“They say you should start a business that you wish already existed, so we quit our day jobs,” is the motto of personal-passion-follower and Everlane CEO, Michael Preysman. At the age of 25, Preysman left his 9-5 venture-capital job in Fall of 2010 to start his own business. What he created has become more than just a company, it’s a guide to true factory transparency.
The first Everlane garment I ever saw was the Classic Silk Blouse ($80) shown above. As a tried-and-true basics girl, I fell in love. What I couldn’t wrap my head around was how their prices were so low, and yet their brand spoke of a new fashion model. That is, until I did some digging.
“Complete Transparency: Know Your Factories. Know Your Costs. Always Ask Why“ is Everlane’s creed, so I didn’t have to dig too deep to find out they deliver nothing less than the truth. Everlane believes in an open and transparent customer dialog—to challenge, and be challenged (something many brands could learn from). They are cutting costs by selling their products exclusively through their online store, bypassing the 8x markup traditional to designer labels, and “passing the savings on to you,” according to their site.
But the company’s transparency initiatives impact more than just the price tag, and delve deep into their production practices. Sandals, tees and French Terry are Made in Los Angeles; Bow ties and ties in New York City; belts in San Francisco; totes in Texas; scarves in Scotland; towels in Turkey; and silk, backpacks, weekenders, cashmere, and PK in China. Their next step is producing handbags in Italy and wallets in Spain.
Everlane Explores, a thoroughly documented look into their factories, takes you on a journey with the Everlane creative team, CEO included, as they personally step inside their well-researched, hand picked manufacturing facilities around the world. They’ve just returned from their first leg of travels to China. And I caught up with Preysman about Everlane and here’s a look into how and why they’ve created a new model for the fashion industry.
Ecosalon: How have you gone about offering complete transparency?
Michael Preysman: We started Everlane as outsiders. We had no idea what items cost and how the industry worked. When we learned that a basic t-shirt carries an 8x markup we decided we could design our own but sell it for 2x. That was much of the basis for starting the company and we wanted to share that with our customers. For the products we make, we offer transparent pricing. That means we tell consumers the cost of the goods and our markup, so they know we’re being fair.
We also found that many brands produce 95 percent of goods in Asia, but often try to hide the fact from consumers. They never list the country of origin on the website and they publish videos of europe to create a false reality. We do the opposite. We try to find the best factory in the world for each product and we have no problems sharing that with the customer. We now produce in the US, China, Spain and Italy.
Your motto is Radical Transparency. Do you think transparency is something that should become endemic across the industry?
MP: Absolutely. Consumers want to know where their products come from and brands have a duty to be honest all the way through the process.
You are producing overseas garments, but how do you ensure the factories are inline with the strong ethics your company embodies?
MP: The biggest issue with overseas is that we’re not there to see everything. That problem exists in Europe and in Asia. We find owners we trust that have been around for years and care about their employees. We then conduct audits and visit all of the factories before producing. We’ve been very lucky to find great people around the world.
Everlane is completely online store. How has internet shopping allowed you cut down on the price the consumer is paying?
MP: We don’t work with retailers and don’t have to cover the costs of a physical store. That’s a lot of savings to pass onto the consumer. Our markup is 2x, it’s the lowest you’ll see in the industry.
“They say you should start a business that you wish already existed, so we quit our day jobs.” On a personal level, what fulfillment/satisfaction have you and your team found by pioneering such a uniquely progressive business model
MP: We’re a motley bunch and a bit of a pain. Everyone is a perfectionist and has such strong opinions. It makes it tough to get things out the door. As a result we do fewer things and try to do them very well. We’re having a ton of fun and the team is incredibly close.
Here is a sneak peek—in pictures—of what they found during the company’s factory tour in China:
Dongguan, China: Cashmere Knitting Factory
Dongguan, China: Seed Stitch Knitting Factory
Shenzhen, China: The PK Factory
Dongguan, China: Backpack and Weekender Factory
Ningbo, China: Cashmere Spinning Factory
Ningbo, China: Cashmere Storage and Dye House
Why can’t all clothing companies do this? It’s against the traditional model of how production is done. To be so engaged in overseas factories isn’t easy, but we are beginning to see the idea spread. Customers want the full story, and Everlane is delivering. As we ask why, let’s support those who take the time to deliver the answers and complete transparency could become endemic across the industry. There’s no tricks or tips, just passion for a better way.
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