It sounds almost too good to be true.
Stylish, well-made clothing that doesn't cost a fortune. In fact, with a t-shirt priced at $18, quite the opposite. Affordable fashion that not only looks good but does good, by way of 'radical transparency' -- honest information about the factory the garment you're eyeing off is made, the cost of its production and the markup.
Introducing Everlane. Launched in November 2011 in San Francisco, the online retailer started shipping to Australia in December 2016. The brand specialises in creating high-quality clothes at affordable, transparent prices.
Commonly, traditional retailers mark up a designer shirt by eight times the original cost by the time it reaches the customer. By being online only, Everlane are able to eliminate brick-and-mortar expenses and pass on the savings. Though more than the savings, you're also privy to exactly where and how the piece is made.
Founder and CEO Michael Preysman didn't work in fashion or retail when he came up with the idea.
"I've always loved design. Early on as a student I did graphic design and was very into photography. I didn't see a career in those interests and wanted to make an impact in business, so I went the route of engineering and investing," Preysman told The Huffington Post Australia.
"After a short stint in private equity, I decided to jump ship and explore what starting a company may look like. In that time, I quickly gravitated toward retail -- it combines all the best elements of great design and numbers. I was able to combine those two passions into starting Everlane."
Preysman was shocked to learn that shoppers really have no idea what they're paying for and why.
"After I left my job in private equity, I wanted to explore the world of retail and see what problems there were. It turns out that retail is one of the least transparent industries out there. Customers have no idea what they're paying for and where their products are made," Preysman said.
"On the most basic level, a luxury tee that is made in America costs $7 to make, but it sells for $50. That's a seven-time markup. We knew there was a better way. To get started, we found our first few factories by doing a simple Google search. We found the same ones producing for other high-end brands and we started our own line."
From there the first ever Everlane range was launched.
"In November 2011, we launched with a small run of tees and a big waitlist. To help our customers understand who we were and why we were doing this, we decided to tell them what our tees cost to make. We started with transparency on pricing and then moved to transparency around factories."
The road from late 2011 until now hasn't been an easy one, though Preysman's naivety was perhaps a hidden blessing. Without it, Everland might not exist.
"When we were starting the brand, we had no idea what we were doing when it came to manufacturing. We were knocking on doors of factories, asking for an introduction and hoping they would take our business," Preysman said.
"We made many mistakes including our infamous box cut tee. We accidentally made 12,000 of our men's Pocket Tees two inches too short. Rather than throw them away, we decided to turn them into our women's Box Cut Tee by cutting off an extra two inches. It's still one of our most popular styles."
Customers too often assume that the clothing they buy comes from ethically sound factories and that all parts of the process are above board. That is not always the case.
"When you buy a pair of pants, you have no idea where that material came from or who made it. You could have yarn from India, milled into fabric in China and then produced in Vietnam. Hundreds of people will touch the product and the customer will have no idea who those people are," Preysman said.
"People want a connection to the products they wear. By sharing our factories and costs, we are providing a window into our process which we hope will bring more considered choices for our customers."
In addition to knowing where the garments are made, customers can enjoy low prices thanks to the e-commerce business model.
"By selling directly to the consumer online, we effectively cut out the middleman and pass these savings along to our customers. In addition, we never go on sale, which allows us to keep prices low all the time. Where most brands buy up more inventory to eventually markdown, we buy tight and keep prices low from the beginning," Preysman said.
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