Zuri dress company seeks to 'do good'

- A new shop in New York City is creating clothes and jobs for women. It's called Zuri, which comes from the Swahili word for good. And this brand is doing just that.

Co-founders Sandra Zhao and Ashleigh Miller say they're trying to make clothing that makes you feel good, look good, and that also does good.

So they created one perfect dress. It's one style in lots of sizes with lots of prints—and it has pockets! The dress is made with African wax prints that are sourced in Tanzania and made in Kenya. Sandra calls it a dress for everyone.

Zuri opened its first store on Bleecker Street last August. Sandra is based here, while Ashleigh lives in Kenya.

The two first met at a wedding in Nairobi, where a very pregnant Ashleigh bonded with Sandra over her incredible handmade dress. Sandra offered to get one made for her. A few weeks after the baby was born, she gave a dress to Ashleigh. That night they both went home and thought "We should sell these."

That was about a year and a half ago.

Ashleigh and Sandra bought a few pieces of fabric they liked in downtown Nairobi, took them to the same tailor who made the original dress, had her make them, and then posted them on Instagram. Before long, women started buying them up.

As Zuri started to grow, they knew they wanted it to be a sustainable, ethical business. Sandra and Ashleigh source all of their fabrics themselves in East Africa and make their dresses in Kenya. All of the people who make their dresses are paid salaries.

They also work with manufacturers that provide healthcare and childcare, which is really amazing, Sandra says, especially in Kenya. A lot of the people who make their dress are women with families. This enables them to balance family and work.

In April of 2017, Zuri got a write up in the New York Times Style Section and the brand took off.

Sandra says they started getting emails constantly from women lamenting that the dress they wanted was sold out, and begging for more.

Today, women travel from all over the world to get Zuri dresses.

The day we visited their store, Tamara from Belgium made a special stop to get a new Zuri dress and left very happy with their Life Aquatic print, which she called perfect.

Customers love Zuri's limited-run, unique prints and universally flattering fit. Sandra says it's so cool making a dress that works for a woman who is 6 feet tall or a woman who is 4 feet 8 inches. Every size, shape, and ethnicity in between can wear it and look and feel amazing.

Zuri dresses cost $145 and are available online at www.shopzuri.com or in their store located at 363 Bleecker Street, which is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

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