Consumership and Style: Lifetime Brands: Everlane (and my favorite shirt)

Children, it is a red-letter day for t-shirts. Everlane has restocked one of my absolute favorites in the world, the Ryan, with an updated fabric and cut. Soft and floaty and lovely! Twenty-five bucks! Made in LA! I am so excited I cannot.

I've had to wait months get my hands on this shirt because Everlane purposely under-manufactures, a practice they explain thusly on their tumblr:

In traditional retail, brands always overbuy. They produce more inventory than they need, knowing 30 percent of it will be put on sale. These sales have been so effective, that brands now create    cheaper versions of full-price products to sell alongside the legitimate sale items. In other words, if you buy something on sale, it could be an original or something created at a lower quality to simulate a sale item. The entire ecosystem is borderline deceptive.

Our approach is simpler: we underbuy. That means, we predict what we’ll sell, and we buy a little less. Our goal is to never have overstock and never have sales. The tradeoff is that we often buy too little. (We’re getting better over time, but it’s a bit of an art.) As Everlane grows, and we accumulate historical data, we’ll become better at these predictions. But we won’t change our approach. We will always underbuy so that we can keep things simple and avoid the games. It’s a long term decision we’ve made that we hope you support.

This indeed makes sense to me. Almost all the stores that I shopped at in Honduras carried overstock goods from US manufacturers who exported their undesirable surplus. It was a visual reminder of the way that some people are expected to subsist on the 'leftovers' of the others.

As I've said before, I'm on the lookout right now for lifetime brands: manufacturers that I can comfortably support with my money and would like to patronize again and again. All of the products I've purchased from Everlane fit the bill so far: they are well designed, durable and really good looking. The company does not manufacture ALL of their goods in the US, but they brand themselves based on a policy of "radical transparency": they choose carefully (and document) their factories, materials and cost breakdowns.

I found out about Everlane in December when I was hunting for a Very Special Tie to give my bestie, Jordy. I wanted something super rad and full of good vibes that he could wear to his dissertation defense and job interviews. I wanted something hipster-cool and US made, but I couldn't afford anything from The Hillside. Check out this blue selvedge tie, made in NYC, that I found for Jordy through Everlane!  See how rad he looks? See the look of triumph on his face? He passed! YOU ARE SO WELCOME, BRO!

Because of Everlane's manufacturing structure, that tie has come and gone. It's not even on the website anymore. Maybe it will be back this winter. Maybe not. Now I've got my eye on this silk blouse in a fall-y mustard color:

Like other products I've mentioned, the prices at Everlane are comparable to (or sometimes lower than) prices at mall stores like J. Crew. The cotton tee shirts are an especially good deal at fifteen bucks a pop (they are crazy soft and also made in LA). Everlane keeps prices low by selling only through their website-- no retail, even a pop-up stores.

Plus, the company recently launched a really cool project called Everlane Explores China, sending a camera crew to Donguaan and Shenzhen (the factory city made famous by Mike Daisy's controversial Apple expose) to document the factories they use. The photos are beautiful and compelling, but because Everlane controls the footage that we see, I wouldn't call it totally transparent. Still, it's a great start.

Ideally, I would really like for Everlane to take things a step further and disclose the wage breakdowns in all the factories they use. Unlikely, to be sure, but I can dream. 

As it is, I feel better about buying internationally manufactured goods from Everlane than from anywhere else-- they are hitting the sweet spot between great style, reasonable social responsibility and the value-added proposition of good-karma products. Psychically, that makes their silk blouse just about as light on the shoulders as any new, internationally made garment gets.

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