On Everlane’s website, you’ll find the phrase radical transparency, promising a new and ethical approach to fashion. In a day and age where it’s exceedingly common for apparel companies to hide their production practices (often because of inhumane maker treatment and sourcing processes that cause profound harm to the environment), seeing these two words highlighted on a fashion brand’s website feels like a major stride in the movement towards a sustainable future. As Remake’s own ambassador network has pointed out, since its launch in 2010, Everlane has garnered excitement from the sustainable shopper community: “They make ethical fashion more accessible for a lot of people, and they seem to be one of few brands that offers just as much for men as they do for women.”
While Everlane has played an enormous role in popularizing slow fashion for a range of socioeconomic demographics (something the sustainable fashion movement has often struggled to achieve), the authenticity behind the brand’s facade is something we worry about. In an era where greenwashing runs rampant, we’re not so sure that Everlane isn’t a part of the problem. A recent report by The Fashion Law reveals the brand’s attempt at union busting its employees, while our own sustainability research has revealed that Everlane is severely lacking in its transparency as a self-declared ethical brand.
Everlane has been accused of attempting to actively shut down unionizing attempts by discouraging workers and coercing them to disband via company emails sent by the head of the brand’s HR Department, Kelly McLaughlin.
“I understand that some of you may have been asked to sign a union card and join a movement,” wrote McLaughlin in a series of emails sent to workers. “The Everlane way is transparency and open communications and we know that we can do a better job of bringing our culture to life for all of you.” McLaughlin has since been accused by multiple media outlets of providing employees with misinformation, which is common amongst companies wanting to stop their employees from unionizing. “Signing is a major step because it is a legal document that can designate the union as your exclusive representative and forfeit your right to deal directly with us to resolve issues,” wrote McLaughlin.
The reason for employees’ attempt at unionizing? A group of remote, part-time Customer Experience team members reported wages of approximately $16 an hour, no healthcare or other benefits, and an inconsistent schedule that leaves them constantly struggling to shuffle around second jobs.
Everlane’s attempt to shut down an employee-formed union isn’t the only recent dilemma faced by the brand’s employees. Along with union busting, Everlane also recently came under fire for endeavoring to keep employees from discussing their wages with each other. It’s fair to assume that this gag order was issued in hopes of keeping employees from banding together in an effort to improve their own working conditions.
For a brand that prides itself on being transparent, Everlane’s treatment of its employees is a shocking revelation, and one that makes us question a brand that has fashioned itself as a poster child for ethical apparel.
Even before news of Everlane’s union busting and employee wage secrecy made it to headlines, Remake took issue with the brand because of its sustainability facade. When we ran Everlane through Remake’s own Seal of Approval process, meant to determine how truthful a brand is actually being about its sustainability efforts, our findings were anything but radically transparent. (You can learn more about Remake’s Seal of Approval process here).
Everlane reveals no details on its website about its compliance audit, making the brand’s proclamation that it aims for each factory to score a “90 or above” essentially meaningless. (Currently, not all factories even meet these mystery criteria). Crucially, there is also no mention of a code of conduct standard for assessing the factories’ compliance with international labor standards. Everlane does publish photos of who is presumed to be the makers of the brand’s clothing, and while this is a step in the right direction, it can also be viewed as a photo op for the brand, and may not actually represent the everyday reality for workers. To this end, not all of the factories listed on Everlane’s website include detailed information about the treatment and pay of makers, leaving us concerned about what is not said.
On the environmental side, Everlane is silent about the materials it uses and how it sources them. There’s currently not enough information about the brand’s water, waste, and carbon usage, or how they are planning to mitigate environmental risks.
For a brand that proclaims to be a champion of radical transparency, these gaping holes in its sustainability practices are far below par. Worse yet, what we’re seeing happen at Everlane is becoming a common approach for fashion brands that are utilizing ethical language on their websites without actually providing detailed information on their production processes and treatment of makers. Greenwashing, in many cases, is at the heart of this tactic — an attempt to lure in consumers with promises of sustainable practices without actually putting in the work to make their brands truly sustainable.
At Remake, we believe that individual action can lead to enormous breakthroughs. To this end, we’re asking that you sign our petition to solicit a response from Everlane that addresses not only the brand’s treatment of U.S. employees, but also the authenticity of Everlane’s sustainability practices. Everlane pledges radical transparency, and as a brand that we care about, we want to hold them accountable to that promise. The first step in that process: beginning a dialogue.
By sharing this story on your social media accounts and linking to our petition, we have the opportunity to raise our voices and call for change in an industry that is constantly playing a sizable role in not just environmental injustices, but human injustices.
Together, let’s change fashion.