“Fast fashion” is more popular than ever—but meeting the demands of customers who want the newest trends at the lowest prices often results in low-quality items, harmful environmental practices, and poor treatment of factory workers.
Despite their lack of experience in the fashion world, Noushie Mirabedi and Ronda Raymond resolved to create a better alternative to these brands. In 2016, the couple founded their clothing line, Eight + Sand, which focuses on ethically sourced, finely crafted, precisely sized clothing for women.
“Our backgrounds are about as non-fashion as you can get,” says Mirabedi. “While we’ve both owned businesses before, apparel was a totally new industry for us when we started Eight + Sand, and it’s been a whirlwind—but there’s nothing we’d rather be doing.”
Mirabedi and Raymond, who divide their time between Austin and Oakland, have three kids: a 15-year-old son and two daughters, 12 and 21. They recently told us about their many roles at Eight + Sand and the special parenting advantages of being working moms.
1. What inspired you to start Eight + Sand?
Honestly, a lot of the reason we started the company is because we were fed up. Here we were, living in these cities surrounded by gorgeous, local food with so much attention to source and ways of making that it was almost cliché, and the clothes we bought were either falling apart, made overseas in terrible conditions, treated with dangerous chemicals, or all of the above. Most of the options out there were not only produced at dizzying rates [but] for most people they were designed to be disposable and ended up in landfills after a few washes. And no one seemed to be bothered by it, even among people who really participated in monitoring their footprint in other ways.
So we decided to do something about it. We walked away from our old careers and started building Eight + Sand, hell-bent on doing things differently, on offering people something obsessively sourced, painstakingly crafted, super durable, and totally classic—something where every step of the process, every hand that participated in it, is known and honored.
2. How does Eight + Sand make a mom’s life easier?
We don’t do high-maintenance anything; we’re just too busy. And we design for women in the same boat. We have kids, we have careers, we’re in cars, on bikes, in and out of suitcases, at school events—we need clothing that can go the distance and move easily from morning coffee to kid drop-offs to dinner after work. And on top of all that, we’re very particular about what we’ll put on our bodies and bring into our home. We don’t want the kinds of chemicals most clothes are treated with around our children and we don’t want to buy clothing that is made by children in other countries, and you wouldn’t believe how much of it is. So we design and make clothes for women like us—clothes made well and designed for a life in motion. Eight + Sand clothing doesn’t need tons of attention, it’s made in ethical and ecologically friendly ways, and it’s produced with a positive impact on our communities instead of negative and harmful impacts on people and the environment. The styles are timeless, easy to mix and match, impeccably crafted, and versatile enough for a range of settings and occasions.
3. What’s been the most challenging part of launching your own company?
The most challenging thing has been not having experience in the apparel industry, although we often think it’s that distance from the industry that allows us to think about things differently. But still, not only did we have to learn the ins and outs of a totally new field, [but] a lot of what we’re trying to do is in resistance to fashion-dominant ways of being, so we also had to learn the norms and then learn how to break those norms well. Things like sustainability, craftsmanship, ethically sourced textiles, organics, detailed fit, fair pay—these things aren’t common in fashion, so it’s been an uphill battle to get it done right.
Time demands and a greater number of transitions every day has also been a big challenge. As parents, lots of transitions are already a big part of each day: waking the kids, making lunches, getting out the door on time, rushing to work, meetings and deadlines, picking up the kids, transitioning to their extracurriculars, grocery shopping, homework, making dinner, laundry, bedtime, more work—add travel in there and things can get pretty overwhelming!
4. Describe a typical day in your life, if there is one. What is your daily routine?
There is no such thing as normal at the Eight + Sand house! This is both good and bad of course—we never rest, but we’re also never bored! In a given day we might do everything from sourcing, design, and fit testing to calculating fabric yields, overseeing manufacturing and managing the website. It’s just us two, so we’re also always busy fulfilling orders, going to trade shows, interacting with our retailers, testing fabric, managing social media, reviewing budgets, and doing accounting. If one of us doesn’t know how to do something we need to do, we have to learn it—there is no one else to ask! Then there’s our family and our community, so like we said, we’re never bored.
5. What’s the most rewarding part about being a working mother?
Getting to demonstrate confidence, ingenuity, and work ethic to our kids has been really rewarding. The kids have had a front-row seat to starting a business since we began this project, and at the beginning they were like, “Are you two crazy? You don’t even know what you’re doing!” They never thought it would happen. Now they’re so excited and supportive of us! They’ve started sharing design ideas and proudly wearing our clothes to school (major win). They’ve even been sharing their own business ideas with us. It’s an amazing experience to get to contribute to their growth and maturity through our own work.
6. How has being a mom made you better at your job?
To us, parenting well means constantly remembering that the decisions we make today—the things we say, the way we say them, the behavior we model—have long-term consequences. They shape who our kids will become and how they’ll see the world. This same way of thinking has really helped us remember that what we do and say as business owners today influences our brand long term. It’s helped us focus our intention from the get-go and take the best way even if it’s the longer way. There are no shortcuts in parenting or building a business, and there’s no shortage of tasks and transitions. Without being constantly present, it’s easy to get unintentionally off course.
7. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to a new mom returning to work?
While those first years are such difficult, precious work, there’s a time these days when most moms have to or want to head back to work. We’ve all been there, and whether it’s the hardest day of your life or the most exciting, we’d tell any new mom to remember that kids are always watching, and what they’re seeing is a strong, professional, amazing woman working hard to take care of her family. And that really matters, especially to our daughters. It’s hard to be a woman in this world. Girls need role models and there aren’t many good ones to choose from, so be proud to be among them. Even if you’re feeling sad about heading back out there, be proud too, and show them what women can do.
Photo by Kristen Loken