Why Ethical Alternatives to Everlane?
In March of 2020, I decided to stop formally working with Everlane. While I didn’t pull all mentions of Everlane from the site – after all, I had been an early adopter, sharing about their “radical transparency” and factory audits as early as 2014 – I did stop working with them directly and pulled them from my Ethical Alternative shopping guides.
I finally had to put my foot down after it became clear that recent unionization efforts among customer service staff had been squelched under the guise of Covid-19 layoffs. While it is true that fashion brands across the board have had to make budget and staff cuts in the face of one of the worst economic disasters in U.S. history, the layoff didn’t make sense.
Everlane had just launched a big online sale, and e-commerce was going to be more important than ever, which meant customer service employees would need to be ready to assist. One can scroll through their Instagram page and see that customer service snafus have resulted in uniform rage from customers. Add to that Everlane’s hiring of an attorney known for his union-busting success and it’s not a pretty picture.
A Company Culture of Racism
A couple months later, a group of Black women using the name Ex Wives Club began to publish firsthand accounts of racist hiring practices, comments, and behaviors among upper-level staff. The stories reveal both ignorance and overt malice toward dozens of Black women who worked for Everlane, and even attempts to steal or undermine their creative labor. You can follow them on social media here.
Put together, these cases bring to light corporation-wide behaviors that do not align with Everlane’s slogan of “radical transparency” or the implication that they strive for ethics. Read the NYT response to Everlane.
As someone who has followed Everlane for nearly the whole duration of this blog’s existence, this continues to burden me. But I can’t say I’m surprised. Everlane is venture-capitalist backed, a product of the Silicon Valley. It’s original premise was to “cut out the middle man” in order to save customers money. It pivoted as a result of a growing desire among consumers to purchase ethically and sustainably.
I don’t think it’s impossible for Everlane to make dramatic improvements to their supply chain, including how they treat US employees. I certainly hope that they commit to do the work. There are calls to boycott Everlane in the meantime, and I support this, while also acknowledging that Everlane is bearing the brunt of critique specifically because they claimed they were better than the average mid-level fashion brand.
What do I mean by this? I think it’s important to keep in mind that simply pivoting to another brand that hasn’t said as much about their ethical criteria doesn’t make the problem go away. I think of brands like Madewell, Loft, and J. Crew – how they, by avoiding branding themselves as ethical, manage to avoid a lot of scrutiny from ethical influencers and their followers.
If you’re going to support Madewell in defiance of Everlane, just realize that you’re making a choice that isn’t necessarily indicative of systems change. It might not make anything different or better. Everlane’s radical transparency claim is ultimately good, because it provided an avenue for marginalized and mistreated employees to say, “You’re not good enough.”
We as individuals must do similarly, seeing our mission ahead of us even as we make mistakes. We can get so caught up in calls of hypocrisy that we lower our standards from the get-go to avoid critique. But this isn’t how people grow. The difference is that we have the immediate power to make the better choice. Let’s hope Everlane does the same.
Ethical Alternatives to Everlane
My top picks for sustainable, ethical, and transparent brands that have similar vibes to Everlane. This post contains affiliate links.
11 | Nisolo
Boots, sandals, mules, and more.
12 | ABLE
Trend-forward, feminine shoes.
13 | Fortress of Inca
Soft leather shoes, boots, and more.
14 | Allbirds
Sneakers, flats, and skippers made with natural, low-waste processes (including running shoes!)
16 | Parker Clay
Soft and sturdy leather goods.
17 | ABLE
Large selection of ethically-sourced leather goods.