Fashion Briefing: Everlane’s plan to become the next great American fashion brand

This week, an overview of Everlane’s haute couture ambitions.

Under Andrea O’Donnell, who took over as CEO from founder Michael Preysman last year, Everlane is working to build its style cred. One goal: to win over “the fashion elite,” O’Donnell said.

Already, Everlane is infusing more color into her clothes. And the perfect dresses for weddings, formal suits, and even sexy styles are set to hit the spring. (It’s “sexy intellectual,” as opposed to “sexy-sexy,” O’Donnell said.) In marketing, it focuses on sartorial inspiration, as well as storytelling that draws on emotion. and human connection. It will soon introduce a new, cleaner logo, which has become a standard move for brands aiming to elevate via a relaunch. And, indeed, he raises his prices.

“We’re going where the luxury craft houses go,” O’Donnell said, referring to Hermès. “Were [establishing] the good story of design materials and give us permission to play higher prices.

O’Donnell cited American designers Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Claire McCardell among her inspirations. And recently, she filled the role of creative director of the brand with Mathilde Mader, who worked with Kim Jones and at Marni. A 20-year retail veteran in the UK, O’Donnell was most recently at Deckers Brands, where he is credited with transforming Ugg with buzzing campaigns and brand collaborations.

As many brands implement new playbooks designed in the age of the reflexive pandemic, 12-year-old Everlane struggles to find a balance in what O’Donnell calls “fashion versus the planet.” After the brand hit the market 12 years ago, introducing the concept of “radical transparency” and fueling the rise of the direct-to-consumer model, it became known for its basics that consumers could feel good about. buying – although his ethics have come under intense scrutiny in 2020. Now he’s taking steps to raise his fashion profile, at a time when high fashion brands are setting goals to achieve sustainability at Everlane level. Timeless styles and sustainability will remain at the heart of the brand, but creativity will gain in importance.

“It’s contradictory,” O’Donnell said of Everlane’s positioning in the market, as new and fast fashion continues to be what sells. But, by building its product and brand strategies hand in hand, within the framework of a newly implemented corporate structure, she is confident that the company can maintain its values ​​and current customer base while evolving and while developing. Along with Mader, O’Donnell has hired Shu Hung, formerly of Nike and Uniqlo, who owns brand marketing from awareness to voice. His title is also creative director.

Brand marketing will focus on showcasing the brand’s sustainable practices and quality materials, while strategically avoiding ‘academic and boring’ messaging,” O’Donnell said. Additionally, “human-centric,” “aspirational” marketing that empowers people with brand-aligned values ​​to tell the Everlane story will be leveraged, she said. Every month, Everlane now features a different “mindful” influencer on its channels, allowing them to choose and style an Everlane product, and be photographed wearing it in their own home. The latest was Stephanie Liu Hjelmeseth, a Chinese-American mother and fashion influencer who mentions a love for nature in her blog bio.

Everlane is also introducing new logos for different product lines. An icon considered for its collection of backpacks features the Golden Gate Bridge. Besides pointing to the company’s headquarters in San Francisco, it provides a “sense of place,” O’Donnell said. She added that all marketing will be devoid of any mention of trend.

Having the brand’s products gain a more distinct point of view will also work to the benefit of its marketing efforts, O’Donnell said. “One of the challenges we’ve had is that the timeless style doesn’t show,” she said, noting that the brand often doesn’t get “credit” when influencers wear its black pants and sweaters. in cashmere. As with previous collections, Everlane’s “The Power of 10” capsule, released earlier this month, is made up of staple pieces meant to be worn repeatedly. But the oxford shirt has a unique boxy silhouette, and the suit features updates like a plaid print and an oversized fit.

Going forward, Everlane plans to invest in sustainability-focused brand activations around moments that are historically “more fashion than planet,” O’Donnell said. This includes the holiday shopping season, as well as the bi-annual New York Fashion Weeks. The organization of a major educational and experiential event around Earth Month is also envisaged.

Recently, other brands specializing in basic clothing have brought new creative talent into their ranks and refocused their marketing efforts to be more compelling. Since 2020, J.Crew has enlisted the creative director duo of Brendon Babenzien, founder of streetwear brand Noah, and Olympia Gayot. In a recent Instagram post, Diane Keaton wore the brand, attracting 18,000 likes. And in 2020, Gap notoriously signed a now-defunct 10-year deal with Kanye West to sell Yeezy Gap. The brand collaborated with Balenciaga this year.

For Everlane, there is plenty of room for growth. Today, the United States represents 95% of its activity and 80% of its sales are made on its e-commerce site. O’Donnell sees an opportunity in Europe, which is more progressive, from a sustainability perspective; it more effectively combats greenwashing, which benefits the brand, she said. At the same time, Everlane is exploring partnerships with brands that share its values, avoid discounts and open the door to acquiring new customers. Finally, O’Donnell said she wanted to breathe new life into Everlane’s footwear and accessories categories. And she’ll tackle the men’s side of the business in 2024.

“The healthiest brands are those that are the most diverse,” she said.

The rise to luxury status will not be quick for the brand; as O’Donnell sees it, Everlane has recently been elevated to the “right” segment of the fashion landscape, where he is expected to remain for about 18 months. And while elevating and growing the brand, she plans to prioritize delivering value and building customer trust to dress them for more aspects of their lives.

Becoming the next Gucci is far from the goal. Instead, Everlane follows the lead of iconic American designers. O’Donnell said she and her team were “students” of the year-long exhibition “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” which the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York hosted until the start of this month. It highlighted local brands’ focus on “functionality, utility, wearability” and people, which proved more inspiring to the Everlane team, compared to European fashion and the focus on designers.

On that note, in the summer of 2023, Everlane plans to celebrate American fashion’s “icon” styles. This will include “the perfect t-shirt” and “the perfect jeans”, for example. Among the inspirations for the capsule were Carolyn Jeanne Bessette-Kennedy, Johnny Depp and Steve McQueen.

As for Everlane sexy skewing, O’Donnell said it will take time for the brand to get permission to go. Her new focus on dresses is a step in the right direction. O’Donnell compared the look of the brand’s upgraded dresses to those worn by Rene Russo in “The Thomas Crown Affair” in 1999. Some feature animal prints. Eventually, she wants to take inspiration more directly from Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, who created skin-tight, body-hugging styles in the ’70s. “Why can’t we do this?” she asked.

The company has the money to try things. Earlier this month, Glossy’s sister site Modern Retail announced that Everlane had raised $90 million in debt funding. He plans to use the funds to open more stores – building on his 10 – while developing new products. In 2016, the company’s valuation was around $250 million. Its most recent funding closed on August 26.

“What we’ve done so far is nothing short of a miracle,” O’Donnell said, referring to recent product changes. “Now we have to learn to express that; it’s a whole new muscle for us.

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