The truest compliment Rita Mehta ever received was from a professor who called her “the ultimate consumer.”
“I don’t really know if he meant it as a compliment, but I took it as one,” she says, mentioning her obsessive research skills, especially as they applied to one of her favorite hobbies: shopping.
Mehta’s voracious consumer appetite combined with her education in marketing and consumer behavior made her a perfect candidate for Target HQ. There, she cut her teeth on product development and sourcing, and got a look inside how small brands could become big players. Eventually, she found herself changing her own buying habits—from fast fashion to investment wardrobing—and wanting to promote American-made brands, as well as help them with their business plans and sourcing challenges. “It’s really easy to find things that are focused on American-made goods for men,” Mehta says, referencing the site A Continuous Lean and local shops MartinPatrick3 and BlackBlue. “But if I found stuff for women, it was really… not my style.” Mehta soon discovered many of her favorite brands are indeed American-made: Rag & Bone, Current/Elliott, and almost all of her jewelry.
Thus The American Edit—her blog, directory, and calling card—was born. Mehta realized to get the kind of information out to consumers that she was personally looking for, she would have to do it herself.
“My parents are definitely of the ‘buy once, buy well’ mentality,” she says. “I began to realize that I felt more connected when I knew the story behind the brand—I could buy in. And when I know the person who made it, I find myself treating it better. And telling everyone about it.”
So she developed her website for two purposes: to highlight and celebrate American designers and get their products on shoppers’ radars; and to establish and build her credibility and reach as a business consultant for the domestic fashion industry.
Just a few months after the site’s launch, brands are wondering how to get on her “A-List” (no, they can’t buy their way in), and movie star Kristen Bell tweeted: “THIS SITE IS EVERYTHING I’VE EVER NEEDED.” (Yes, in all caps.) That thrilled Mehta, of course, but she’s most proud of the response by designers who have made the leap to start their own businesses because of her site.
“I’m obsessed with their stories and solving their business problems,” she says of both established brands looking to refresh product offerings as well as new companies in search of a foothold and growth. “I love helping to sell something in a way I believe in.”