life, she showed me that no matter what choices I made in life that she would always love me. When I made the decision to turn my life around, my mom was there always supporting, motivating me, and loving me.

If you could live a life by design (like design your perfect life) what would a perfect day in that life look like?

I lost one of my little brothers six months ago. A perfect day would be with him and our family. BBQing, fishing and enjoying a summer day.

What is your favorite movie?

Sweet Home Alabama and Memoirs of a Geisha

What's one thing you dream of doing in 2021?

You know I really haven't thought about it. I'm a part time student, part time with MADI Apparel and a full time mom. My dreams always pertain to my kiddos. This may sound weird, but I dream of the day my oldest son will get his license. He turns 16 the end of 2021 and I remember when there was a time in mine and his life that I didn't think of the little joys of life like getting a license.

If you could describe yourself in three words what would you want people to understand about you?

Determined, aware and open-minded

February 24, 2021 — Hayley Santell