Shabnam Mirza, wants to don America in sustainable garments

Shabnam Mirza is a Bangladeshi-American born and raised in Chicago. Through her childhood, she would routinely visit family in Bangladesh, her home country, until she went to college. Adulthood did not make her stop, she rather fast-paced her long-held dream of connecting and working with the community. Shabnam joined her uncle’s flourishing fabric business to learn the arts of cloth manufacturing – a mainstay of Bangladesh’s rapidly growing economy.

The country has the second largest garment industry after China, and exports of textiles and garments are the principal source of foreign exchange earnings. Shabnam launched Purecloth Solutions in 2015, and has been working with her family owned fabric factories in Bangladesh as an agent to outsource garment production from “ethical and environmentally compliant” factories in Bangladesh to the US and Europe. She works with mindful brands whose philosophy includes sourcing from socially responsible and sustainable manufacturers. Her work entails buying high quality yarn from Bangladesh and turning it into a finished product for like-minded brands like Peloton, a sporting goods brand that manufactures high-quality apparel. Post becoming a mother to three children, Mirza realized that a corporate America job, albeit at companies like Sony Music and Morgan Stanley, was not fulfilling her innate needs.

With the support of her uncle who runs the family business in Bangladesh, she stepped forth into the world of entrepreneurship. In over three years, her LLC has been contracted to produce 10-50,000 pieces of high-quality garments per production cycle for well-known clothing brands in the US. For Mirza, the philosophical gears behind her business are clear: her trademark selling point is the sustainable and compliant tag of her family business under companies such as Echo Tex, Incredible Fashions, Shomahar sweaters, and she expects no less from her US clients too. “Running my on business and doing something with Bangladesh were thoughts I had in me for years,” she said. The Bangladeshi cloth manufacturing industry has been riddled with issues of non-compliance of factories and the massive spread of child-labor for fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M. Mirza said her company’s philosophy is the antithesis of this model.

“The industry itself has changed a lot in the last 8 years since the fire tragedy, a lot of compliant institutions have come in, and the government has a lot more oversight,” she said. Mirza believes that the responsibility towards sustainability is not just on factories but on the brand that do business with them as well. “That is the first question that brands ask me – are your factories compliant?” said Mirza.

“It is accountability and responsibility from both sides. I’ve never seen child labor in my factories.” To build her own company and juggle that with domestic responsibilities is a challenge for anyone who lives in NYC.

Her day starts at 6 am and ends at 1 in the morning, when she wraps up the last calls from her employees in Bangladesh. For Mirza, having a good community of friends who are both mothers and business owners helps – “you’re not the only one trying to juggle 100 things in a day; there are many others who are doing the same” she said.

Here too, community plays an important role. “I try to go to Bangladeshi cultural events with my kids here. My husband is Indian…our cultures are so rich. It’s vital to have a link to our South Asian roots,” Mirza said.