Find the best factories, produce limited runs, keep no retail stores
Everlane makes the kind of clothes you dream of wearing. Not astounding, labour-intensive couture pieces but humble, everyday things like a denim shirt or silky tank top. Founded by James Preysman in 2011, Everlane started with a pared-down collection of fine t-shirts, soft cashmere knits and neat shirts in cotton and silk. Preysman, who worked in venture capital until 2010, didn’t have a fashion background, but instead was interested in creating a new model for retail saying “online retail, or just retail in general, is so broken“. For him, forming Everlane was more about an interest in design than in seasonal trends.
It’s the buff-coloured silk shirt of the cool girl at work that you sometimes lock eyes with and smile because maybe, just maybe, you’re the only two sane people in an office full of dads in suits. It’s that dazed moment in the queue for coffee on a Sunday morning that you zoom into the woman in front of you and her super-soft navy jumper, thrown on simply and elegantly with a pair of jeans and canvas pumps. The subway neck-craning induced by a perfectly draped grey marl tee, worn by a just-out-of-sight figure, obscured by strap-hanging commuters. These aren’t clothes that make headlines, but sit quietly in the background while you get on with your life.
Although novel, Everlane’s business model is pretty simple: find the best factories, produce limited runs, no retail stores. It’s a thoroughly modern way to do retail and one which could not have existed twenty or even ten years ago. Tracking down the best factories – often the same ones used by high-end designers – would have been nigh-on impossible pre-internet. The lack of physical stores or wholesalers allows them to minimise markups, so instead of paying $250 for a bridge brand silk shirt, you only end up paying under $80 at Everlane. Over the last three years the brand has expanded their range to include bags, accessories and loafers.
It’s those kinds of staple items that are proving really popular, across all sectors of fashion. From the Celinequake that kickstarted a minimalist movement to retailers like Uniqlo who dub their simple casual pieces ‘LifeWear’ simplicity rules. There is definitely also feeling of trend fatigue, eight fashion show cycles a year is more than anyone needs to keep up with.
Another way that consumers are becoming more savvy is with value and pricing. Sample sales and endless markdowns mean that people no longer think full price is the ‘real’ price of clothing. Everlane doesn’t do bargain sales, big-name collaborations or massive advertising campaigns. It’s unusual to see a retailer pay such little interest in traditional profit-making strategies, Preysman has said: “in a lot of ways, we’re selling a product and we’re trying to get people to buy less“. In fact November saw them launch their first Black Friday Fund, an initiative which this year hopes to improve the recreation area at their silk factory in Hangzou, China where most of the workers live on-site. Donating profits and adding a dollar for every view on their successful Snapchat channel saw them raise $100,000, well over their $30,000 target.
Across Everlane’s site you can find detailed information and see images of all the factories that produce the clothes, from the factory in Brescia, Italy which produces their loafers and sandals to the Dongguan site in China where all their cashmere is made. Consumer appetite isn’t going to go away, but people do seem to be waking up to the fact that wanting to buy lovely things without too much hassle doesn’t also have to mean screwing people over. Everlane seem perfectly poised to fill the already slightly dated model of fast fashion and Preysman obviously has longevity in mind – he has said that his goal is to create essential pieces that “you’ll have in your closet for 10 years“.
Words by Isabelle O’Carroll
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