Good (?) Fashion - Everlane

 
Everlane sustainable fashion transparency Gap Michael Preysman black silk fig trench coat factory transparent

Feeling sassy in my Everlane black silk camisole. Click links at bottom of post to buy!

 

Four years ago nobody really knew what sustainable fashion was, but these days, everyone (OK at least everyone in New York and San Francisco) knows about Everlane. The minimalist brand has managed to win its way into the wardrobes of ‘it’ girls and onto the pages of glossy magazines by way of good design and great marketing. They have often been praised in the realm of sustainable fashion, but how sustainable is Everlane really?

Everlane proudly touts ‘transparency’ as their number one priority, displaying cost breakdowns on their website and sharing videos from inside their factories. As consumers in the US become more and more aware of the horrors of garment factories around the world (much in part to the Rana Plaza tragedy and the documentary True Cost), Everlane has capitalized on providing stylish clothing without the guilt. Creating a fully visible supply chain is a huge responsibility, and I commend anyone taking on the challenge. It is hard to hide poor manufacturing practices behind marketing stories when those stories are audiovisual and accessible by anyone. Everlane’s commitment to a responsible and transparent supply chain is something that I would like to see at the heart of more fashion companies.

 
Transparent pricing infographic. Source: Everlane.com

Transparent pricing infographic. Source: Everlane.com

 

In an article reporting the recent appointment of Rebekka Bay as Everlane’s new head designer, founder Michael Preysman states that the majority of his time is spent visiting factories and that he is surprised at “how not often [apparel] executives visit factories.” Perhaps it is his proximity to Silicon Valley that has inspired Preysman to disrupt so entrenched an industry, but I hope that existing and emerging fashion brands all over the world will follow his lead. Everlane is one brand that can provide an honest response to the question that we ask on Fashion Revolution Day - who made my clothes?

Images from inside of Everlane's outerwear factory in Yantian, China. Source: Everlane.com/factories

Still, there is more to sustainability than a commitment to transparency. It is an incredible step in the right direction, yes, but what about a commitment to caring for the environment or fighting a fast fashion consumer culture? Well, to the latter, Everlane has something of a half-formed response.

Despite shutting down their website on Black Friday in 2012 and 2013 (and in 2014, dedicating all of their Black Friday sales to a recreational center and garden at one of their factories in China) Everlane continues to encourage a great deal of consumption. Obviously, selling product is somewhere near the top of any apparel brand’s priority list, but saying “Buy Less, Buy Better” one day a year doesn’t quite hold up against some recent announcements. In the same article regarding the recent hiring of Rebekka Bay, Preysman mentions something about how “hundreds of styles” are in Everlane’s future. Bay also states that her designs for the brand will have to “be relevant, desirable, and create urgency.” Hundreds of styles and a sense of urgency sound a lot like fast fashion to me. It is clear that Everlane’s goal is to grow into a household name, not dissimilar to Gap, whom Bay most recently designed for. While I have no objection to Everlane becoming “the new Gap” in terms of style and iconism, I do have an objection to their promoting over-consumption. Encouraging consumers to buy buy buy is the real root of the fashion industry’s current issues, and continuing on with this purchasing model cannot be fixed by transparency alone.

"Buy Less, Buy Better" marketing campaign from Black Friday 2012. Source: Google Images

"Buy Less, Buy Better" marketing campaign from Black Friday 2012. Source: Google Images

Over-consumption is the driving force behind fast fashion where brands essentially create new product every other week and push trends on their customers at light speed. This results in us buying more clothing than we need and therefore treating it with less regard, and eventually, throwing it in the donate or trash pile within the year. This is a problem, not only for the planet in terms of raw materials plus energy input and gargantuan waste piles as output, but also for our psycho-emotional well being as consumers. We are made to feel as if we need that new article of clothing, that our lives and closets will be complete when we have it. Then, once we have it, we feel like we have nothing to wear and that our lives are a mess, all the while racking up credit card debt and environmental damages.

Everlane has also fallen short in responding to the issue of environmental impact. While the brand tends to focus on natural fibers, there doesn’t seem to be any effort towards using environmentally friendly dyes or processing techniques that conserve either energy or water. Chemical dyes, water and energy usage have a huge impact on local environments as well as global climate change, especially at the scale of production that Everlane is looking towards. Even more disconcerting, a complaint that I have heard from numerous Everlane fans, is that the quality is just not quite there. Yes, the design of Everlane products has been spot on and evokes the utmost luxury, but I’ve witnessed seams falling apart, leather straps ripping and t-shirts acquiring holes all within the first 3 months of wear. This does not say luxury, quality fashion to me, and quality is a major player in the sustainable fashion world. When your clothing is of a higher caliber, you are likely to hold onto it for a much longer amount of time, therefore preventing you from tossing your now-holey t-shirt and going out to purchase another new item in just 3 months time. With poor product quality, Everlane evokes fast fashion once again.

