If there’s a brand best aligned with the information age and its consumer, it just might be Everlane.
The quality basics label launched in 2010 with a T-shirt that came to have a waiting list of 70,000, and even its most recent venture — denim — launched in September with a waiting list of about 50,000. Founder and chief executive officer Michael Preysman chalks up the demand to “storytelling.”
“Online you can do things that are very different than in a physical manifestation,” Preysman said. “Since the early days, I guess you could say we used viral mechanisms to get people to tell their friends and tell the [brand] story. Now we do the same thing we just do it very differently.”
When Everlane launched it relied — successfully — on customer referrals, but it’s since evolved into a company that prides itself on engagement with its customer base on various social platforms, like fashion favorite Instagram, where it operates two public handles with about 400,000 followers, and one private account focused on shoes.
A Monday post showing Nashville-based lifestyle blogger James Kicinski-McCoy wearing Everlane’s black cashmere cardigan pulled in close to 6,800 likes. It also seizes social opportunities that arise, like when Prince Harry’s actor girlfriend Meghan Markle was photographed with an Everlane tote on one of the couple’s first public outings, the almost obligatory Instagram post was made.
But Preysman said Everlane isn’t pushing a “lifestyle” and he doesn’t expect his shopper to head off to work wearing the brand head to toe.
“We don’t have a massive lifestyle component to our brand because it’s not about how you live, it’s about why, why you live,” he said.
The why of things seems to be a looming question for Preysman. The “story” Everlane tells of itself started out and continues to be an effort to explain why its products cost what they do, why the price is justified and why a shopper should buy from Everlane and not somewhere else. The company promotes “radical transparency” with information on its web site about its entire production process, from how much water is used to produce a pair of jeans to how much it costs to ship them from a factory.
But that’s not all the information there is to be had. Preysman rattled off the ratings of Everlane’s factories and explained the reverse osmosis process used to drastically cut water waste for its denim and noted that “tons of testing” is done to back up all of the claims that it makes about its products. These facts aren’t publicly available.
“We don’t explain everything to our customer, there’s a lot of things we do that we don’t tell them,” Preysman admitted. “What’s important for customers is figuring out what matters to them and telling them that story.”
And online is where most stories get their start these days, but Everlane is starting to feel the confines of living in a two-dimensional space, especially as the digital-loving consumer it caters to has shifted from shopping on a desktop to being constantly on mobile.
So, after some successful pop-up shops over the last couple of years, Preysman said the company is looking to four walls as Everlane’s next phase, despite brick-and-mortar being anathema not too long ago.
“We were quoted about four years ago [saying] we’d shut the company down before we opened a brick-and-mortar store, and we’re opening brick-and-mortar,” Preysman said. “When we first started it was very desktop driven and you can really immerse yourself in a desktop. Now, you can really immerse yourself in your phone…but you’re constantly looking through, scrolling through your last e-mail, then a notification pops up — it’s just constant.”
A store, Preysman added, will allow Everlane to connect with customers “in this ADD world” while sharing the “values of the brand.”
But Everlane’s values, namely transparency, sustainability and corporate responsibility, are one aspect of the brand that don’t appear headed for change.
“Businesses have to push the world forward because, in today’s day and age, government does some of it but not a lot of it,” Preysman said. “Business are the ones polluting, so businesses have to lead. The easiest change agent is business and so we do [what we do] as a way to educate customers and as a way to change and do things better. If that means we won’t be a $10 billion business, that’s fine with us.”
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