Sara Weinreb: founder of IMBY
Remember that super comfortable and affordable pair of ethically made jeans? Today you get to meet the powerhouse behind the brand. One thing I absolutely love about Sara, founder of IMBY, is that she is relentless in making ethical fashion more attainable to everyday consumers. She also has a generous worldview that takes into consideration so many different issues of justice in addition to fashion. She's amazing, and you're going to want to be her bff after reading this interview.
Tell us a bit about your personal background.
Before launching IMBY I had a career working for nonprofits. After college I worked at the International Rescue Committee in their New York Refugee Resettlement office. My role was in the Youth Program helping kids acclimate to their new lives in NYC including their education. Immediately prior to starting IMBY I was the Vice President of Programs and Strategy at PresenTense, an accelerator for individuals launching social good ventures. During my time at PresenTense I worked with over 300 entrepreneurs and really got a sense of what it was like to launch a business! Needless to say, it’s way harder to it yourself, but my time there taught me so many lessons that I have used in building IMBY.
What was your inspiration for IMBY?
I started IMBY as a frustrated consumer. I wanted an easy, affordable way to buy clothing that responsibly made after committing to only shop that way. I realized that if the barriers to entry were so high for someone like myself who was making it a priority, we’d never reach the people who don’t have ethical fashion high on their to-do list. So I launched IMBY with the idea of a highly curated one-stop shop for ethical fashion essentials— the building blocks you need to a lean, responsible, and versatile wardrobe.
Has the brand evolved much since you started it?
That’s a great question! The core identity has remained the same— our dedication to ethical and sustainable fashion, our focus on curating the essential pieces you need, and the fact that everything is under $200. We have expanded to focus more heavily on content and building a brand focused on living an intentional life both inside and outside your closet. We launched The M List last summer, a weekly newsletter that curates the best content from around the web on reducing physical and emotional clutter. We’re really trying to focus on serving our community as a whole. For us, fashion is at the center of what we do, but under the umbrella of our larger purpose— intentionalism, and curating your life to be less stressed, happier, and leave a positive impact on the planet.
Have there been any major obstacles in this endeavor?
Any?! There are tons! Starting and growing a business is kind of like the early stages of dating someone— one second you think they like you, the next they haven’t responded to your text and you’re convinced they hate you. This happens on repeat. There are several obstacles that stick out— getting exposure in a noisy, busy world, managing inventory and cash flow (we’re bootstrapping which makes that a big one!), and being as sustainable as possible as a business on a limited budget.
How do you select the products that you sell?
There are a few requirements: everything we sell is made in the USA using fair labor and sustainable fabrics. Everything is under $200. And everything has to be very comfortable, easy to wear, and versatile. I like to find the items that I know will be your closet heroes— those items you reach for several times a week because you feel great wearing them and they serve your needs from yoga to brunch to a meeting. We don’t keep up with micro-trends set by the fast-fashion industry, we pick silhouettes and fabrics that are made to last season to season and year to year.
Describe your personal style...
My personal style is always evolving! Ever since committing to capsule wardrobes and working for myself, I tend to go for comfortable but put together. Jeans, comfy tees and leather jackets. I am a shoe person— I have dozens of shoes! And of course I wear a lot of IMBY-- IMBY is pretty reflective of my style. I just really like to be comfortable. And wear black. Always black.
Do you personally use a capsule wardrobe?
Yes! I started last year. I have an evolving relationship with the capsule wardrobe concept. I adore the freedom it gives me to not be so stressed about what to wear. I love that I have focused on adding things to to my closet that I truly love and would want to wear time and time again. I am now a proud outfit repeater— something I would have never imagined 5 years ago. I used to be a shopaholic— shopping was a mindless experience for me. Now it’s something that’s another part of my mindfulness journey and I love that! As for my capsules themselves, I am less strict on an exact “number” (I have always been a rule breaker!) and just curate the items for a season that feels right for me. Capsule wardrobes, and minimalism in general, to me is not about restriction, it’s about freedom. It’s supposed to make your life easier, not be a struggle. Do what feels right.
What's been the most rewarding part of founding IMBY?
There are so many, but the most rewarding is the people I have met and gotten to know through the process. I have connected to so many people from around the world— customers, bloggers, fellow business owners, other female entrepreneurs, and more, and it’s amazing to be connected to so many people who really care about how their clothes are made and the impact it has on the environment. It has also taught me so much in my own journey with intentionalism and misfulesness! I am constantly inspired.
Where would you like to see the brand in 5 years?
I have always said that I want IMBY to be a competitor to the Gap. Crazy, right? But what if it was as easy to shop ethically as it is to not? Removing those barriers to entry would change things, and we all know that the fashion industry is in desperate need of change.
Anything else you'd like to share?
I’m really excited about our Backyard Tee that we launched! I wanted to use IMBY as a platform to make a statement about human rights in the current political climate, so we launched a tee that reads “my backyard is your backyard” (IMBY stands for in my backyard) and we’re giving every penny of the profit to the International Rescue Committee to support their important initiatives to help refugees in the USA. This tee means so much to me— please do spread the word!