 
Chemical waste dumping into a flowing river next to a textile factory. Source: The True Cost

Chemical waste dumping into a flowing river next to a textile factory. Source: The True Cost

 

Despite a low quality product, a high volume of sales and a lack of attention towards lowering their environmental impact, I would still consider Everlane a sustainable fashion company. Personally, I enjoy shopping with Everlane and plan to continue to do so, and I have no interest in condemning them to the realm of conventional fashion evil because it is apparent that this brand is at least making an effort. If the perfect is the enemy of the good, then Everlane should be celebrated for at least doing some form of good. The fashion industry needs leaders, and Everlane has succeeded at fulfilling that role. I hope that this brand will continue to push the boundaries and ask disruptive questions of itself as well as of the industry that is so enamored by it.

 
Piles of discarded textiles and old clothing. Source: The True Cost

Piles of discarded textiles and old clothing. Source: The True Cost

 

One thing that would make me feel more warm and fuzzy about Everlane would be the implementation of a take-back, or recycling program. Incentivizing customers to send their holey t-shirts and stained silk tops back to the company would be a wonderful step on the long path towards total sustainability. Not only is this a very easy thing to do for a brand that already heavily utilizes the postal service (simply throw a return shipping label in with every order!), it is a step that numerous other companies have already taken. Most recently, Reformation and Levi’s have announced their clothing recycling programs, even allowing customers to send in their old duds that didn’t originally come from them. Even H&M has a take-back program in place! I hope to see some textile recycling and used clothing donations in Everlane’s very near future, too.

But in the meantime, I’m going to continue to have dreams about this trench!

Adorable fig colored Swing Trench that I can't stop thinking about. 

Adorable fig colored Swing Trench that I can't stop thinking about. 

Good Fashion - Fortress of Inca

 
Fortress of Inca Lulu Dahlia red Peruvian textile wedges statement shoe Faye Lessler
 

Fortress of Inca shoes are practical yet playful, and they will stand the test of time. I hope you are ready for your shoe rack to get a sustainable makeover because this brand is stellar!

By now you’ve all seen me in my Isabella Flats - they rarely leave my feet. These pointed d’orsays are chic, simple and uber comfy. I wear them at least thrice a week, and while they took a bit of breaking in, they are now some of the most walkable shoes I own. Lately, though, on my sassier days, I’ve been trading them in for a new shoe; the Lulu Dahlia.

 
Fortress of Inca Lulu Dahlia red Peruvian textile wedges statement shoe Faye Lessler
 

The Lulu Dahlia by Fortress of Inca is maybe not the most practical shoe, with a pop color and sky-high wedge. Somehow, though, they do manage to be comfortable! I have spent three hours running errands in New York City in these shoes and not had one complaint from my feet. A night out in the Lulu Dahlia’s may be dangerous when you factor in alcohol-induced clumsiness, but damn, these shoes feel good. When I’m wearing my Lulu’s, I feel sexy and happy. Happy because I’m wearing awesome Peruvian textiles on my feet! I may be minimalist in my everyday wear, but special pieces like these never fail to put a smile on my face.

Fortress of Inca just gets it. The shoe brand was inspired by a pair of colorful boots which made founder Evan Streusand’s feet feel good as he trekked around Peru. The stunning indigenous textiles and sheer mastery of craft he found in the country inspired Streusand to start a brand that does it right; celebrating people and craft in an incredibly chic way. Here is what Fortress of Inca has to say about their own brand:

Handmade in Peru to this day, Fortress of Inca channels a free-spirited and elegant lifestyle, while bringing the finest quality leather and other natural materials to each pair of shoes. Each collection features designs that boast originality, intricate detailing, and comfort.”

As a lover of textiles and traditional crafts, I greatly appreciate the inspiration behind Fortress of Inca. In a fast fashion industry where cultures around the world are taken and twisted to fit a “modern” aesthetic, it is so refreshing to see a brand that truly respects the culture which inspired it. It is too often that we forget how integral human hands are to beauty and to our human history. Fortress of Inca highlights process as an important part of their decision making and pricing information, and that practice has served them well. There is no need to purchase cheaply made products with appropriated graphics emblazoned on them when we have this alternative. Fortress of Inca employs local Peruvians and puts their traditional skills to work on products that correctly portray a piece of their culture. This is an appreciation and respect of the hand-craft and history of a people.

All of Fortress of Inca’s products are handmade in Peru, in factories or workshops that are closely audited. Employees are local and given the pay that any American worker would expect. The shoes are made from unique, locally sourced, natural materials. The brand considers ethical production, fair wages and high quality materials as top priorities, and it really shows. Made in bulk and paid-per-piece these shoes are not! The quality of the product correlates directly to the amount of skilled craft and care that went into their making, and when you love a pair of shoes as much as I love my Fortress of Inca’s, you want them to last a long time.  I've only had the Lulu Dahlia's for a month, but my Isabella flats have held up for over a year of frequent, rough wear. They are due for a re-soling, but aside from that, they remain in great condition.

 
Fortress of Inca Lulu Dahlia red Peruvian textile wedges statement shoe Faye Lessler
 

The Lulu Dahlia's are now available online along with tons of other great Fall styles!

 
Fortress of Inca Lulu Dahlia red Peruvian textile wedges statement shoe Faye Lessler
 

All images taken by Stephanie Ang.

*This is a sponsored post*