Amidst everything that’s happened in the last few months, I’ve found myself seriously re-considering my purchasing habits. From performative allyship (i.e. black squares) to insensitive treatment towards employees during the pandemic, brands everywhere are in the hot seat. But allow me a slightly personal rant on one in particular I take issue with: Everlane.
For those who are unfamiliar, Everlane is a clothing brand that boasts “Exceptional quality. Ethical factories. Radical Transparency.” I’ve been a customer for years because I’m a sucker for conscious consumption, mom jeans and good basics. That is, until 2020 hit.
A brief synopsis: late last year, a group of Everlane employees from their customer experience team tried to unionize. They were shut down. Then when COVID-19 hit, they were all fired. Past mistreatments, microaggressions and grievances were all exposed. You can read the full saga on the New York Times. Even Bernie Sanders called them out. After a vague apology — if we should even call it that — Everlane went back to business as usual. Maybe... minus the hundreds of Instagram comments on their now-dysfunctional customer experience. They never openly addressed the fallout from the unionizing employees; in a moment of pressure, ‘radical transparency’ was nowhere to be found.
So why is Everlane’s instance worse — in my opinion — than other big brands out there? Nowhere on Forever 21’s website does the company claim ethical behavior. Shein is not touting their fairly-treated factory workers as selling points. Brands purposely choose which values they align with, as do their consumers. Everlane strategically positioned themselves in the market as an ethical, sustainable, and transparent retailer. And when the time came to own up to those attributes, they didn’t.
This poses a lesson to be learned for both brands and consumers. Brands should NEVER claim promises and standards that they cannot meet. Given the perfect storm (2020), it can result in loss of trust and loss of revenue. And as consumers, it’s our job to do our research on who we’re buying from. We have the purchasing power; therefore, we have the power to push for better.
I sincerely hope Everlane rises to the occasion. I would love to be a customer again. Until then, I’ll be buying from better brands and busting out my sewing machine in an attempt to live my Project Runway dreams (wish me luck).